Coal-fired Power Stations and Fly-ash Hazards

Jun 1, 2011

MISSION  08 of  2011

Name of Mission: Coal-fired Power Stations and Fly-ash Hazards
Date of Mission: 1 June 2011
Aircraft used: Cessna 210       
Pilot: Tony Kent    
Beneficiary: Danie van der Walt

Objective of the Flight

To get aerial footage of the fly-ash dumps, coal powered stations, and open cast mining in the vicinity of Witbank, Mpumalanga, which will be used in a commissioned 50/50 insert

Beneficiary’s report by             Danie van der Walt

Tony Kent volunteered to fly Danie van der Walt, the cameraman for Gold Fish Films, over the Highveld area near Kendal and Kriel on the 1st of June 2011. Thankfully, Rob Osner had kindly made his aircraft available for this flight which was arranged by The Bateleurs.

The objective of the flight was to obtain aerial footage of the fly-ash dumps produced by coal-powered stations and to record the extent of open cast mining in that part of Mpumalanga. One just cannot get an overall impression of what is going on from ground level. The area is large and the mining operations and fly-ash dumps are spread out – covering many square kilometers. A bird’s eye view is required to view the environmental damage and degradation caused by our coal power stations and mines.

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Gold Fish Films had been commissioned by 50/50 to produce an item on SA’s energy policy. We are one of the world’s – and certainly Africa’s – worst polluters of the atmosphere. Global warming will eventually make coal power stations redundant. So what are our options? Naturally there is renewed interest in renewables such as solar panels and wind farms. But what about nuclear reactors? After the tsunami in Japan there is a tendency to turn away from nuclear power stations – but is that sensible?
For the time being it appears as if coal power stations will continue to be our main source of energy in South Africa – despite its huge negatives. Very few people are aware that it is not only the danger of air pollution that is at stake. Apart from the obvious huge environmental damage caused by mining coal power stations are also spewing out other dangerous substances which may affect people living around these massive power stations.

The footage recorded during this mission will be used in two inserts which will be aired on 50/50 at a date to be confirmed.   

Was the objective of the flight met?     
Yes, the objective of the flight was met and Goldfish Films would like to take this opportunity to thank The Bateleurs, Tony Kent and Rob Osner for their assistance.

Pilot’s story of the mission      By Tony Kent

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The thermometer in the car shows a crisp three degrees centigrade as I turn into the entrance to Benoni-Brakpan Airfield. Otherwise, the weather forecast is perfect for what needs to be done today.

Danie van der Walt arrives a few minutes behind me and we chat as I complete the pre-flight checks on Rob Osner’s pristine Cessna 210.  I ask Danie if he has flown in light aircraft before, in case he needs to be briefed, but this turns out not to be necessary.  As a long-time producer for 50/50, he has been in all sorts of aircraft – helicopters, microlights, and more! Besides, he confesses to be a “closet pilot”, and enjoys “Flightsim” on his computer at home. A quick look at the map to confirm the areas to be covered, and soon, we are taking off, heading east for the Kendal Power station. Danie tests the camera en-route, and it is decided I need to descend to around 500’ AGL for the best effect.

A couple of sorties are flown in the Kendal area, filming the power station itself, the nearby fly-ash dump, and also the local open-cast mining.  Nearby, just outside Ogies, I am a bit shocked to see that our farm is no more – my Dad farmed maize and cattle there from 1966 to 1975, and our old homestead has become a victim of the open-cast mining, as has the cattle feedlots, all the outbuildings, machine sheds, dams, etc. … maybe one day it will be farmland again once the ground has been rehabilitated!

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We move over endless stretches of strip-mining, on towards the Witbank Dam, where a similar sortie is flown around the nearby Duhva Power Station. Because of our low altitude, I cannot bank for turns, as the wing covers whatever Danie is panning, so I resort to unbalanced turns using the rudder only, and opposite aileron to keep the wings level. This works very well, keeping the radius just right to encircle the facility.

Then it’s southwards to  the Kriel area, where a slow and wide circle takes us around the Kriel Power station as well as another, unknown to me. The fresh-looking dumps with their inviting turquoise waters hide many sins! Danie explains that the water looks so good because it is sterile (acidic). Danie seems to be pleased with what he has filmed, and we head for home.

Two hours later, we push our trusty steed back into its hangar, exchange pleasantries, and Danie is on his way. Thanks again to Rob Osner, also a Bateleurs pilot member, for entrusting his aeroplane to me, and thank you to The Bateleurs for facilitating this mission.

We look forward to the programme on 50/50.

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