Mission: Wild Coast Monitoring
Date: 16 March 2009
Requesting organisation: Department Economic Affairs, Environment & Tourism (DEAET), Eastern Cape
Location: Wild Coast, East London to Margate
Pilot: Reid Wardle
The Bateleurs responded to a request from Rob Stegmann of DEDEA for a flight to monitor illegal building and developments along the Wild Coast, from East London to Margate. While this was one of many Bateleurs flights for Rob Stegmann, it was the inaugural Bateleurs flight for another new pilot member – Reid Wardle of Stutterheim. Here is the short report from Reid, followed by an account of the mission from Rob Stegmann:
Photo: Reid Wardle’s ‘reliable, gentle old lady’, ready for a (very) early morning start.
Report from Reid Wardle
“This was my first mission for The Bateleurs so I was not without a certain amount of excitement. So much so that I prepped the old C-170B on the Sunday evening, and made sure the route was carefully planned and that nothing was left to chance.
Monday morning the 16th March saw me awake at 05h00 and after a quick coffee I was into the aeroplane for a pre-dawn take- off. It was the first time that I had found it necessary to use the
instrument back-lights on the panel, which amused me greatly.
East London Airport was just stirring when I flew into their CTR (controlled airspace) for a landing to pick up Mr Rob Stegmann (the Assistant Manager, CBE, for DEDEA) and Mr Mbuyiseli Mboya (the Legal Advisor to DEDEA).
Established but un-authorised homes along the Wild Coast“Mr Stegmann and I held our briefing session and I learned what he required of me. No sooner had we set off when he started recording unauthorised building sites and other operations in river mouths as close to East London as Sunrise on Sea. Upon crossing the Kei River, his focus was on sand mining sites, illegal homesteads and other buildings within 1km of the high water mark, plus 4×4 and quad bike trails and damage, as well as buildings which had already been served with demolition orders – in order to monitor compliance with the orders.”
Damage caused by illegal sand mining on the Wild Coast
“We very quickly developed an idea of what each of us wanted and became very engrossed in the work at hand, while Mr Mboya was asked to log all the co-ordinates of the photographed sites
and their corresponding photograph numbers.
We were blessed with superbly calm and clear conditions which allowed us to perform successfully all the tasks required of us. Rob’s knowledge of flying limitations and previous flying experience was invaluable during the entire survey. When we reached Port St Johns, we decided to route direct for Margate to take on fuel, as the constant manoeuvering was taking its toll on our supply. It turned out that we had 34 litres in the tanks – which translates to just over half an hour of usable fuel.
A quick juice and a snack at the Margate airport restaurant and we were airborne again and completed the survey in the area to the north of Port St Johns.”
An un-sanctioned road close to a river on the Wild Coast
“Just south of the Magwa Tea Estate we had to perform a grid search of sorts for a road under construction about which the Department had received complaints. We found it – photographed and logged it – and happened upon another which was in gross violation of the law. After giving it the same treatment, we routed directly for East London, deviating occasionally to log and photograph various sites which we had missed on our way up.
We were forced to fight a strengthening south westerly wind all the way back and had East London control commenting with amusement on our multi-stage landing in the old tail-dragger. After dropping off Rob and Mbuyiseli (by now we were all on first name terms), I had a pleasant flight back to Rexfield (home), landed and had enough time to wash the salt from the sea haze from the bare aluminium of the Cessna – ensuring that my beautiful lady can maintain her condition for another 57 years!
All in all it was a wonderful experience, from which I learned a great deal and felt just a little useful in doing something for the protection of our wonderful Wild Coast. The experience was a privilege and I have new respect for people such as Rob Stegmann and Mbuyiseli Mboya who are so committed to protecting our heritage. I wish them every success and hope that they are encouraged by the results that this flight will yield.”