NAC Bonanza fly away weekend 2008

Comments on the Bonanza/Baron fly in from 1 to 4 May 2008
P.K. Odendaal

NAC invited us and many others for a weekend to Sutherland and Kuruman.
At first I thought they have ran out of ideas to take us to the most deserted parts of South Africa and even Africa, but there was the opportunity to visit the observatory and notably the SALT (South African Large Telescope) and learn something of the stars - one of my hobbies (I have an observatory with a 350mm Meade telescope in Witbank), and then to play golf at Kathu - also one of my hobbies (of an even lesser amateur quality) - so my son and I mounted our mount and set off for Sutherland (from George where we played golf at the time).
Our mount is of course a G36 Bonanza and an invitation to fly it (even to Timbuktoo) will never be passed off lightly.
We left George in overcast weather (as it normally is there) and climbed to FL100. We had a 35 knot tailwind, but we never knew this same wind would make our landing at Sutherland so interesting.
At Sutherland we were greeted with the usual fine hospitality of JP Fourie, Deneys Potgieter and Tracy Porter of NAC and we met many other Bonanza lovers - myself being in love with Bonanzas for 25 years.
We got to our hotel in Sutherland late afternoon and I started to make some enquiries into seeing the stars (from some large telescope) that evening - but apparently, according to my trusted host, that could not be done that night - it had to stand over for the next day when there were no stars.
The visit to the observatory the next morning was dismal and disappointing and as usual we encountered a reception in true New South African style - nobody to meet us (our guide had not been picked up), a visitor centre with no beverages (even to buy), no furniture - we presume it had all been stolen. After not having transport to the SALT telescope (as expected), we set off on foot in VERY COLD AND WINDY conditions, climbing the hill. When we got to the telescope, we found out that there was no power (as was expected) as the person who had to put it on was not available.
We asked the specially arranged guide, who had by this time turned up, what he was going to show us. He said he would show us how the thing worked - I mean the structure, not the telescope. Someone, who shall remain anonymous, said that we should rather show him how tourism works. There were about fifty to a hundred tourists walking about, with nobody to entertain or enlighten them. If this had been anywhere else in the world, there would have been excellent tourist facilities - but what is SALT in any case - it is not as if we are currently bidding for the largest radio telescope in the world, the KLA - no need to impress anybody !
This is an extract from a 2003 article :
South Africa is to submit its bid to host the world’s biggest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The South African SKA has announced that the South African bid identifies three sites in the Northern Cape as ideal locations for SKA radio telescope, each with a diameter of 150 km. The sites are in the Kalahari (north of Upington); in the Karoo (north of Carnarvon); and in Namaqualand (east of Springbok).
Whether we did not submit the bid, or did it incorrectly, or did not get - I can't remember which - but it is probably not important.
The next day on to Upington to refuel and then onto Kuruman. We knew that it never rains in these parts (we presume there was only virga during the Big Flood), but were soon surprised to find that the 35 knot wind that followed or preceded us from George would just not leave us alone, and would even increase to 55 knots in some areas and bring some terrible and interesting weather with it. And with the weather came the resourcefulness of NAC personnel and Bonanza/Baron Pilots.
What started as a very tame rural air tour went very fast into top gear (or was that full fine pitch) to improvisation of the highest order. The Old Colonel was consulted for lunch at Upington where we got stuck, the Protea Hotel and O'Hagans supplemented our dietary and resting requirements while Deneys tried in vain to reach Kuruman and had to be content with first prize - one night in Upington.
The next day we set off for Kuruman in a very expeditionary way - our aircraft ZS BON leading the way. Weather was by now even worse and we regarded every mile flown as a step nearer to the North Pole. There were of course anxious moments trying to clear high ground and searching for Dr. Singh while we were running the scud, but it all turned out well for the first few of us. Deneys on the other hand could not get through and was almost faced with the second prize - two nights in Upington. We however circumvented that by ordering some calm conditions just before nightfall.
The weekend was ended by a postponed, improvised gala dinner of the highest standard and all the people from NAC must be thanked for their tenacity and resourcefulness to organise and improvise. We know of people who played golf in Kathu in a thunderstorm, some who lost their shoes (sorry Tanya) when pushing a water and mud logged combi, some who attended the gala dinner by car (thanks Andrew, Greg and friends).
But most of all we enjoyed ourselves and we made friends and we told tall stories and we laughed and we talked aeroplanes and narrow escapes and we left an outstanding outing sadly (for some more bad weather along our route home).