Wings Over The Karoo

After WWI, small air transport businesses were established in several South African centres. Among these companies were South African Aerial Transport Company and South African Aerial Navigation Company, which operated on the Witwatersrand, Natal, and in the Eastern and Western Cape. Aerial Stunts, an air taxi company, offered joy rides over Durban. Aviation Limited which started in 1919 and Air Flights, which opened in East London, with three aircraft, in 1920, operated for about three years. These findings were written up by Prof Gordon of the Geography Department, University of the Western Cape, in a paper entitled British Air Shows In South Africa, 1932/33: ‘Airmindedness’, Ambition And Anxiety.  Air Flights’s aircraft were seen occasionally over Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington and Worcester, an aircraft was based at Somerset East for five days of joyriding – from May 7 to 11, 1920 – and flying was advertised as “the most wonderful tonic in the world”. Cost of a 10 minute “flip”, with pilot Frank Solomon, was £3/3/-. A 20 minute flight cost five guineas and longer ones could be booked by arrangement with Mr J Williams, at the Royal Hotel.   Flights were also offered at Graaff-Reinet, Upington and De Aar. For many South Africans, the event that triggered ‘airmindedness’ was the arrival in 1920 of the first-ever flight from London. At the end of a succession of short hops down Africa, two South Africans, Lt-Col. Pierre van Ryneveld and Lt Quintin Brand, eventually “hopped” to Cape Town landing at Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Beaufort West, states Prof Gordon.

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© Rose’s Roundup,March 2012 (No 218)

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