Club History

by Martin Hellberg (Treasurer)

The 1930's

30 May 1938
44 persons from various walks of life met in the Supper Room in the City Hall, they resolved to form the PMB Aero Club. The chairman of the first meeting was Mr J H Farrant, chairman of the Publicity Association. Mr Percy Holt was available as the first flying instructor.
In late 1938 the first Air Pageant coincided with Centenary celebrations of our city. To popularize flying all paid up members were offered a free flight in the Gypsy Moth.

14 June 1937
First committee meeting at which Mr B Henwood was elected the Chairman of the Club.

The 1940's

August 1940
Club activities suspended in August 1940 B WW2.

November 1945
15 November 1945 a further meeting held in the Supper Room to resuscitate the Club.
Suggestions to establish a feeder airline service from PMB, but regulations limited scope to SAA who were not interested.

1948
Shell connection started some time prior to 1948.

The 1960's

1960
Swimming pool built by Hugh Stocks.
May 1961 Ann Moggridge became first female in PMB to fly solo under the watchful eye of a very youthful Colin Campbell.

1969
Bought C172 ZS-FXX.

The 1970's

1971
Bought C150 ZS-ILH
Bought C150 ZS-JBN

1972
Mel Barker was employed by the Club as instructor and wife Ria started serving meals from our kitchen facility.

1973
Bought C172 ZS-PAC

1975
My association with the Club started with my first flying lesson on 30 March 1975 in C150, ILH. Those were the days before VAT, GST and ATC. The Club used to pay a fixed monthly landing fee which covered all landings for all Club aircraft. The gross cost of hiring a C150 was R13 per hour while a C172 was R15 per hour without any other add-on costs except the instructor. For the pleasure of Mel's company, there was a further R5. CFI was John Hoskins who acted in a part-time capacity, and the second full-time instructor was Joe Trygg.
In other words, when I started flying, our oldest aircraft was just 6 years old and the others were 4 and 2 years old. Unfortunately Cessna stopped producing single engined aircraft in the early 80s and the good care of aircraft fleets since then has been largely dependant upon good maintenance rather than replacement.
In December 1975 I did my PPL flight test with John Hoskins. The whole licence, including books, flight computer, etc., had cost the princely sum of R900. Today that will get you 1 hour dual in a Jabiru, but you will have to find additional finance to cover the landing fee.
John lived under short final 16. Shortly before dawn on New Year's Day 1976 he was awakened by one of our C150's doing some very low flying as it came to land. John leapt out of bed and rushed up to the airfield to find one of our instructors (not Mel) having just returned from a very festive New Year's Eve party at Virginia. John did his duty as CFI, and none of us ever saw that instructor again!

1978
Bill de Groot took over the maintenance of the Club aircraft.

1979
The Treasurer=s report records that at the end of 1979 Shell was owed R23 000 and was threatening to close down supplies, the Club had an overdrawn bank account, and recognized the need for someone suitably qualified to look after the administration of the Club in order not to be led astray by secretaries whose confidence exceeded their abilities, as had happened that year. It also referred to the legal action being taken against a previous Treasurer who was unable to account for missing funds.

The 1980's

1980
The Club hosted the State President's Air Race. Brenda Howett obtained her CPL who years later became the first female pilot employed by SAA.

1981
In October 1981, FXX had an accident and she was almost lost when it was found that the aircraft were significantly under-insured. Treasurer Harry Pratt and John Hoskins saved the day, and the fleet insurance was increased substantially.

1982
In early 1982 I was approached by Harry Pratt, and asked if I would consider taking over his portfolio at the AGM. I did, and I have been stuck there ever since! What follows is a history of aircraft, secretaries, events and anything else since March 1982 that crosses my mind as I write. 1982 was a torrid year and also a watershed year. Points which stood out in that year follow;
Not only was FXX under-insured, but when repairing her, bad corrosion was found in the wings. This created further unexpected cost.
Magnum Airlines introduced turbine powered aircraft, these were refueled from drums until we had satisfied Shell that we would sell at least 15 000 liters of jet fuel each month. Shell then provided us with an underground tank for Jet-A1. As they would only supply on a COD basis, we had to find R15 000 in October to pay for the first load of jet fuel. As part of the deal to supply turbine aircraft with fuel, we had to make the whole refueling operation far more professional and provide a service to Shell's required standard. Until then we had employed just one refueling attendant, Albert Ndlovu. All quality control checks on fuel were done by either Mel or the secretary. They also received the tankers of fuel. Their job descriptions were different then. To meet those standards, we employed a refueling manager, John Rogers and two more refueling attendants.
In mid-November Heather Sterling took over the secretarial reins. Extensions were made to the secretary's office, creating what you see today.

1983
1983 saw a special general meeting to approve the closing in of the pub area to satisfy the requirements of the Liquor Act to obtain a liquor licence. That project cost R3 100. The minutes record Steve Crutchley and Hugh Raw as being main players in the successful completion of those changes. It was agreed that the pub would be open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.
Noel Harper announced her resignation as Telstar editor, having faithfully penned the news for 8 years.
The Guy who designed this website was born.

1984
The liquor licence was granted in April. Comair commenced services into PMB on 1 February 1984 with their F27 Fokker Friendships. Fuel sales hit new records, selling over 1 million liters in a year for the first time. C172 PAC was written off in an accident in a hot and high incident. We received R17 000 from the underwriters. Consideration was given to replacing PAC with a Grob 109B motorized glider. After test flying that and a recent model C172, we chose the C172.
The options for the C172 were a 1981 model, KVW for R48 000 or Louis Grove's 1983 model, KNI for R49 000. In December 1984 we took delivery of KVW. She is presently insured for R600 000.
It was about this time that we trained our first Black student, Tembelani Sigcu. Sadly, some time after obtaining his Student Pilot Licence, he was killed in a car accident.

1985
New regulations regarding aircraft maintenance facilities had been published. In order to continue to use the services of Bill de Groot, we had to upgrade many aspects to become an accredited AMO. Thanks mainly to Bill's efforts, our AMO licence was granted in February. In June Heather resigned. She was replaced by a secretary whose name escapes me, who stayed for only a short while, and left on 24 hours notice. Millie Madden took her place in August. Although some people found Millie a little abrasive, I thought she was wonderful. It was that abrasive characteristic which ensured that our debt recovery was better than it had ever been. Noel Evans joined us as a part-time instructor. Telstar was maintained by Heather Sterling. The pub was manned by 16 volunteers. Michael Najbicz made the first of a few donations, the return on which is used to fund prizes in spot landing competitions. Between 1985 and September 1992 he donated R3 500 to the Club. Our gross receipts exceeded R1mil for the first time. Fuel sales hit another new record, selling 1 079 000 liters. Unfortunately with the demise of the Comair service, that was the last time we exceeded 1 million liters. The average today is about 700 000 liters per annum.

1986
In July we acquired a third C150, JKK, a 1976 model, for R21 280. Today she is insured for R300 000! We suffered a robbery and lost our TV and music center. Adriaan Els supplied and fitted burglar bars to the pub and Steve Crutchley made a diabolically clever lock-up system for the replacement TV. The hangar was extended at a cost of R16 000 to accommodate 5 aircraft.

1987
Paul Leaker followed Heather as Telstar editor. The minutes record that Heather was running the kitchen in 1987, but I'm not sure when she took over from Ria.

1988
JBN's engine self-destructed, requiring expensive repairs. Fortunately Mel and student were on the runway when it happened. Signed up 70 new members. I think this is the highest in a single year. Dave and Paddy Hocking brought a friend to the pub one evening. A year later I married her.

1989
The bar was extended in the direction of the pool, to its present design.
Comair abandoned the PMB route and Magnum resumed services.
George Talbot started part-time instruction at the Club.
Rob Payne succeeded Paul Leaker as Telstar editor.


The 1990's

1990
In March we purchased Louis Grove's C172, KNI, for R150 000, the same aircraft offered to us 6 years earlier for just R49 000. She is presently insured for R500 000. Fleet utilization was 3 000 hours for the year, a record which has not been seen again.

1991
FXX was sold for R53 000. Club membership reached a record high of 408 members. Chairman Dave Campbell, Willem Young from Shell Aviation, two municipal officials and I met at the officials request. They wanted to introduce a levy on fuel sales to boost the city coffers. After a lengthy meeting where we went round in circles for some time, Willem Young put it in perspective when he said, Mr Counselor, I want you to understand that what the Pietermaritzburg Aero Club sells in 1 year takes us just 45 minutes to put into 2 Jumbo Jets at Jan Smuts Airport. If you want to make things difficult for us, we will withdraw the service and I assure you that no-one else will be prepared to invest in the low turnover here. Now do you want to shut down aviation in Maritzburg? The officials left and no levy was introduced .Heather Sterling, besides maintaining the kitchen, took on the responsibility of improving and maintaining our grounds. Karl Jansen left us with a bad debt of R4 700. Through the office of John Campbell, a judgment was secured. I believe a judgment lasts for 20 years, so if anybody knows where Karl Jansen is, please let me know. We have only 3 years left to recover that debt. The Receiver of Revenue issued us with a demand for almost R12 000 for alleged unpaid GST. Many hours of research later I was able to show them correspondence going back to

1978
initiated by Noel Harper trying to obtain clarity on how the legislation should be applied to flying training, and convinced them that we had submitted returns in good faith. My appeal was successful and the demand dropped to R4 300.Brenda succeeded Millie as secretary.

1992
Honorary membership was bestowed on Dave Hocking after having served on the committee for 10 of the preceding 11 years and being very active in organizing flying competitions. Michele Cameron was elected onto the Committee, and is still serving the members today, 16 years later! Bill de Groot retired in October. Telstar was edited by Lynton Hall and Dave McCash.

1993
Following the discovery that cash had gone missing during 1992, our secretary left us and criminal charges were laid. The committee decided that for security reasons, we would in future employ a full time secretary and half-day bookkeeper who would to some extent check on each other. Debbie du Toit was then employed as bookkeeper and Kathy Mommen as secretary. This system proved itself when we found that Kathy=s fingers were in the till to the extent of R6 600. More criminal charges were laid, and on conviction, she repaid the full amount to the Club. Jimmy McGlinchey resigned and was followed by Hannes Louw who not only took over the fuel duties, but also took over the AMO and maintained our aircraft. Ed Szudrawski also followed Dave McCash as Telstar editor. The Council increased the fuel site rental from R750 p.a. to R515 per month. Shell refused to accept this 724% increase, and since then we have had to accept the expense to maintain the facility.

1994
Wendy Montgomery took the position vacated by Kathy. Saturday pub nights ceased to exist. Ryan du Preez followed Ed Szudrawski as Telstar editor. We purchased Piper Arrow FWK for R135 000. Fleet hours hit an all-time low (at that time) of 1 317 hours.

1995
8 nominations for 3 committee member positions at the AGM. Possibly the most contested AGM ever. Barry de Groot was one of the successful nominees, and subsequently served on the committee for 12 consecutive years.

1996
A mobile tanker was provided by Shell to improve service delivery to turbine aircraft. Dave Solomon assumed editorship of Telstar. The kitchen closed temporarily on the transfer of Heather Sterling. Hayley Newman was appointed as bookkeeper when Debbie du Toit left PMB. Alistair McIntosh was elected onto the Committee, and is also still serving the members, 12 years later.

1997
FWK was badly damaged in January after a failed take-off from the airport and was out of service for 10 months. Shortly after re commissioning, the nose-wheel collapsed and she was out of service for a further 5 months. The kitchen re-opened under the culinary skills of Robynne Louw. Hannes Louw resigned as refueling manager and was replaced by Frank Roxburgh.

1998
Johnny Hill replaced Frank as refueling manager in May. We stopped paying landing fees from 1 May when I found that, in terms of our lease agreement, we were not required to pay them. Municipality threatened to cancel the Club lease if we did not close the sales facility from the kitchen, a service which had run almost continuously since 1972.
The security gate between the Club and apron was erected, cutting off the previous unrestricted access to the apron. Sharon Blyth took over as bookkeeper in June when Haley emigrated to Australia. The Municipality increased the rental for the fuel site more than three-fold. The Attorney-General advised that as 6 years had passed since funds disappeared while under the care of the secretary of that time, and as it would take at least another year for the case to reach the over-crowded courts, he declined to prosecute.

1999
The flight training facilities were upgraded to meet new regulatory requirements, with a new briefing room being established, and a Manual of Procedure compiled. The hangar doors became difficult to open and close. After a R22 000 quote to replace them, Steve Crutchley and Keith Mitchell spent just R2 000 on parts and cured the problem. C150 ZS-ILH was sold for R110 000 excl VAT. Richard Franz replaced Dave Solomon as Telstar editor until his return to Zimbabwe, where after I assumed the mantle of editor.Established a web-site. Lost the landing fee battle with the TLC and had to pay the arrears.

The New Millennium

2000
Hannes Louw closed his AMO facility in January. Since then the Club has out-soured all its maintenance. The Municipality increased landing fees by 73% in an un procedural manner, and the second battle of the landing fees commenced. Sharon Blyth resigned when her family left PMB and Wendy Montgomery assumed the joint responsibilities of secretary and bookkeeper. Piper Arrow ZS-FWK was sold for R278 000 + VAT.

2001
After 4 years of frustration with Municipal bureaucracy, we eventually received permission to erect the fuel hut, thereby improving our service to fuel customers. Julie de Klerk replaced Wendy Montgomery who left us to pursue a career in aviation. Brenda Howett, who learnt to fly at our club many years ago, became the first female captain in SAA. Michelle Steil assumed editorship of Telstar in August.

2002
In January the Municipality gave us less than 2 weeks notice to cease using the kitchen to sell to the general public, failing which our lease would be terminated with immediate effect. We had no choice, and a service which had been reliably run with almost unbroken delivery for 30 years came to an abrupt end, never to re-surface. Also in January, we took delivery of a new 2 seater Jabiru, ZU-PAC, which Steve Crutchley maintained until he retired to Plettenberg Bay. Damian Budd assumed the role of editor of Telstar. The pub ceased to operate on Sunday nights.

2003
Paid a settlement figure of R65 000 in respect of arrear landing fees. For 6 months we discounted the C172 rates by R100 per hour, about 15%, to test the response in utilization. There was none. All we achieved was to give up R20 000.

2004
Albert Ndlovu retired from his position of fuel attendant after 30 years faithful service. Tiled the office and dining area after (almost) annual floods had permanently wrecked the flooring.

2005
Rental for the fuel site was increased by 25% and back-dated 6 months! Purchased Jabiru J160 A Fatboy ZU-EAH for R342 000.

2006
Disposed of ZU-PAC for R219 000.

2007
Aircraft fleet utilization was 1 135 hours for the year, the lowest on record. After 7 years, the second dispute over landing fees was finally resolved. About R200 000 was spent on the refurbishment of JKK and KNI. Mel Barker retired after 35 years service and Dave Campbell was appointed CFI.

2008
A change in Income Tax legislation makes the Club subject to Income Tax on fuel trading operations with effect from 1 January 2008.


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