The Algoa Flying Club
Algoa Flying Club, including the Flight Training Division / Flight School finds its roots before the 2nd World war when the Port Elizabeth Aero Club was formed in 1929, training pilots on Tiger Moths.
The club was reformed in 1956 as the Algoa Flying Club, named after Algoa Bay on the coast of which the city is situated. This makes the Algoa Flying Club one of the oldest and most established Flying Schools in South Africa.
We provide all forms of flying training from Private Pilot Licence to Airline Transport Pilot Licence; Instrument, Multi Engine and Instructor Ratings and self-fly hire with the specific goal of making flying accessible to as many people as possible, within a friendly environment where members, students and their guests can relax after their flights.
Algoa Flying Club, including the Flight Training Division / Flight School, a not for profit organisation of flying enthusiasts with the aims and objects of promoting flying and flying training in all its facets and to the highest standards. (246-658NPO)
It is an organisation that has long established roots and is highly respected in South Africa. Amongst our members are pilots from all occupations and include many seasoned flying instructors and seasoned airline pilots.
It’s the shared experience that helps to make the Algoa Flying Club, including the Flight Training Division / Flight School the right place to earn your wings. Our rates are highly competitive, and we provide a range of aircraft suited both to training the beginner and the advanced pilot.
In the mid 1950’s private and civilian flying was all but dead in the Port Elizabeth area.
The Port Elizabeth Aero Club had been in existence for some time, but little took place in the way of active flying activities and for all intents and purposes it became a social club.
Phil Smulian the owner of Southern Aviation at the time became frustrated in his efforts to resuscitate flying through the Port Elizabeth Aero Club. Phil Smulian and his wife finally got together with many local aviators including Capt. Nic Carter, Les Humphries and others in the area and together decided to establish a new flying club, but with membership restricted to currently active and former pilots with flying log book entries to prove their flying status. (This latter clause remains part of the club’s constitution to this date.)
The proposal for the new club was very well received by concerned aviators in the Port Elizabeth Area and the ALGOA FLYING CLUB was inaugurated on the 26th November 1956. The first president was Colonel Lewis Lang, a well-known and respected South African Aviator of the time, while the first treasurer was Phil Smulian, with Les Humphries as Club Secretary. Chester Chandler was also one of the founder members and served as club secretary from 1958 to 1962.
The club was accommodated in the hanger of Southern Aviation and the engine overhaul shop and work room was converted into a lounge and bar area for the club. Club members assisted with the furnishing and decorating of the premises and it was then that the members adopted the Royal Air Force 2nd World War mystical “Gremlin” as its unique logo.
The club became the new focal point for local pilots and all flying activities and training was provided by Southern Aviation. The first instructors being Phil Smulian, Nick Carter and George Hodgkinson. The first aircraft provided by Southern Aviation for club use were 2 * Piper J3 Cubs ZS-BAG and ZS-BTB plus 2 * Piper PA12 Cruisers ZS-DAW and ZS-DCI. A Tiger Moth, a Miles Messenger and an Aeronca Champion were all added to the fleet. It is worth noting that these were all tail wheel aircraft and none any avionics fitted at all. Over the next few years the two Cubs were converted to Nose Wheel and two Tripacers replaced the other tail wheel aircraft.
The first Private Pilot course was commenced in 1957 and the successful candidates were presented with their Algoa Flying Club wings at a Wings Parade in March 1958 by Father McManus (The Flying Priest). The 12 pilots were: Les Bishop, Red Tompkins, Ian Salkild, Herman van Raalte, Jerry Goosen, Dr Willem van Aardt, Tommy Walker, John Airey, Chester Chandler, Mike Streeter, Barend …… and Wrng……..
The cost of a PPL then was R320 and each student got a government subsidy of R80!!!!
The Pub became known as the Gremlins Grotto. The early rule was that it only opened after the last aircraft had landed and was parked in the hanger. All club social activities centered there. Sunday afternoon tea also became a regular feature and once a month visiting pilots from surrounding areas were invited to a club day when a meal was served. Many aviators from Eastern Cape towns joined as country members and weekend fly in’s were often arranged.
The Algoa Flying Club also soon became affiliated to the Aero Club of South Africa and acted as co-hosts of the Presidents Air Race in 1962. The race was until then known as the Governor Generals Air Race and this was the first race as the “State Presidents Air Race”. It ended that year in Grahamstown. During the ‘60’s the function of training pilots continued to be delegated either to Southern Aviation or later to private individuals. The only problem with this arrangement was one of a degree of operational instability due to changes in ownership and management of the then independent schools.
In 1971 a ground-breaking decision was made. The management committee of the Algoa Flying Club decided that it was time for the club to acquire its own aircraft and establish and control its own training centre. At a historic meeting in the early part of 1971 the decision was made to purchase the first training aircraft. A Cherokee 140 ZS EVJ, for the sum of R6500. But this of course was only part of the requirement. A new facility was needed. One that could cater both for the needs of a fully-fledged and accredited flying school but also for the social needs of a growing flying club. Fortuitously this was also the year when new ground was made available on a lease basis.
The plots were roughly 1000 square metres in extent and an offer to lease was made for the plot with occupation due in 1972. The lease was signed for 10 years and plans immediately went forward to design and build a new club house and flying school. Several plans were put forward and finally an A-frame structure was agreed to because of the thought at the time that as we were investing heavily on leased ground we had to build something that was not only economical but would later have some value and could be dismantled and moved.
Well the plans were drawn up. A member’s lounge, lecture room for students, small reception and office area and of course the new “Gremlins Grotto” pub around which to discuss the days flying. The moment we took delivery of the clubs first aircraft, flight training started in earnest. Mike st Quentin and Cookie von Gerlach were the flying schools first full-time instructors and within months it was obvious the demand could not be met on a single aircraft and two more aircraft were obtained, hired on an hourly basis, while the training hours grew from fifty to almost 200 a month in the first year.
For the flying club this became an enormous responsibility, for as the hours grew so did the need for more aircraft. All growth had to be self-funded. A giant step forward was taken in 1976 when the club decided to purchase the first of two-brand new Cessna 152’s. Deciding to change over to the lighter high wing aircraft was a brave decision because there were those who felt the windy coastal conditions would not suit the ubiquitous trainer, but the lower cost and what was felt were excellent training qualities were foremost in the minds of the management of the day and the club never looked back.
All the while the club supplemented its fleet with hired aircraft. The second brand new 152 was purchased in 1979. This aircraft ZS-KEO was ordered to spec from the Witchita factory and still has a special place in our training fleet. Over the next few years the Club added a further 152 as well as both a Cessna 172 and a Cessna 172 RG which was fully equipped for instrument flight providing the school with the ultimate tool for instrument and commercial pilot training.
A flight simulator is of course essential in fully equipping today’s pilots for the rigours of instrument flying and the club took the step in the late 80’s to acquire a Frasca flight simulator to meet these requirements.As the fleet and the membership grew so did the need for space and the clubhouse was extended during the 80’s and early 90’s to include a simulator room and a new pub and social area. The area of ground leased by the club was also increased significantly over the years. The area under club control now includes hanger facilities for over 40 aircraft.
The philosophy that formed the basis for the formation of the club 46 years ago is still at the core of the club’s success. A flying club for pilots and former pilots dedicated to conserving the ethos and the development of power flying and an unswerving emphasis on maintaining the highest possible standards of training and commitment to safety. At the same time, being a not for profit organisation, providing all this at the lowest possible cost to our members.
Having operated its own flight school for over 30 years the Algoa Flying Club, including the Flight Training Division / Flight School and its members take great pride in the fact that it’s reputation for excellence in training extends all over South Africa and even further afield. Algoa Flying Club, including the Flight Training Division / Flight School have trained numerous commercial pilots, a great number of whom fly for National and International carriers.
Our membership includes a wide cross-section of society, local and international and our students range from those who wish to fly for fun, all the way to those taking the first steps towards a flying career. We currently have 900 members, almost 20 of those members have been members for over 30 years, and the president of the club is one of the Founding Members Mr Chester Chandler.
Dave Perelson has been a member for over 51 years and Bennie Bergmann for over 50 years.
We currently boast a fleet of Cessna 152’s, a Cessna 172, a Cessna 172Rg, a Sling 2, a Baron, a Seneca and an Airvan GA8 and a SACAA Accredited Elite Evolution S812 (FNPT 11) Simulator, which offers Multi Engine Piston based on the Beech Baron B58 and a Single Engine Piston based on the Cessna 172RG.
Algoa Flying Club, including the Flight Training Division / Flight School has been in existence since the 26th November 1956. We are proud of our high standard of training which, combined with a personal touch and rich history, sets us apart from other training organisations.
EVENTS / PROMOTIONS:
We host many different events monthly for our club members and the surrounding flying schools, such as guest speakers, social braais, fly-away and trivia evenings to name a few. In the past we have hosted the following events:
- Annual Wings Parade & Dinner
- Annual Christmas Party
- Pre-Flight Competition & Trivia Evenings
- Fly-In to Graaf-Reinet, Cape St Francis, Zandvalakte, Aj’s
- Solo Parties for new pilots
- Simulator Challenge evenings
- Team Building weekend aways
- Poker Run and Ritchie Rally
- Muck Run
- Inter-Flying School Challenge (Go-karting, Paint Ball & Trivia)
- Night with the committee
- Talks by Rob Mac Geoghegan, Jim Davis, Cpt Jim Hippert, Roger Tillbury
- Annual Safety Campaign for the Aeroclub & SACAA
- FAPE Airshow / FAUH Wings & Wheels
- Annual General Meeting
MEMBERSHIP / LEASE:
We are lucky to have a few members, such as Dr Russel Phillips, who has already built a couple of bushbabys, a KR2, Stolp Starduster and restored four Bellancas as well as a J3. He had also established a small factory in Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa where he manufactures a composite aircraft called the Whisper Aircraft.
We currently lease our land from ACSA in Port Elizabeth, where we have a club house that also house our Flying School, SACAA /RAASA Approved Exam Test Centre, Pilot Shop, and the Gremlins Grotto pub, and 29 hangars that we lease from ACSA for our members to use at an affordable rate and our own Club Owned Fleet.
The Algoa Flying Club is one of the oldest Flying Clubs in South Africa, and we hope to grow with the aviation industry and continue promoting flying in the Nelson Mandela Metropole and see our 100 years Anniversary in 2056.
We hope that we will still be a key gateway into aviation,
because when flying clubs thrive, pilots soar.
Please follow the links below to read a few articles written on the Algoa Flying Club…