Just as the myriad of farming implements and grain cultivars are synonymous with Nampo, so too have the many private planes and helicopters become a familiar site at this landmark annual event.
The aeroplanes and helicopters might indicate a wealthy farming community to the untrained eye, and to a certain extent it may be true, but the main driving force behind the aeronautical machines is cost saving. Time is money, and perhaps this saying is most fitting within the agriculture sphere. Being more hands-on than many other occupations, every second, every minute farmers are out of reach of their land, they stand to lose income.
According to Fanie Keyser, head of flight control at Nampo, this time-saving element is the reason for the many aeroplanes and helicopters at each year’s show. “We can accommodate up to 120 aeroplanes per day and to date we’ve had up to 102 aeroplanes occupy the field on any given day at Nampo,” said Keyser. The logistics involved are enormous. “We have to book the airspace around Nampo three months in advance and make sure we get the best air traffic controllers to direct the airspace once Nampo kicks off. This year we had two controllers from OR Tambo International stationed in the tower and they did a wonderful job.” Air traffic controller Izak Venter said this year’s show saw even more farmers opting for the airways. “It saves time, it saves money and it allows farmers from across the country to attend the show without sacrificing hours and sometimes days for car travel,” he said. The majority of planes range from Cessnas, to Pipers to DC3s, but according to Venter it is the double-engine planes like the Barons that have become more popular. “I think it’s simply because they have more room and farmers like to bring their families to the show.
Lately there’s been a tendency among farmers to club together to buy a plane. You’d have a scenario where between four and eight farmers will come to the show on the one day and the next day one of them will bring his family,” he said. But it seems you need to have money to save money and the winged machines on the grass strip are a testament to that. “On average a plane costs about R1 million,” said Venter. Keyser said the initiative grows each year, so much so that Nampo will be expanding its airfield for next year’s show. “We will extend the field by 500m to accommodate the helicopters which, at the moment, share the car parking and cause some problems. A large part of the current car parking area will be moved to the opposite side of the airfield, leaving more room to extend the area lengthways,” he said. For the past 30 years Louis and Linda Taljaard, grain and cattle farmers from Ottosdal, have been the proud owners of a Cessna 182. They’ve been going to Nampo in their plane, purposefully avoiding the traffic to Bothaville. “It’s only about 25 minutes from Ottosdal to Nampo and it takes about 30 litres of petrol to make the trip. We attend Nampo every year and we always come for two out of the four days. It’s quicker and cheaper by air,” said Louis Taljaard.
A Nampo novice, Gerhard Rieger, has had his Cessna 206 for only three months. “This was my first time flying to and visiting Nampo, and I think it was a good decision. With my plane it was a pleasant and stable journey from Zeerust. What would have taken up to six hours by car took us just under an hour by plane. The 206 has bigger wheels which makes it ideal for an airfield like this,” he said. Bloemhof local Klaas Saaiman piqued the interest when he landed his TSW. Fondly referred to as a “pampoentor” by some air traffic controllers, Saaiman said there are currently only about 10 of these aeroplanes in the country. “Two and a half years ago it set me back R500 000, but it’s worth every cent. It can reach a top speed of between 200km/h and 240km/h. Plus it only takes approximately 20 litres of petrol to fly around for about an hour – it is very cost effective,” he said. – Cornelia du Plooy