de Havilland Beaver
By Mitch Stirling (Air Rhod.)
These days, as my wife and I are out walking around the lovely Macauley Point in the evenings, we occasionally hear the sound of a radial engine coming from the sky. This intrusion of sound from a distinctive Pratt and Whitney radial engine doesn't bother me at all. I love it. Is it an old Wasp Junior engine, I wonder? Is that a Beaver? And my mind begins to drift... drift back to my early childhood in Southern Rhodesia and it makes me think... old Canadian and Rhodesian pilots had/have a lot in common. Those aviators of old shared the same pioneering spirit that opened up unknown territory in those little de Havilland Beavers. Their stories and pictures grace our history books of today.
CAA Beaver fleet history:
VP-YHF destroyed Mankoya (NR) 1951
VP-YHH Eland to Zambia 9J-RFZ 1967
VP-YIL Duiker to Malawi 7Q-YIL 1966
VP-YIM Impala destroyed Malawi 1956
VP-YIS Oryx to Malawi 7Q-YIS 1966
VP-YJC Sable destroyed Malawi 1952
VP-YJD Kudu to Zambia 9J-RGA 1967
VP-YKA to Zambian Air Force
VP-YOR Lechwe to Zambian Air Force
In 1966 the Pat Judson Trophy was awarded to the Beaver pilots of Central African Airways 'who flew these single-engined aircraft for more than ten million miles over extremely rugged terrain without a fatal mishap'. It was presented by Mr AD Baxter, president of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and accepted on behalf of all the Beaver pilots by Captain Rodney van Rooyen.
|VP-YIL 'Duiker' at Chileka with Reg Vermaak|
The popularity of the Beavers was described nostalgically by Mr Don Taylor in an article called "Rainbow on the Zambezi'. He recalls, 'Next day I left Mongu for Lusaka on a little Beaver of Central African Airways. Flying in Central Africa is like taking a bus in Britain; a familiar, routine affair. At Mongu as many of the community as can get the time off, turn out to see the aircraft take-off. It is all very warm and homely. Everyone flies. You might find yourself with somebody's baby on your lap, or helping a grandmother to fasten her seat belt. The wife of an official sat alongside the pilot, with three of us squeezed in the middle seat and as we took off there was a loud 'meouw!' of protest from behind me . Somebody's cat, encased in a wicker basket was making a maiden flight'
A similar wistful story appeared in the SCAANER magazine of 1962, written under the pseudonym 'Ganesh'. 'In this day and age of jet travel, places like Lusaka are but an hour (or two beers ) away from Salisbury, leaving little time for study of the scenic beauty as it unfolds below. And in any case, the countryside if visible, seems well-nigh featureless from a Viscount at 18 000ft. It was my good fortune recently to get a lift home to Salisbury in a Beaver, cruising along at a leisurely pace at 2 000ft. The rugged hill formations of the escarpment stood out clearly in bold relief and the river itself could be traced for many miles into the hazy distance. The farms, the townships, the mines, the roads and contour ridges could be followed easily as they slowly drifted by below. Time seemed to stand still as the distant prospect of Salisbury appeared and seemed to remain stationary on the horizon. The city was, in fact, clearly visible in the sloping shafts of the late afternoon sunlight and we eventually slipped quietly down to land on the cross-runway, just as the other staff were knocking off for the weekend. And what an excellent time to arrive - 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. The Age of Elegance may have ended with the passing of the stagecoach, but it's 20th century counterpart can be experienced in the leisurely and graceful progress of the Beaver. So if you ever get the offer of a lift in one, seize it with both hands.'
CF-GRA photos: Hilford Burton
Adapted from the book, 'They Served Africa with Wings' by Mitch Stirling and John House.
Insert by ORAFs
Limited quantities of this book are available, please click on the image or mail Eddy Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org above to contact ORAFs and I will put you in touch with the source.
Thanks to Mitch for sharing this information with ORAFs.
Thanks to Hilford Burton for his photographs.
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