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Transvaal Aviation Club

In January 1933 a handful of aviation enthusiasts, met at the Rand Airport in Germiston on the East Rand, then a rather discouraging stretch of sun-backed land with one hangar on it. They all had an unshakeable belief in the future of flying. There was the Rand and there were  people. It only wanted drive, and hard work. They took what was to be an important step in furthering aviation in South Africa. They decided with firm optimism, to form the Rand Flying Club.

Their assets? One de Havilland Gipsy Moth - ZS-ABE, known all over the reef as “Lady Betty”, and one instructor who went with her. Their liabilities were those of the old Benoni Light Plane Club.

In March 1933 the Rand Flying Club came into existence. The Joint Committee of the Rand Airport had faith in the new Rand Flying Club  and  with foresight set aside a special enclosure for club members.

The Rand Flying Club grew remarkably and by the end of 1933 had over 100 members. Early in 1934 members subscribed towards an aircraft fund which bought another aircraft, ZS-ADE.

Owing to the rapid increase in membership, the rustic shelter soon became too small for the Rand Flying Club and a brick and mortar clubhouse was built and officially opened on 24 May 1934. This building is next to the terminal building.

Flying hours were on the increase with over 100 hours being knocked up month after month. Funds were improving and soon another aircraft, ZS-ADY, was bought. Flying again jumped forward, and with it membership. Two more aircraft were bought, ZS-ABS and ZS-ABI.

The building of two tennis courts, which were officially opened on Sunday 24 March 1935, extended social activities. The monthly dances grew steadily in popularity, as too did the annual ball. Other forms of social entertainment included Golf on the adjoining Germiston Golf Course, Boating on the nearby Victoria Lake and Rugby and Soccer on the fields of the airport. A Squash Court was  built in 1939/40.

Membership rose steadily, with 430 members toward the end of 1935. The club completed negotiations for the establishment of a Benoni Branch, from whence the Club originated, operating from Benoni Aerodrome, to cater for the needs of members of the Far East Rand. The demand for flying grew steadily keener, and with the acquisition of more aircraft the club formed branches at Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp to provide for Western Transvaal members. The Rand Gliding Club was absorbed into the Rand Flying Club.

Additional machines, of varying types, both cabin and open were bought, so that flying at very low charges could be provided. The  club’s fleet of ten power planes and five gliders justified the Rand Flying Club in taking the unprecedented step of inaugurating its own workshops.

Progress was so rapid that the clubhouse, of revolutionary size when built, was now too small. The Joint Committee of the Rand Airport provided a new building for the Rand Flying Club in 1938. His Excellency Sir Patrick Duncan, Governor-General of the Union of South Africa, and Lady Duncan, performed their first gesture towards civil aviation by honouring the Rand Flying Club with a visit during which they performed the opening ceremony on Saturday 8 August 1938. This is our present building.

During 1939 the clubs fleet consisted of:

2 Aeronca Chief
3 de Havilland Gipsy Moth
1 de Havilland Hornet Moth
4 de Havilland Tiger Moth
1 De Soutter
2 Miles Magister

The club made provision for Preliminary Flying Instruction, Cross-Country Flying, Blind Flying, Night Flying and “A” and “B” Licence flying.

During the Second World War the South African Air Force (SAAF) 5 Wing used the clubhouse as an Officers Mess and the whole area was a SAAF station including their barracks. What was previously know as the Government Village, and the recently demolished  Wits Rifles building was the NCO’s Mess and parade ground.

Imperial Airways and subsequently BOAC used it as a terminal building for transporting passengers to and from the Vaal Dam for their Shorts C Class flying boat schedules.

In 1960 due to lack of control the Rand Flying Club was liquidated and the Transvaal Aviation Club (TAC) was formed in 1961.

This  too was a very successful club and membership was limited to 1,000 members in the 1970’s. The Transvaal Parachute Club was a  sub committee of the Transvaal Aviation Club (TAC).

In 2003 the members of the Transvaal Aviation Clun (TAC) decided to allow the public to visit the club to contribute to the costs of maintenance etc.

Biggles Bar & Bistro is the commercial entity to cover the overheads of the Transvaal Aviation Club (TAC).


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