- VACS HISTORY -

Thank-you very much for taking the time to read this History.  If you have read the History of The Association of Virtual Aviation of South Africa (AVA – www.ava.org.za), you will find an overlap in information.  Please bare with us, this is due to the fact that the History of the two organisations are intertwined and can therefore not be seen in isolation. 

 

Ok so lets go …….

 

During 1995 after the release of Microsoft Flight Simulator 95 (FS6), which was the very first Windows based flight simulator package, and the growing interest in the Internet, then in its infant years, the concept of Virtual Airlines took shape and form.  Two South African aviation junkies, JJ Siebert and Nico Visagie developed the computer based system to manage and establish the Virtual Airline, which they called Independent Airlines.  Two wings, Passenger and Freight Services, were run individually by JJ and Nico.  The Freight Services at the time was called Inter African Freight and then later African Express.

 
        

   

                                         

 

In October 1996 JJ Siebert initiated a braai for members of the Virtual Airline.  A member of the Airline, Harry Mole, offered a venue at Air Force Base Swartkop.  The braai was a resounding success with 32 members and some family attending.  The chatter at this event was indicative of the level of enthusiasm about aviation in general and a very strong camaraderie soon developed as the day progressed.  Many members were holders of valid or expired pilot’s licenses. It was quite clear that the hobby in the form of Virtual Aviation, as it is internationally now called, was at its infant stage and about to erupt from an individual past-time into a formal and social hobby.  JJ Siebert called for assistance with the running of the Airline as Nico Visagie was going to resign to concentrate on scenery design for the new up-and-coming FS98. Harry Mole took over running the Freight Section and later in 1999, took over the entire airline. Nico Visagie then started a Cape based virtual airline and is still designing scenery for Flight Simulator and is a staunch member of the Western Cape based club Cape Virtual.

 
     


A planning meeting of interested parties took place at Wonderboom Airport on a cool Saturday morning during May 1997 to discuss the possibility of taking Virtual Aviation into the future. The main decision taken at this meeting was to establish a club called Independent Airlines with its main objective to promote Virtual Aviation as a hobby in South Africa.  The founder members of this club were Bruce MacFarlane, JJ Siebert, Harry Mole, Charles Burrows, Philip Nash, Paul Surgeon, Ian Ford and Dennis Young.  The first main exhibition of Virtual Aviation was to be the launch of Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 1 at the Air Force Base Swartkop Airshow in October 1997. At this stage it was unknown to what extent Virtual Aviation had taken off in South Africa and the world regarding clubs and associations.

 

Harry Mole approached the Officer Commanding and personal friend at the SAAF Museum, Lieutenant Colonel Dave Knoezen.  A very positive and sound relationship between the club, Independent Airlines and the SAAF Museum ensued.  Dave Knoezen immediately saw the potential of Virtual Aviation as an alternative aviation interest at air shows and related events.  He was probably the first career orientated aviator to openly support Virtual Aviation as a recognised aviation element.  One of the first initiatives that year was to affiliate to the Friends of the SA Air Force Museum.  In this way the hobby was formalised and the club was correctly constituted under its own committee.  An old storeroom at the base was offered by Dave Knoezen to the 10 odd enthusiasts as a clubhouse.  The event in 1997 was supported by Microsoft SA, Incredible Connection, Compaq Computers and Multimedia Warehouse.  The "demo pilots" were all pilots for Independent Airlines. Many of this crew did not end up joining the club but the few who stayed behind established a formally constituted body and built the clubhouse from scratch with the use of donations and sponsorships.

 

The Virtual Aviation exhibition in 1997 was such a success that interest in the club grew at an astounding rate.  Everybody was willing to help restore the clubhouse and develop it into a true "home".   During the years 1998 and 1999 many events were attended all over the country.  The club grew in leaps and bounds with many enthusiasts visiting the club or showing much interest at shopping mall exhibitions.

 

After the very first International Air Race type event facilitated through the internet (not online) Battle of the Virtual Airlines in 1998, other members in the country started coming to the party i.e. Bob Corbett (ex-SAAF) from the Cape and Andre Steyn from Free State. The Aeroclub of South Africa was astounded at the interest generated in general aviation by computer flight simulators, to such an extent, that they invited the club to demonstrate the  potential of this form of flying to the Aeroclub Board. 

 

In May 1999 Bruce MacFarlane lead the demonstration at an Aeroclub board meeting.  The result was astonishing and the club was briefed on the process to join the Aeroclub of South Africa as a full chapter.  In June 1999 Bruce MacFarlane initiated the Association of Virtual Aviation in South Africa.  He developed the logo as we know it today and the constitution which is currently in its 5th version.  Bruce's vision of recognition of Virtual Aviation in the general aviation community was about to take root. No-one had formally taken steps to get recognised.

 

In January 2000 the Association (AVA) was established and the Independent Airlines Club ceased to exist as a club but in fact still remains as a Virtual Airline to this day.  AVA joined the Aeroclub of South Africa as its 13th chapter. Virtual Aviation as a recognised aviation element was thus established in South Africa in this year. 

The emphasis from 2000 to 2002 became youth development and aviation awareness.  The Association, through ignorance, was still in a "club mentality" and did not enjoy the support from the national flight simulation community.  Together with strong emphasis on the SA Air Force, AVA supplied all the expertise to orientate youth in the technicalities of flying, through Virtual Aviation.  AVA was instrumental in the development of curricula for use during the youth development sessions and courses. In spite of the many successful events and dynamic activities, AVA remained a Gauteng based "club".  The Association had not yet spread its wings. This unfortunate run of events sparked off the "us" and them" mentality, a notion which was extremely unhealthy at the time.

 

In 2002 due to the amount of interest countrywide and the conflict from various sectors in the Virtual aviation community, regarding control and doctrine, AVA had no other option but to evolve from a club model to a fully fledged Association. Clubs around the country would be established which freely decided to affiliate to AVA and could autonomously run their own ship, so to speak.  AVA became the recognised authority in South Africa for Virtual Aviation. The Association took up a more strategic role and left the activities and operations to club level. This was the birth date of VACS as a formal club, 1 January 2002.

 

VACS was stationed in the original tin-roofed structure at Air Force Base Swartkop.  These facilities were given to the club to improve the general look of the building, but was due to the appreciation of the SAAF of members who unselfishly offered time in the promotion and dedication to Youth Awareness and development. VACS held countless exhibitions and demonstrations of the hobby at various shopping malls and air shows around the Gauteng area.  Membership of the club grew and interest in the hobby was astounding.  Many training sessions and other aviation related events, applicable to the virtual world, were presented.  Members enjoyed a full curriculum of activities.  The skill of flying evolved as the software became more and more real.

 

The old premises were always a temporary arrangement, due to future upgrades of the Base.  The involvement in the SAAF’s Siyandiza programme secured VACS a more permanent home near the tower at Swartkop. So in May 2005 the old tinned roofed construction to the north of the movement area was sadly vacated and the club moved to the “TOWER BLOCK” were it still is to today.  The clubhouse boasts toilet facilities and a kitchen in-house, as well as a beautiful air conditioned “movement area”. 

 

Members enjoy a full organised events calendar during the year.  This is supplemented by training sessions on various aspects relevant to the Virtual Aircrew Licensing curricula. If you really want to know more, visit the club.  Activities are scheduled every Saturday from 14:00.

 

 

 

     

 

 

VACS Chairman over the years

 

1997    J.J. Siebert

1998    Ian Ford 

1999    Ian Ford

2000    Philip Nash

2001    Philip Nash

2002    Jason Haken

2003    Brian Wood

2004    Brian Wood

2005    Brian Wood

2006    Andre du Preez

2007    Dale Ric-Hansen

2008    Dale Ric-Hansen

 

VACS Secretaries over the years

 

1997    Harry Mole

1998    Harry Mole

1999    Harry Mole

2000    Harry Mole

2001    Harry Mole

2002    Harry Mole

2003    Harry Mole

2004    Arno Kohler

2005    Arno Kohler

2006    Arno Kohler

2007    Arno Kohler

2008    Arno Kohler

 

 

Compiled by

Harry Mole

Chief Flying Instructor 2004 - 2007