Objective of the flight

The primary objective is to assess biomass availability to support identified eco-furniture factories in nine separate regions in South Africa. This particular mission was flown in and around Heidelberg in Gauteng.

Report from the pilot  :  Karl Jensen 

“This mission was months in planning. The flight required a departure from my home at 04h00, so I had travelled to Fly Inn Estate where my aircraft is based near Bapsfontein the previous Saturday to fuel and service it for a possible six hours of flying. Our departure time was set for 06h00 on 11 February from the Fly Inn Estate. The weather forecast was for a 1500’ cloud base with good visibility. The actual weather was a cloud base of >100’ with visibility of >0.5 km.

The weather improved, enabling our departure but only at 08h15. The objective of the mission was to survey alien vegetation within 80 km of Heidelberg. According to the passenger, researcher Ben Orban from NABRO Ecological Analysts, the objectives were achieved. The total flight time was 2.4 hours surveying from Forfar near Bronkhorstspruit to Secunda, Villiers, Vaal Dam and Sasolburg. We had a break at Vereeniging and then returned via an arcing loop along the Suikerbosrand back to Fly Inn Estate.

It is a privilege to do a flight where one can observe from the air and appreciate the severe impact, and the scars on the environment, of abandoned and operational open cast mines. It makes a caring person want to weep.”

Report by the beneficiary  :  Ben Orban

“The Heidelberg Eco-Furniture Factory, a non-profit project managed by SANPARKS, is dependent on a reliable feed of timber resources for sustained production. It is proposed that timber be sourced from all publicly owned Eucalyptus and Pine plantations within a radius deemed cost affective in supplying the factory, with the aim of sustaining furniture production. To ensure success of this project it is crucial to identify and quantify the timber resources available.

The project area is centred on the Heidelberg Eco-Furniture Factory located at Jameson Park, Heidelberg and includes all publicly owned plantations within a radius of 80 km (Figure 1), a distance deemed cost effective in transporting timber to the factory.

The objective of the flight was to conduct a rapid aerial assessment of timber resources available on stands and plantation exceeding 5 ha in size; to identify those areas with the largest amount of resources available; attempt to verify the tree species (Eucalyptus, pine or wattle); and to identify other potential areas with suitable production and access to these resources.

Passenger’s Report:

Based on aerial observations, some areas were not considered suitable as the dominant tree species present was black wattle Acacia mearnsii, an alien invasive tree species with no application as timber resource in the furniture manufacturing industry. High potential timber sites (Figure 2) were identified on 13 farms, including Tshwane and Centurion Municipalities. Moderate potential timber sites were identified on 9 farms, including the Modderfontein Municipality. Low potential timber sites were identified on 35 farms, including Weston Area, Krugersdorp, Heidelberg and Henly-on-Klip Municipalities. Timber locations are scattered throughout Gauteng with higher densities observed closer to Pretoria (Figure 3).

However, other timber resources not identified during the census periods were present, especially around the Vaal Dam (Figure 4 and Figure 5). This resource in particular was identified as the most suitable (Figure 6) for launching the project and harvesting commenced almost immediately.

Without aerial recognisance, achieved with the kind support of The Bateleurs and Karl Jensen, an excellent pilot, the Vaal Dam resource area would not have been identified.

In conclusion, please will you provide answers to the following three questions:

1.    In what way did this flight serve to answer the stated objective/s?
The flight was of paramount importance in identifying potential public timber resources and in identifying the Vaal Dam area as the most suitable for launching the timber harvesting project.

2.     What actions are likely to be taken as a result of this flight?
The alien timber resources around the Vaal Dam will be harvested and transported to the Eco-Factory for the manufacture of school desks that will be distributed to schools in need.

3.     What impacts will be measured, now or later, as a result of this flight?
The impact on alien plant species such as Eucalyptus and pine will be monitored during harvesting and further sites along the Vaal Dam prioritized for action. Future expansion of the harvesting project will include other areas in curbing the uncontrolled spread of these alien timber species