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Of Aeroplanes and African Planes

Africa’s romance with aviation goes back to the early 1900’s when pioneering pilots flew primitive craft over the plains and rugged mountains of the continent navigating only by roads and rivers.

The first powered flight in Southern Africa took place at East London on 1st January 1910 by Albert Kimmerling in a French Voison biplane. During the 1914 – 18 war, aeroplanes were used in the German West Africa campaign; first by the Germans in Aviatiks and Rolands and then by the  Southern African Aviation Corps in BE2’s and Henry Formans.

In 1920 Quintin Brand and Pierre van Ryneveld completed the first flight between London and Cape Town, crashing twice, using three aeroplanes. Silver Queen 1 and 2, both twin engine Vickers Vimy converted WW1 bombers and “Voortrekker”, an Airco DH9.

In the late twenties aeroplanes were used for surveys and exploration using DH9’s, Gloster AS31’s and even DH9 Seaplanes. In the 1930’s the fairer sex also pioneered African skies like Beryl Markham, the first woman commercial Pilot in Kenya who flew mail in East Africa. She was taught by Denys Finch Hatton the friend of Karen Blixen. ( She was also the first person to solo the Atlantic from East to West in 1936.) The first women to receive commercial pilots’ licences in Southern Africa were Doreen Hooper, Rosamund Everard, Rhenia Slabbert and Hester De Waal.

The 1930’s and 40’s saw the rise and fall of many small airlines but later air travel became more popular and airlines flourished. In 1937 a flying boat made its first survey flight between South Hampton and Durban. British Overseas Airways Corporation ( Formally Imperial Airways ) then began their mail and passenger service using “ Short “ flying boats on this route and used such waters as the Vaal dam, Zambezi  river at Livingstone, The Nile, Lake Victoria and Durban harbor as terminals in just one century aviation has progressed like no other technology. Flights from London to Cape Town took weeks – supersonic flights now take only a few hours.

John Edmond’s first flight in an aircraft took place at Mbeya in Tanzania when he was 7 years old. The craft was a De Havilland Dragon Rapide – the experience never left him and later in life he became a pilot himself retracing a few of the steps of those magnificent men in their flying machines, flying to remote airstrips in Zimbabwe and South Africa. His son John Ross has taken John’s flying experience many steps further, flying as an instructor on both fixed wing and helicopter and flying Hercules c130’s in Afghanistan, Pakistan and The Middle East.

This album is a compilation of some of the powerful songs John has written over the years about aviation and Africa; songs about Kilimanjaro, The Zambezi River, music and peoples of Africa, his outrage over the downing of a civilian airliner, romance, eagles and the ecology, philosophies on flying and even an African Christmas song Africa and aviation have been bonded together ever since that day on the 1st of January 1910!

1.    Jambo Kilimanjaro                                      
2.    Checklist Blues                                              ( J. Edmond )
3.    Tigers in Africa                                              ( J. Edmond )
4.    You’re Beautiful                                            ( J. Edmond )
5.    Old Bold Pilots                                               ( J. Edmond )
6.    An African Lovesong                                     ( J. Edmond )
7.    Homesick Angel                                             ( J. Edmond )
8.    Where have all the eagles gone                 ( J. Edmond )
9.    43 Air school                                                  ( J. Edmond )
10.    Matabele Guitar                                            ( J. Edmond )
11.    The Deafening Silence                                  ( J. Edmond )
12.    Drink the Zambezi Water                             ( J. Edmond )
13.    Kunkuru Eagles                                              ( J. Edmond )
14.    You ain’t no Hero                                          ( J.Edmond / S. Edmond )
15.    Bush Christmas                                              ( J. Edmond )