Things To Do in KimberleyPioneers of Aviation Museum
Where? General van der Spuy Drive, en route to Magersfontein, beyond the airport, Kimberley
When? Weekdays from 09h00 to 17h00.
Weekends by appointment only.
How? Call McGregor Museum on +27 (0)53 839-2700
How much? Free to browse
The Pioneers of Aviation museum lies on the site of the first flying school in South Africa, just 4 km off the N8 outside Kimberley - the city now regarded as the ‘cradle of aviation’.
Back in 1913 they trained pilots here, pilots of the South African Aviation Corps, who later went on to become the South African Air Force. The museum houses a life-size replica of the Compton-Paterson biplane used to train these pilots, amongst whom was Anna Maria Bocciarelli, the African continent’s first female pilot.
Kimberley’s first flight took place in June 1911 when John Weston established a record of 8½ minutes in the air in his Weston-Farman biplane, the first plane built in South Africa. Other people were also getting into the air at this time - the first airmail flight, and a series of demonstrations by Cecil Compton Paterson, Captain Guy Livingstone and Bok Driver, that combined to make flying a popular notion.
And so the John Weston Aviation Company was formed, whose main aim it was to travel to centres around the country demonstrating, and offering, flights to the general public, pre-empting what they feared might be serious attempts by individuals to try and fly themselves.
The memorial museum, the reconstructed hangar and a replica of the biplane are collectively a national monument commemorating the role early aviators played in founding the South African Air Force.
There is a geocache on the grounds of the museum with the hint: white concrete. Combine a visit with a trip to Magersfontein, the Battlefield Museum where General PA Cronje and his Boer troops defeated the British on their way to relieve the siege of Kimberley.