Moments and Milestones: A Day at the Races
By John Miller
UCAR 2009: Menno Parsons and Gavin Branson
The words “recreational flying” are rarely, if ever, found in the same sentence with “Boeing 737,” but while two South African aviation enthusiasts, Gavin Branson and Menno Parsons, were having a few beers last August, the combination became strangely plausible.
Branson is the CEO of a charter company, AirQuarius, which owns several Fokker F28 and Boeing 737 passenger jets. Parsons, an electrical engineer, owns a couple of airplanes, including an Aero L-29 Delfin.
Parsons likes to compete in air races, so he was interested to hear that the Rustenburg Flying Club (a small group about 90 minutes from Johannesburg) was organizing a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale-compliant sub-competition, to be held in August 2009. The organizers opened the event to jet aircraft, hoping to attract warbirds. Parsons contemplated entering his L-29: “I thought that I might have a chance of winning if I entered my jet. But on our second or third beer, I suggested to Gavin we enter one of his Boeings. Before I knew it, I heard myself say: ‘I’ll hire the Boeing for the day.’ ”