fun_2010_virginia4The plan was set to hold the initial Rally briefing on Friday evening before the DWC sponsored Braai, then to arrive at 07H30 on Saturday morning for a pilot safety briefing, final route briefing, map preparation and then commence with the competition from 10H00.  I love it when a plan comes together flawlessly, and this one indeed did....

The African Outdoor Group generously sent their fantastic new “Rig” all the way from Jhb to Dbn with the AOG crew. It arrived minutes before the 18H00 Briefing and was quickly reversed into place on the grass verge in front of the pool just off the taxi way. Within minutes, the scene was set for the weekend with the chairs and tables and umbrellas all laid out.

About 50 people attended the initial Rally briefing during which Mary de Kelrck gave a presentation on what Rally Flying is all about, and for the first timers, what to expect. 19 Crews registered and before long we were all enjoying the hospitality of the Durban Wings Club around the pool.

At 08H00 on Saturday a full Safety Briefing was given by Fred Bebington. This was followed by an ATC briefing from Didier. The Durban North Coast traffic can be quite busy and strict separation procedures have to be adhered to. By 08H30 the organisers were running the eager teams through the map preparation and route instructions. First take off was due for 10H00 but there was a delay for an hour to allow some low cloud to lift.

An interesting array of aircraft coloured the skies this day. They ranged from C152’s C 172’s, C182’s to a couple of Yaks a Bonnie BE35, and even a twin PA34. The route was short at 70nm, but was not without its challenges. This particular stretch of terrain NE of King Shaka is renowned for having very difficult navigational features, and ill matching roads on the map. Some legs were short with tight turns, which again proved rather hectic especially for the aeries bombing along at 120kts. So the teams really had to work hard to get around and find all 10 Check Points.

The last aircraft was down by 13H30, just as the SW buster came through. Mary had been in constant contact with Louis from Margate Tower, and he fed her a blow by blow (no pun intended) account of what was happening with the weather. At 14H00 after discussions with ATC, Safety Officer, Club Chairman and Mary, it was decided to proceed with the KZN Provincial Landing Championships in the 25 – 30 kt down the runway howler. A briefing was given on the 4 types of landings required viz:

1. Powered Approach from 800’
2. Glide Approach from 1000” Abm Threshold with flaps
3. Glide Appraoch from 1000’ Abm Threshold without flaps
4. Barrier Landing with Power from 800’ circuit.

The event was run in accordance with the full FAI rules and regulations. Brian Steenkamp, the SAPFA Chief Marshall from Gauteng arrived and laid out the Electronic Bingo Box to record the landings accurately to the meter. Stuart Low and his team had been out on the runway from 06H00 painting the Zero Line and the 10m stripes. Fred Bebington had a full Marshalling crew down on the landing line (unfortunately the wind favoured 23 so viewing from the Club House was difficult), and at 15H00 the first group of 12 participants got airborne. Some withdrew because of the weather.

These were indeed very brave crews, not only to perform 4 difficult spot landings in this howler, but just to get airborne, was in itself a feat. According to the rules, anyone scoring 30% or less of the total score would earn themselves Provincial Colours. This proved a huge carrot, and the teams were determined not to waste this opportunity to achieve.

The results were most interesting, taking the appalling conditions into account. 60% of the landings were either out of the 80M landing box, go around, or maxed. The only Bingo for the day was achieved by Mark Carstens in the Yak 52, but his undercarriage collapsed on touch down, and he veered off the runway and slid to a halt on the grass with minimal damage to the craft or his crew. Fortunately his was the last landing for the day, so no traffic was affected. Needless to say with the very high scores, no-one was awarded provincial colours.

It had been a long tiring but very rewarding day’s flying and at the final Prize Giving at 18H30, all agreed that they were leaving the event way better aviators than when they had arrived. The learning curve is very steep at an event of this nature under normal conditions, but far steeper under challenging visibility and high winds.

Congratulations to all who participated, marshalled, braaied, assisted, supported, and especially to Durban Wings Club, Virginia ATC, and African Outdoor Group for making it all possible. General Aviation is in a better place today…..

The final results for the Rally are set out below. Landing results Here

More pictures Here