As usual the Brits Flying Club stepped up to the plate and put on a spectacular event for the competing teams. Crews flew in from around the country and congregated at the airfield for the National Championships. One pilot Henk Koster having arrived a week early to fit in extra training for the event.
This particular event being extra important as it is the second leg of the selection process for the National Team to represent South Africa at the World Championships to be held in October. And what’s more, the worlds will be held at Brits itself. So for the first time in a long time we will have home ground advantage.
The event was run according to the new world format, taking the best part of a week to get through the various events.
Most crews arrived to practice and get accustomed to the area. The great hospitality of the Brits club made all instantly feel at home. The weather was good and most managed to get in a few good practice navigations and some landing practice.
TUESDAY 5th – Official Landing Practice
The pilots busied themselves with various practice navigations and prepared themselves for the official Landing Practice session to be run in the afternoon. Jacques had the landing equipment out and ready for the official practice session in the afternoon. Deon the Competition Director and Tony the SAPFA Vice Chairman were at the landing line to judge.
Each plane took to the air in turn and completed the 4 prescribed landings on runway 02. The landings were all good and Adrian the 2010 champion was again top of the log for the day.
That evening the competition was officially declared open at a supper held in the club house. Ominous weather reports were filtering for the next day. Everyone had fun and retired fairly early to prepare for the morning.
WEDNESDAY 6th – Official Practice Day 1
After the 8am briefing the Competition Director Deon, announced that the anticipated early take off for the navigation section had been delayed for an hour due to low cloud. This hour came and went and another hour delay was announced. This too proved to be a problem and Deon took to the skies in his own plane to check on the route. He landed just 30 minutes later to announce that the navigation must be postponed as the cloud was just too low. After a quick briefing it was decided to run the official landing practice. The competition suddenly got serious as this set of landings will count as the official landings should the weather deteriorate in the coming days. The results of the landing practice were:-
1 Adrian Pilling 14 Penalties
2 Ron Stirk 72 Penalties
3 Hans Schwebel 122 Penalties
4 Jan Hanekom 190 Penalties
5 Frank Eckard 204 Penalties
As the weather continued to hang around it was decided to call it a day and the pilots and organisers retired to the club house, After a brief period the landing results were posted on the board and suddenly the competition was on. Now things were serious. The weather was still looking ominous and what’s more several out of town pilots were grounded and could not get through to the competition.
THURSDAY 7th Official Practice Day 2
The 8am briefing was held and the we were all told that if the weather situation got worse the results from yesterday and today will count for the competition (this being the new world format) and ultimately for the selection of the national team. Barry de Groot managed to make it through the bad weather from Durban and Mike Cathro also made it through. Both joining the competition. We missed Jonty who was in recovery due to a horse riding incident and could not make it (be careful of those one horsepower vehicles!!!).
The weather has been checked and the competition director gave the thumbs up for the competition to commence. The first pilot went into flight planning at 8h45 and was airborne at 10am. The planes departed at 10 minute intervals and the competition was on. The route selected for today is the Yellow route which boasted 7 legs, 8 photos, ground markers and 25 timed points. This was truly a test for the pilots.
After all the pilots had returned they were debriefed and the results were posted on the board for all to see. The first 5 positions were (top 5 only)::-
1 Adrian Pilling 530
2 Mary de Klerk 650
3 Hans Schwebel 742
4 Ron Stirk 746
5 Jan Hanekom 817
Then after a quick lunch it was on to the official landing practice. To make matters more interesting, runway 20 was in use so the crews were faced with a landing competition on a runway that they had not practiced on. Well this really scattered the field and at the end of the day the top 5 landing positions were (top 5 only)::-
1 Jan Hanekom 70
2 Mary De Klerk 108
3 Frank Eckard 120
4 Ron Stirk 158
5 Hans Schwebel 210
Adrian Pilling (8th position) had a video query on his second landing and decided to protest, which triggered a procedure with all the results remaining provisional until the protest had been resolved.
Don’t forget that if the following few days had bad weather (and the forecast was not good), and the landings could not be run, then these results would stand.
The pilots enjoyed a great supper at the Brits Flying Club and after checking on the weather forecast Adrian withdrew his protest and the landing results became final.
FRIDAY 8th Official Day 1
The day dawned bright but overcast. The briefing at 8am started on time and the support team provided a great breakfast for us all. Tony and Deon provided a great briefing and after all was done wished the crews all the best. The first pilot was into flight planning at 8h45 and airborne at 10h00. The route for today was the Blue Route.
Around noon the pilots started to return and by lunch time Tony and Deon were working on the scores and Jacques was setting up the landing equipment. After a brief lunch it was down to the landing line and thank goodness it was runway 02 and not runway 20.
The landings were held in two sets of two landings with the power and glide in #1 and the glide without flaps and the barrier in #2. The aircraft experienced variable winds with a few gusts challenging the competitors. After completing the two sets each, the nervous pilots walked back to the club house where the navigation results were posted on the wall. Wow none of us could believe what high penalties we had. There was much grumbling.
Tony explained that there was an error in the navigation in that a runway that was used as a turning point was incorrectly marked on the map and this had generated massive penalties for the competitors. A recalculation of the route was done electronically. Three legs were effectively cancelled and the secret timing points being moved onto the remaining of the legs. This gave some competitors huge penalties. At this time the landing results were also released and the results are as follows (top 5 only):
1 Hans Schwebel 461 1 Adrian Pilling 58
2 Jan Hanekom 931 2 Hans Schwebel 78
3 Mary de Klerk 1023 3 Mary de Klerk 124
4 Walter Walle 1043
5 Adrian Pilling 1084
A great party was had by all and then off to bed to get the necessary rest for the coming day.
SATURDAY 9TH Official Day 2
After a great breakfast and a briefing at 8am sharp the competition was put on hold as an hour delay due to weather was in force. Later an additional hour was added and then it was all systems go. With yesterdays high penalties fresh in everyone’s mind, most were determined to improve their scores.
The Red Route was flown comprising 5 very long legs over sparse country. A simple trick by the organisers to lull the pilots into a false sense of security. There were 9 photos, 5 ground markers and 21 timed points for this competition. The pilots were so hyped up for this that one pilot, Ron, actually forgot to take his loggers along and so incurred the maximum penalties for the route.
Well after the regulation 90 minutes or so the pilots returned and after a very efficient debriefing session the results were announced (Top 5 only):-
1 Adrian Pilling 278
2 Jan Hanekom 490
3 Barry de Groot 509
4 Hans Schwebel 692
5 Mary de Klerk 756
This left us all working out who was first, second, etc. The pilots busied themselves with these calculations and a few took families and friend for a flip around the airfield. As 6pm approached the pilots got dressed and entered the Brits Flying Club which looked spectacular. As usual the ladies in the back had made the place look stunning and the food was equally great.
Tony was the MC and as usual he did a sterling job. The necessary thank yous were made and the final overall results announced as follows:-
First Hans Schwebel 1231 Gold Medal + Timing Trophy
Second Adrian Pilling 1420 Silver Medal
Third Jan Hanekom 1571 Bronze Medal
Fourth Mary de Klerk 1903 Observation Trophy
Fifth Barry de Groot 2088
Sixth Frank Eckard 2289
Seventh Walter Walle 2545
Eighth Mike Cathro 2842
Ninth Thys Van Der Merwe 3014
Tenth Henk Koster 3276
Eleventh Ron Stirk 3777
The Landing Results were already known as:
First Adrian Pilling 58 Gold Medal
Second Hans Schwebel 78 Silver Medal
Third Mary de Klerk 124 Bronze Medal
Fourth Barry de Groot 126
Fifth Ron Stirk 132
Sixth Jan Hanekom 150
Seventh Frank Eckard 178
Eighth Walter Walle 246
Ninth Mike Cathro 254
Tenth Thys Van der Merwe 276
Eleventh Henk Koster 648
Then of course the big announcement for the evening. The selection of the National Team to the World Precision Flying Championships to be held in October at Brits. The team was announced, based on the previous Nationals and this Nationals performance as:-
Adrian Pilling, Hans Schwebel, Ron Stirk, Jan Hanekom, Barry de Groot, Mary de Klerk and Frank Eckard.
Captain Thys Van Der Merwe was elected as manager but had to stand down as there was a scheduling conflict with the airline where he works. Later the committee elected Frank Eckard as Coach, Nigel Hopkins as Assistant Coach and the post of Manager is waiting to be fulfilled. Adrian Pilling was elected Team Captain.
A big thank you to all at the Brits Flying Club and to Deon, Jacques, Tony and all those who made this wonderful event happen.
More pictures Here
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