SAPFA SA Landing Championships, Stellenbosch and Brits 2021
Pete van der Spek
Precision landing competitions have been around for a long time but for me, this was a new experience behind my camera. I have always shied away from being too close to a landing aircraft for obvious reasons so when I was asked to do this photoshoot, I did so with an open mind – and with some trepidation. Having said that….
I was warmly greeted by Mauritz du Plessis at the Stellenbosch Flying Club early on Saturday and he introduced me to the rest of the team and some of the pilots. The pilots briefing was held, the order of the day and safety explained to everyone involved. We were told that if an aircraft veers off course and heads for us, run…. Ja well, no fine….
The judging team, Marshalls and video girls went down to the runway and set up – and at 10am sharp, the first three aircraft took off for their first of four landings. The four landing configurations (for the uninitiated like me) were as follows:• Landing 1 – Normal Landing (Free style landing where the use of power, spoilers, flaps and /or sideslip is at the discretion of the pilot).
• Landing 2 – Forced Landing (Abeam the ZERO-LINE at a 1000 1200 ft AGL the engine is throttled back to idle power, and power shall not be used there-after, although Flaps, Spoilers and sideslip may be used at the discretion of the pilot).
• Landing 3 – Same configuration as in Landing 2 but no flaps or spoilers are to be used once the engine is in idle configuration, except for sideslipping at the discretion of the pilot.
• Landing 4 – Obstacle Landing – Here the pilot will make a landing after passing a marked obstacle 2 meters high, and placed 50 meters before the touchdown line (the use of power, spoilers, flaps and sideslipping is at the discretion of the pilot).
The sequence was chosen before the pilots took off by the judge and the pilots then did the four landings as the flew in the circuit – fitting in with other aircraft taking off and landing. The safety side was stressed by Rikus Erasmus, the safety officer for the day. He said if it doesn’t feel right, go around. Good advice – I felt a little better knowing that we probably did not have to try and run away from an out of control and speeding aircraft!
We had six aircraft and seven pilots involved so it went quite quickly and the skills were of varying degrees. The eventual winner of the Stellenbosch leg was Martin Venn who did a sterling job of landing his RV pretty close to the line each time. First time entrant, Ed Llewelyn, found it very difficult at times but did very well indeed. All the entrants mentioned that they found the barrier landing daunting – having to fly over a barrier and then touch down shortly afterwards was a step too far for most pilots.
All in all, a very interesting and exciting morning – and my running shoes did not have to work once. Well done to all the pilots and the ground team – an excellently run event. The following people were involved on the day – Competition Director – Deon van den Berg, as mentioned, safety officer was Rikus, Chief Judge and marshall officer was Mauritz du Plessis, FASH event co-ordinator Brent Warren, Score Keeper was Mike Marshall, videographers were Leonie, Sally, Helloise and Annette and marshalls were Paul and Brent Warren.Final results from Stellenbosch – 1st – Martin Venn, 2nd Thys van der Merwe, 3rd Christiaan du Plessis, 4th Willem Myburgh, 5th Ed Llewelynn, 6th Frank Ohlson and 7th Rikus Erasmus.
A Cessna Caravan had to get unofficially involved (just because he could) and showed the boys how to do it, landing the big aircraft just short of the mark – a real show-off… Boys and their toys….Great day had by all. Well done Stellenbosch Flying Club.
Brits, the hosts town for the up-country leg of the SA Landing Championships were almost in the thirties on Saturday morning when the safety briefing was held, led by Competition Director Jacques Jacobs, in the relatively cool clubhouse of Brits Flying club.
Eight teams had entered but unfortunately the oleo on Rob Jonkers Cessna had collapsed so he and cousin Martin Meyer was stranded at Kittyhawk. Present at the briefing were Fanie Scholtz, Von Hamman, Tarryn Myburgh, Frank Eckard, Hans Schwebel and Ron Stirk. Fanie flew his Sling 2 and Tarryn her Jabiru while Frank, Von, Hans and Ron shared the little Cessna.
The South African Landing Championships is a skills test on the ability to land an aircraft under different circumstances. The championships is organised and executed in accordance with the valid sporting code of the FAI these Rules and Regulations and the Supplementary Rules and Regulations for the specific year’s event.
The object of this competition is to assess the pilot’s skill in landings of different types. Circuits may be left or right hand. Circuits for landings 1 and 4 must be above 500 feet QFE. Circuits for landings 2 and 3 not less than 1,000 feet or more than 1,200 feet QFE. These will be defined by the competition management who has the right to vary the circuit direction. The event will comprise four landings as described below:
Landing 1- Normal Landing: A free style landing where the use of power, spoilers, flaps or sideslip is at the discretion of the pilot.
Landing 2 – Forced Landing: Abeam the zero line, at 1000 to 1200 ft AGL the engine is throttled back to idle power. Power shall not be used thereafter. Flaps, spoilers and sideslip may be used at the discretion of the pilot.
Landing 3 – Forced Landing Without Flaps: Abeam the zero line, at 1000 to 1200 ft AGL flying with flaps or spoilers fully retracted, the engine is throttled back to idle power. Power, spoilers and flaps shall not be used thereafter. Sideslip may be used at the discretion of the pilot.
Landing 4 – Obstacle Landing: The competitor will make a landing after passing a marked obstacle 2 meters high, placed 50 meters before the touchdown line. Use of power, spoilers, flaps or sideslip is at the discretion of the pilot. Approaches in connection with the obstacle landing, where the wheels are lower than the obstacle before passing over it, are not permitted (creeping).
After the combined scores were tabulated Hans, who has won the title five times since 2004 was declared the winner of the 2021 Landing Championships.
followed by Fanie Scholtz, Tarryn Myburgh and Von Hamman
The final combined results are at the end of this report
The National Spot Landing Nationals held in Brits on 13 November 2021 was my second Spot Landing Nationals. Unfortunately, the timing of my Jabiru’s annual service and the recent gusty weather meant that I had no time to practice. Doing at least a few circuits is invaluable before a competition as you fly a much tighter circuit than normal and the approaches, especially your glide approach, is quite different to one that is completed for the comfort of passengers.
What I have learnt is that the key to a good landing starts on the downwind. You need to be trimmed and ready at your selected altitude and speed early on the downwind, as things start to happen very quickly once you are in line with the landing line. The stress level goes up significantly from that moment until your landing, confirmed by my rapidly rising heart rate over each circuit.
The conditions were really calm on arrival but quite quickly, the wind started to pick up and the heat really started to build. By Round 2, the heat and variable gusty wind made setting up on downwind a challenge, with turbulence bouncing you around while the wind is helping one moment and hindering the next. Maybe this ups your concentration level as surprisingly most of us managed to reduce our scores in Round 2.
On my first landing in Round 1, I surprised myself with a +5 landing. This was followed by my first glide approach where I was descending way faster than expected and had my hand itching on the throttle, ready for a go around. Luckily a go around wasn’t necessary, but I landed way short of the box. Luckily this is a competition and not real engine failure as landing so short could be a real problem if you aren’t able to go around!
Things improved from here, and I managed to get all but one landing in the box! It becomes very clear during the day that managing speed is key. If you are too fast, you will float much further than you think, especially in my Jabiru where the plane and I have no weight to help settle onto the ground. If you have too much speed, your flare can float you more than 70m and right out the other side of the box or worse, it could cause you to bounce!
On the other hand, managing speed on a glide approach is quite different as you are also managing distance to the runway based on your descent rate. An important lesson is the sharper the turn, the faster you descend!
Overall, I am very happy with my results. Compared to last year, I managed to shave off over 100 points. This is including the two additional obstacle landings that you have to do in the Unlimited Class that were not required in the Sportsman’s Class I competed in last year. Next year I hope to get under the 400-point mark!
I enjoyed the new multi-venue approach. The close overall results showed that the different conditions at different venues don’t have that large an effect and the larger field makes the results feel like that much bigger an accomplishment. A big thanks to the organisers, judges and marshalls for their effort and for standing in the sun all day for us!