Mar 1987

By Colin Jordaan

NATAL PILOTS MAKE IT 1-2-3

Natal pilots have shown that they mean to be at the forefront in the race for Springbok Colours next year by pulling off most of the line honours in this year’s Nationals. Twenty-seven of the top Precision pilots in the country met at Krugersdorp Airfield late month to do battle for the highest honour in the sport – National Precision Flying Champion. Seeded through from last year were: Springbok Dave Perelson (reigning Champion), Andre Schoeman and Johan Swart. The remainder represented their various provinces after competing in Provincial Championships.

The latest FAI Championship Rules were used for the competition. Day 1 consisted of a Flight Planning Test, Navigation Test and an Observation Test. Day 2 was a repeat of Day 1 but over a shorter route. This was followed by a series of spot landing competitions which included flapless forced landings and approaches over a 2 m high barrier, places 50 m before the touch-down line.

The rules require that only single engine aircraft are used being flown solo by each competitor. Penalties are awarded for failing to meet certain requirements in each task and the pilot with the least number of penalties at the end of the last day is the winner.

The World Precision Champs are being held in Finland this year and for obvious reasons, South Africa will not be there. However, we have been invited to compete in the European Championships next year and a Springbok team will be chosen on performances in this and next year’s Nationals. Having flown in three World Championships, I have formed the opinion that not only do we suffer from lack of International Competition, but our training and preparation has been a bit off course (no pun intended).

With this in mind, I set the two navigation courses with the purpose of applying various types of pressure on the competitors. Obscure turning points were chosen, the pilots only being able to spot the marker about 30 to 40 seconds before crossing. This only if they were no more than 250 metres off track. Secret checkpoints were placed in cuttings and behind trees to ensure that these would only be observed if competitors were dead on track. Timing had to be to the second at all times and no circling was allowed in order to waste time.

Natal 1987 Precision Team
L to R: Charles Wotherspoon, Colin Jordaan, Adrian Pilling, John Campbell, Dave Campbell, Richard O’Neill and Barry de Groot (Reserve)

Day 1 saw the pilots negotiating a route around and over the Magaliesberg, heading back to the south of Randfontein and finishing up between Lanseria and Krugersdorp for a total of 104 nautical miles. Pilots also had to identify 5 air to ground photos and 12 ground markers on this route. Tensions were running high as the provisional results were issued that night. The corrected results put Springbok Adrian Pilling into the lead, followed by Dave Perelson, Dane Gerneke (WP), Peter Lastrucci (S. Tvl), Dave Campbell (Natal) and in sixth place, Ivanhoe Perelson, reigning Rally Champion and the only woman in the competition.

Only 1 point behind Ivanhoe was Gerrit van Wyngaardt from S. Tvl. The Rookie of the year award must surely go to 19 year old Gerrit for this performance with only 90 hours, flying in his second competition. I hope this will serve as an inspiration to all of you who have been too chicken to have a go at competition flying.

On day 2, aircraft were sent out on a 74 nm. course (curse?) consisting of 8 legs. The observation task consisted of 6 photos and 9 ground markers. The competition is meant to be flown over various types of terrain. On the West Rand 1:250 000 map this means having to navigate on large yellow blobs while overflying built-up areas. I used 1:50 000 maps while setting these stages and I take my hat off to those pilots who were able to stay on track using the competition map.

Adrian Pilling 1st Place 1987
Charles Wotherspoon handing over the Frikkie Moolman Memorial Trophy to Adrian Pilling

Spot landings on runway 08 proved a bit much for some of the jockies. If you have landed at Krugersdorp before you will know what I mean. Pets Lastrucci used his local knowledge to fullest extent by winning with only 34 penalties on 4 landings. Seeing that every 1 metre short on a glide approach incurred 6 penalties, this was a magnificent achievement. Dave Campbell, Adrian Pilling and Dave Mostert took the next 3 places.

The prize giving dinner was held at the Krugersdorp Game Reserve where nearly all the pilots were staying. The Nationals were part of the Krugersdorp Centenary Celebrations and Mayor Gert Visser and his lovely wife were our guests of honour. The provisional results were once again handed out and after all protests were considered, the computer churned out the glad tidings for some, bad news for others.

Mr Charles Wotherspoon, former Chairman of Power Flying, presented the prizes to the deserving winners. Springbok Adrian Pilling had managed to hold on to his lead to take the crown and become the 1987 S.A. National Precision Flying Champion. All competitors were very glad to hear that Erika Moolman has agreed to reintroduce the Frikkie Moolman Memorial Trophy for First place. Natalians, Dave and John Campbell took 2nd and 3rd places respectively. Having recently won the Natal Air Rally as a team, these achievements must have been extremely satisfying.

In 4th place overall, and winner of the Private Pilot’s Trophy was Springbok Rally pilot, Chris Kyle from S. Tvl. Chris also has the distinction of being the winning navigator in this year’s State President’s Trophy Air Race.

Dave Perelson had to be content with only a fifth place this year and will be a real force to be reckoned with next year at the coast. After a very good second day, Geoff Hanschel from the OFS managed to take 6th overall and 2nd in the Private Pilot Section.

The Team Event was very obviously won by Natal with S. Tvl, E. Province and W. Province following.