July 1994

Held at Karlovay Vary, Czech Republic – 17 July to 31 July 1994

By Adrian Pilling

The team assembled at Jan Smuts from all over the country on Saturday 16th July. Here a cocktail party was held for family and friends before departing. The flight was on SAA to Frankfurt. We arrived the next morning and were greeted by a temperature climbing well into the 30’s.

We split into two groups. Group 1 comprising Hans, Johan, Nellis and James, Group 2 comprising Adrian, Barry, Deon and Daroish. Group 1 left by car for the airfield where their planes were based, whilst group 2, left by train for the Czech border.

After 5 hours the train arrived at the town of Marktredwitz, where a very nice couple (prearranged) picked us up and took us by car to the Czech town of Karlovy Vary (formerly Karlsbad). We checked into this magnificent hotel (Hotel Pupp with casino) built in 1701. As it was late we immediately set about exploring the town in order to find a place to eat.

Monday morning we managed to get to the airfield only to find that our plane which was supposed to be there, was in fact still in Germany and could not fly back due to really bad weather. This weather pattern persisted for three days and indeed neither our team mates or any other team could get through. What a disaster.

Tuesday was more of the same so Adrian decided to rent a plane from one of the Norwegian pilots already on the field, and flew a nice practice nav. This he prepared for the pilots as a training route for Wednesday. Still no planes and no team mates. We decided to concentrate on map work (very necessary as the scale is 1:200 000 and the colours very pale) and prayer wheel practice. The opportunity was taken to see parts of this magnificent old town with it’s wonderful hot spas.

Wednesday was a day when our plane returned and we decided to start the practising in earnest. Some time was spent on landings and navigation. Later the others from Germany had had enough of this waiting and decided to drive through, joining us for a late lunch.

Thursday was a really intensive training day. The rest of the team drove back to Germany and joined us by air a little later. At last we were all together. The rest of the week was spent in intensive training. The official landing slots becoming more and more precious, as the time allocated each day was reduced due to other teams arriving.

1994 South African Precision Flying Team
Rear L to R: James Craven, Daroish Kraidy, Hans Schwebel, Nellis Nel and Barry de Groot. Front L to R: Adrian Pilling, Deon van Eeden and Johan Swart.

One amusing incident was when the competition director proudly marched in with our flag to show us just how on the ball they were … you guessed it, the wrong flag. We had to lend them one of ours, which was much smaller than their large, non-standard ones.

Monday was used as an official landing practise test day. This was great as it gave all the judges a work out as well as giving the pilots a dry run for the big event. Deon was in charge of the landing computer and was able to learn a great deal about this Swiss system. Valuable knowledge for this country. The official opening was held in the grand hall at the hotel. It was a very glamorous, if restrained affair. Guess what! They had made a flag for us, but had left out the yellow stripe (still 5 out of 6 colours is not bad).

Tuesday was an official practise navigation test day. This was great as it put pilots under the sort of pressure they would get on the big day. We all learned a lot, especially about how the competition organisers think. We all got to bed early as the next day was the first navigation test.

Wednesday dawned bright but not so clear. At the compulsory briefing it was decided that due to the potential for thunderstorms the landings would be held that day. What a surprise. So we all trundled out to the flight line. Here the first landing was run, a runway change was ordered due to the wind swinging around. Later the next two landings were run on a touch and go basis. This was actually a little unfair as the first 5 groups had terribly gusty weather. The management decided to call a halt for a while. Later the wind calmed significantly and the rest of the field got under way. There were many protests about this but the earlier landing results stood. The final landing was done in such a way that you took off on the grass runway and landed on the tar. This is a great system as it is very quick. At the end of the day we had a new World Landing Champion. He is Johan Gutman from Austria. His total penalties … just 4. Our team placings were Nellis (31), Daroish (34), James (36), Johan (45), Hans (47) and Barry (5 1). Johan’s was one of those pilots who was affected by the strong winds.

Thursday dawned bright and a little breezy. The first navigation test was flown this day. The organisers were quite sneaky as they gave everybody a zero wind velocity for flight planning. Our pilots returned, almost all uniformly disheartened. It had been difficult and mistakes had been made. Still the results were not known until the next morning after all the protests had been made. These protests went on until well after midnight. One of the Poles scored zero penalties!!!

Friday was the day for the second navigation test. This was a great day and the route was loved by everybody. The Czech team decided to host a party in the hangar. This was great as it allowed everybody to blow off steam. The results were announced at 9 pm in the hotel. Our boys had done well today but the main damage had been done the previous day. Daroish and James scoring particularly well today.

Saturday was a free day and an excursion to the aircraft museum by bus was arranged. The trip was almost three hours there. We were given lunch in Prague and then off to the aviation museum. This is well worth a visit. We had a coke under a SAM 2 missile, stood next to a Vl flying bomb, looked into a Soviet space capsule and had our pictures taken next to dozens of MIG and Sukhoi jet fighters. What a great experience. The bus ride back was hot and rushed as the official closing ceremony started at 8pm.

The ceremony was fun and the results predictable. Poland 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Sweden 4th, Czech 5th. Overall team positions were Poland lst, Czech Republic 2nd, and Sweden 3rd.

Our placings were: Daroish 30, Barry 51, Nellis 58, Hans 55, James 54, Johan 57. Officially Hans was an independent and as such his scores are not reflected in official results. Our team placing was 12th out of a total of 19 countries and 75 pilots.

We did a roaring trade in T-shirts and if any team should have got a prize for trying the hardest, for being the most fun team and for being the most colourful team, then it should have been US. Well done to the team, who did extremely well, considering their experience level. We now have a good basis upon which too choose for the 1996 WPFC in the USA. I am proud of our team and of the friendships made. We flew our new flag well…