1997 President’s Trophy Air Race

New Tempe, Bloemfontein

Article by Mike van Ginkel

This year’s President’s Trophy Air Race took place at Tempe Bloemfontein on the 14th and 15th of June in superb flying weather.

85 participants finsihed the two day race with one entry, a Cessna 210, force landing only 4kms short of the finishing line with slight damage and no injuries.

1997 President's Trophy Air Race Winners: Dave Knoesen and Rodney King
1997 President’s Trophy Air Race Winners: Dave Knoesen and Rodney King

Geoff Henschel as Race Director and his team were very well organised and he event was run efficiently. The new application of using cell phones sponsored by MTN greatly improved the reporting-in by spotter teams at the reporting points – this helped tremendously in finalising results.
Final results indicate that the first 13 aeroplanes were slightly faster than the handicap and the next 15 were then within three minutes late on their handicap times.

It was very interesting to note that race number 24, ZS¬FDZ, a Piper Cherokee 235 flown by Christa Greyvenstein, was two seconds early on the first day and one second early on the second day. This is fantastic consistency with a final race speed obtained of 139.82 against a handicap of 139.80.

At the finish of the race, DC-3 ZS¬DIW was first across the finish line. However, as in last year’s and previous races the first across the line is not necessarily the winner. After all assesments were calculated it was announced in the official results that the Harvard had won. This was the first occasion that we had the privilege of having the majestic sound and sight of the DC-3 in the race and
we look forward to seeing more of this type of aircraft in the race.

Of note is that a Harvard was also a winner way back in the Governor General’s Trophy in 1954. The race ended at Rand Airport when Lt. M. Fletcher passed Mr. Willie Botha in an Ercoupe at the centre of the airport just before the finish line. Lt. Fletcher’s speed was almost the same as Col. Knoesen obtained 43 years later.

The Harvard which won this year was a SAAF Museum aircraft and the Cessna 185 was a 42 Squadron aero¬plane – both current serving SAAF aircraft. The very first President’s Trophy Air Race held in 1962 was won by the Defence Flying Club in a Tiger Moth flown by Commandant Jannie Blaaw. Race number 75 obtained 5th position, a Cessna 185E flown by Cornelis Genis.

This year again we had a section for helicopters and smaller aircraft who flew a slightly shorter route. The smaller aircraft race was won by James Bailey and Andries Botha flying a Kitfox and the winners of the helicopter section are JB Burger and J Greyling flying an 87 Helicopter Flying School Alouette III. Altogether a very pleasing and enjoyable air race with the wonderful hospitality of Bloemfontein and a vote of thanks to Geoff and Rene Henschel and their team of hard working helpers.

Without the generous sponsorship of MLS Bank, we would find it very dif¬ficult if not impossible to hold this prestigious event. Thanks to Di Rossouw and her team – it was great to have you with us.

New Tempe Airfield from the air
New Tempe Airfield from the air