2001 PTAR – Another perspective
Aero Africa report
Main event sponsors Coca¬Cola and Imperial Aviation, along with WCT, Ferreira Aviation, ATNS and Capital Sounds again made this popular event possible. This year’s race, hosted by the Bloemfontein Flying Club, under the auspices of the Aero Club of South Africa, drew 41 competitors, a marked decline ascribed by organisers to the worsening economic conditions and increased operating costs, as well as perceived dissatisfaction with the handicapping system.
In order to lure back some contestants who are staying away from the race due to handicap speeds perceived to be incorrect, and determine handicaps as accurately as possible, the locally manufactured Air Observer was used. The Air Observer, a GPS based logging system, was officially used to test fly aircraft and to determine handicap speeds. This system, manufactured by Tilt-Tech, is also internationally approved by the FAI for Rally/Precision flying at World Championship level.
The aircraft were flown under test at maximum power in a rectangular course with two legs cross-wind and one into¬wind and one down-wind. The unit then logs flight parameters every second of the flight. After the flight the data is then transferred to a computer and verified with respect of track and altitude holding. The result is then fed into a spreadsheet calculating the two average speeds. One for the into-wind and down-wind legs, and one for the two crosswind legs. The into-wind and down-wind average is then used for the Handicap speed. Of the 12 aircraft tested, not one’s speed could be proved wrong. For example, one was tested at 161.07 Kts and achieved 162.08 Kts on day two. Another was tested 109.30 Kts and achieved 108.09 Kts on day two. Hopefully this will once again restore confidence in the handicapping system and result in a much larger field of contestants.
The race covered a total distance of 654.45nm over the two day period. The first day’s route took competitors from Tempe – Reddersburg – Zastron – Barkley East – Bethulie – Tempe. The fastest aircraft took off at 10h00 with the rest of the competitors following at 30-second intervals.
Worsening weather conditions with severe turbulence, driving rain and even sleet were experienced near Barkley East, Bethulie and Zastron, resulting in a number of competitors missing their checkpoints, or simply turning back to Tempe. Some pilots even reported having struck their heads against the roof of the aircraft due to the severity of the turbulence. Two competitors made precautionary landings on a private airstrip in the Rouxville district before returning to Tempe later in the day. At the end of the day only 27 aircraft completed the course by getting timed at all the points along the race route.
This left the organizers with a unique problem, should the normal rules be applied to the already small field of contestants. The jury had quite a long session with the handicapping/scoring committee and a penalty system (minutes per turn point missed) was introduced to keep everyone in the race. Extra time penalties were added to those aircraft that returned to Tempe without trying to move on to the next turning point.
The second day dawned with clear skies, but any icy cold wind made every one reach for their thickest jackets. The route was Tempe – Smithfield – Trompsburg – Tempe – Harmony – Bultfontein – Tempe. This time the slowest aircraft started just after 10h00 with the fastest starting last.
The race was finally won by Chris Briers and his brother Dries flying a 1973 Beechcraft Baron 58, ZS-CHL, who crossed the finishing line just after 13h00 at an incredible 198 knots! For Chris this was a personal triumph, as this is the 14th time he has entered the air race, having never previously attained any significant placings. Second were Errol van Rensburg and Andre Koen in their Cessna 182P ZS-PWC, while third place went to Harry Antel and Barry de Groot in their Grumman American AA-1A, ZS-VYI.
With several aircraft converging on the finishing line at once, it made for a very exciting finish.
In order to increase the number of competitors in the 2002 Presidents Trophy Air Race, race sponsors Imperial Aviation have offered to give everyone who brings another entry next year, R200 back on their entry fees.