May 2002


Brits – 16 to 18 May 2002

By Adrian Pilling

Well before you know it another year has passed and all of a sudden the Precision Flying Nationals are upon us again. This year it was held at Brits which seems to be the centre of precision and rally flying activity at the moment.

2002 Precision Flying Championships - Marshalls
The Team of Red “Indians” – Out faithful marshalls.

I think that the work commitments of most participants, and the state of the economy put pressure on everybody, yet it is a tribute to all that there was a great turn out – originally 23 entrants and lots of marshals and helpers. As the competition drew closer the numbers dropped slightly, but the final turn out was a marked improvement on earlier years. Well done all.

The Brits airfield is ideally suited to this sort of event as it is out of controlled airspace and yet close enough for most people. The most important aspect is the locals who are very aviation orientated and only too willing to help – this is a real bonus and has certainly put Brits on the map – flying wise. Now when it comes to hospitality – these people are world class – taking friendliness to a new level.

Dale de Klerk (Competition Director) and his team did a great job of putting together a competition that was world class. This is important, as the team to the World Precision Flying Championships in Croatia, would be taking part – and there would be no holds barred. Another aspect is that South Africa was the first country in the world to standardize on the new electronic logger system – a tribute to Jan Hanekom who developed the Air Observer system, a world first), and these were used to devastating effect.

A fun opening ceremony with local fare was held on the Wednesday night – most of the pilots retiring fairly early as the first briefing was at 07h30 with take offs shortly after that

Thursday 16th May

Competition Day 1. The day was the usual winters day – brilliant blue sky, cold in the morning and great at lunch time. The first batch of pilots had their briefing and then went into flight planning. As it was run to world standards, Renier Moolman was allowed to assist the Sportmans class competitors with the flight planning.

P vd Velde
Sportsman Class Winner – P vd Velde

This route was an eye opener for the crews. The standard was definitely at world level, soon had the pilots working very hard to stay on track and find the ground markers and photographs. An aspect of this new electronic era is that you can place a secret checkpoint anywhere – you don’t need ground marshals to be there. The same goes for turning points and so on. The system even measures track errors and in flight misdemeanors that previous generations of competitors got away with. Wow what a different world this is. Within minutes of the final crews returning the provisional results were ready, but due to the first set of landings being run, they were held back till later.

After a hearty lunch the first two landings were run, using the electronic scoring grid or Bingo Box as it is commonly known – this measures your landings accurate to the nearest meter. The field lined up on RWY02 and the competition was on. The first landing was the freestyle (engine & flaps permitted) and the second was the glide approach. Much fun was had by all with the pilots standing on the side lines watching their comrades landings.

Back at the clubhouse the provisional results were released to the competitors. Wow what an eye opener it was. The pilots could not believe the number of timing penalties they had incurred, the new electronic system monitoring the tracks and times every second – phew.

Later the results were posted – Adrian Pilling 180 penalties, Nigel Hopkins 204, Hans Schwebel 206, Jan Hanekom 295, Ron Stirk 340, Barry de Groot 347, Frank Eckard 360, Mike Cathrow 430, Walter Walle 820, Ernie Alexander 980, A Kluyts 1182, Wendy Barter 1887, Frikkie Lubbe 2147, T Kluyts 2236.This was just the open class, then there was still the Sportmans class to consider ( P.V d Velden, G.Brink, Gary Grant)

Now here’s where it gets interesting. Adrian asked to look at his logger route and there it was discovered that he had in fact flown just three meters outside the electronic gate – the equipment had faithfully recorded the fact. This was devastating as it meant that Adrian now received a maximum penalty for this point, in fact putting him in 4th position with 339 penalties, and making Nigel, Hans and Jan 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively. Wow get used to it guys this is how it will be worldwide form this year onwards.

Friday 17th May

Competition Day 2. With the start order the same as the previous day, the pilots went through the motions and soon after an interesting route were back on the ground. After debrief and lunch it was back out to the runway for the landings – this time on RWY 20. This caught most of the pilots off guard as they had not used this runway for quite some time.

2002 Precision Flying Championships - Nigel Hopkins, Jan Hanekom and Hans Schwebel
Nigel Hopkins, Jan Hanekom and Hans Schwebel – 1st, 2nd and 3rd

At the club house the provisional results were handed out again and again it was amazing to see how the electronics was catching people out. There were many complaints of high timing scores, but the reality is that the Flight Recorder is accurate and the pilots not – hmmnnn food for thought. The observation had proved challenging as well, with the photos proving difficult and the ground markers cunningly placed.

Results for the day (first 10 places) were: Nigel Hopkins 248, Jan Hanekom 371, Adrian Pilling 530 (another electronic surprise), Ron Stirk 534, Barry De Groot 560, Hans Schwebel 606, Frank Eckard 636, Earnie Alexander 819, Mike Cathrow 823, A Kluyts 831. This really set up the positions for the next day.

Saturday 18th May

2002 National Precision Championships - Competitors
Competitors at the 2002 National Precisions

Competition Day 3. This was the make or break it day for some and for others an opportunity. Dale had mentioned to us that this was the difficult route and would really sort out the men from the boys. As the start order was the same as for previous days, the pilots new the routine and got on with the job of giving Dale and his team a real go.

Fun and games was had during this time as Barry de Groot had experienced a spot of fuel starvation in his Jabiru at checkpoint 2. This forced him to abandon his navigation. Earnie returned to Brits as a radio relay in case the situation got serious, and was allowed to restart the competition. Hans delayed his progress for some time to make sure that Barry was OK and to act as the radio sender. After quite some time Barry and his plane made it back to Brits and the plane was checked and readied for Mike Cathrow to fly, although by now very much later in the afternoon.

After all this the provisional results for the day were announced. There needed to be some adjustments made in order to allow for Barry’s emergency – Hans had his penalties reduced to redress the penalties incurred for his slowing down along the leg in order to radio for help. After all the adjustments were made the results for the day were (top 10 only): Nigel Hopkins 203, Adrian Pilling 228, Hans Schwebel 289, Ron Stirk 312, Jan Hanekom 336, Earnie Alexander 422, T Kluyts 544, Frank Eckard 619, Mike Cathrow 746, A Kluyts 836. Barry unfortunately by default got almost maximum for this day.

After a fairly rushed afternoon and some amazing work by the helpers the clubhouse was readied for the evening banquet.

The evening was absolutely great with lots of fun speakers and great speeches. Lots of thank you’s and remembrances. Specifically; Mr Dick Sumpter was remembered (He was a member of the New Zealand Team that often flew against us in international competitions. He was also a great manager who sadly passed away due to cancer) and a special presentation was made on behalf of the pilots by Adrian to Nigel for his courage and determination in fighting his way back from his ordeal last year. Later there was a Mitsubishi draw and Uli Gerth won a Pajero – OK it was a small one but it looks great. After a hearty meal the overall results were announced.

Open Class
Position Pilot Score Additional Trophies
1 Nigel Hopkins 672 1st Place Landings,
Navigation Trophy
2 Jan Hanekom 1033 2nd Place Landings
SA Private Pilot Champion
3 Hans Schwebel 1136 3rd Place Landings
4 Adrian Pilling 1157 5th place Landings
Observation Trophy
5 Ron Stirk 1229 4th place Landings
6 Frank Eckard 1741 7th place Landings
7 Mike Cathrow 2255
8 Ernie Alexander 2723
9 Andre Kluyts 3015 10th place Landings
10 Barry de Groot 3741 8th Place Landings
11 Walter Walle 4283 9th Place Landings
12 Tim Kluyts 4995
13 Frikkie Lubbe 5363
14 Wendy Barter 5831 6th Place Landings 1st
Place Lady Trophy
Sortsmans Class
Position Pilot Score Additional Trophies
1 Peter Van Der Velden 2168 Sportsman Trophy
2 G Grant 3259
3 D Warder 3394
4 G Brink 4722

A special presentation was made by Jan in his capacity as Chairman of SAPFA to two pilots who qualified for their Gauteng provincial colours: Ernie Alexander and Andre Kluyts.

Well done to both of you as this is the first step to National colours. Excellent performance – well done. Two other fun trophies were awarded: Adrian awarded the Pisspot Trophy for an interesting!!!!!! landing to Ernie Alexander, and Adrian’s propeller head hat was awarded by Nigel to Barry for his interesting return home on day 2 (he actually found himself temporarily uncertain of his position on the way back).