March 2006


Ladysmith 22 to 25 March 2006

By Adrian Pilling

Competitors at the 2006 National Flying Championships
Competitors and officials.

Ladysmith has been a bit neglected in recent years by the flying community and this year a perfect opportunity presented itself to rectify the situation. Ladysmith was chosen as the host airfield for this prestigious event, and what’s more it was a combined event featuring several disciplines, namely Precision Flying, Rally Flying and Virtual Flying.

The Sunday before the event (19th March), the teams started arriving and put their time to good use practicing in the unfamiliar terrain. Most of the teams arrived the following day and checked into the airport motel. Suddenly, the place was a buzz with excitement as old acquaintances were renewed and friendships made. The locals were out in force supporting the teams and a great camaraderie was developing amongst the flyers and their supporters.

Much training was being done with the odd avoiding action being taken, in order to skirt the ever present thunderstorms that completely flooded valleys and swelled rivers well beyond what they looked like on the map, representing a serious challenge to the crews navigating ability.

Much training was being done with the odd avoiding action being taken, in order to skirt the ever present thunderstorms that completely flooded valleys and swelled rivers well beyond what they looked like on the map, representing a serious challenge to the crews navigating ability.

Wednesday – 22 March

The day dawned grey and murky. Immediately the organizers factored in a one hour delay. The wind was gusting up to 20 knots which was a big shock to the pilots (who had been training in relative calm) and it was decided, after much discussion about the bad weather, that the best thing to do was to complete the flight planning for Navigation Test #01. This was duly completed in the hangar and several hours later the crews emerged having completed this exercise.

officials at the 2006 National Flying Championships
Dave Perelson, Dicky Swanepoel and Chris Booysen checking the cross-wind component.

The competition committee, ever worried about the weather, then decided to run the landing competition immediately, in order to get this aspect “in the bag” as soon as possible. Well this turned out to be a really fun event with pilots battling to make the “Bingo Line” as the wind was pumping down the runway and gusting wildly. The glide approaches without flap were particularly challenging. However several pilots managed to get “bingos” and after several hours we all came back to the hangar for a briefing.

The weather was still threatening so rest of the day was dedicated to the flight planning section for Navigation Test #02 and this was duly done, again in the hangar. This proved to be the correct decision as at least now we had the basis for a competition result.

The provisional results were posted on the board and the landing results were: First Place Adrian Pilling (17 penalties), Second Place Jan Hanekom (23 penalties), Third Place Ron Stirk (57 penalties), Fourth Place Frank Eckard (66 penalties), Fifth Place Mary de Klerk (118 penalties), with the rest of the field scoring higher penalties as a direct result of the very unstable weather.

The flight Planning results were also posted with most people scoring between 0 and 10 penalties. Some however were caught out by the strong theoretical computer wind added by the competition committee.

Thursday 23rd March

The day dawned bleak and grey. The organizers were really concerned about the weather and decided to investigate the route themselves. Eventually after a check flight by the competition director to ascertain the weather conditions, the route was declared a “go”.

Navigation Test #01 was flown with the pilots departing at 10 minute intervals. The route took the crews up into the mountains and with the strong rains in the area many of the rivers were unrecognizable. The mountain tops were in and out of the clouds and all round it was most challenging for the pilots. The route lasted over an hour and a quarter and most of the pilots incurred big penalties due to bad weather and unfamiliar terrain. Many pilots had to take avoiding actions, but making it through. Jan Hanekom having particularly difficulty on one leg as the weather closed in and the cloud base dropped alarmingly.

Mary de Klerk - Landing
Mary in ZS-KXF landing well short

The provisional results for the first flight and the previous day’s theory (adjusted) were posted almost immediately and they were:

  • Jan Hanekom – 276
  • Adrian Pilling – 280
  • Barry de Groot – 485
  • Ron Stirk – 762
  • Mary de Klerk – 763
  • Frank Eckard – 851
  • Walter Walle – 1460
  • Hans Schwebel – 1593
  • Wayne Bond – 1808
  • Ernie Alexander – 1808
  • Quentin Taylor – 2954

A quick lunch was had by all, organized by the local Wimpy and then back into the planes for Navigation Test #02.

This Test was flown more to the North West of Ladysmith and offered some spectacular scenery including the well known Van Reenen’s Pass. The weather had lifted somewhat but was still not ideal, with the odd cloud belt drifting in front of crews. Mary had to divert on one leg as the cloud obscured her track.

This route lasted just over an hour and the competitors for the most part did better than earlier. Again the competition committee was really on top of things and the provisional results were posted within minutes of the last pilot returning. The results, including the previous day’s landings were:

  • Jan Hanekom – 354
  • Adrian Pilling – 368
  • Hans Schwebel – 898
  • Barry de Groot – 929
  • Frank Eckard – 981
  • Ron Stirk – 1002
  • Mary de Klerk – 1022
  • Ernie Alexander – 1261
  • Walter Walle – 1470
  • Wayne Bond – 2063
  • Quentin Taylor – 2356
  • Larry v d Merwe – 2164 (a new competitor flying in the sportsman class for the first time)

When the crews returned the Competition Director had decided to cancel TP6 and secret check 9 on route #01. The provisional results reflected this. A protest had been received. As this would require the convening of a Jury to rule on the protest the final results would be delayed until such time as the protest had been dealt with.

Virtual Aviators
Smittie and Hein hard at work

A full briefing was held at 18:30 for all the crews. This served as a roll call for the following days National Rally Flying Championships. All the activity and the fun had by local newcomer Larry van der Merwe gave some more locals the courage to enter. This boosted the number of entries in the Sportsman class. The Virtual Flyers also took part in the Rally event.

Friday 25th March

The day dawned with mixed weather, clearing slightly but completely flyable. The first crew received papers at 10h15 and were airborne at 10h30. The flight was approximately two hours. This two crew competition introduced new tricks to the mix as the competitors had to follow a railway line on one of the legs. This curved track proving challenging as there were three photos cunningly placed along the railway line.

The returning planes were then treated to a spot landing penalty that was added to the total penalties. After shutting down, the crews had only 5 minutes to complete their paperwork and then hand the completed sheets to the organizers. Then the debriefing followed and finally the provisional results were posted on the notice board. It should be noted that the virtual flyers had the same route, the same photos and the same timing as the “Real Crews”, most impressive. At the end of the day the results were:-

Open Class

  • Barry de Groot & Mary de Klerk – 286
  • Jan Hanekom & Henk Koster – 440
  • Ernie Alexander & Mike Ehrman – 506
  • Hans Schwebel & Ron Stirk – 606
  • Frank Eckard & Quentin Taylor – 756
  • Walter Walle & Dale Joseph – 948
  • Wayne Bond & Greg Wooding – 2624

Sportsman Class

  • Cornel Block & Tony Martyn – 1906
  • Larry vd Merwe & Larry vd Merwe – 2680

Virtual Aviators

  • Smittie Smith & Hein Strydom- 2588
  • Johan van Wyk & Mike Robinson – 2627
  • Rassie Erasmus (no navigator) – 2798

Much fun was had by all and finally after a pub supper the crews retired for the night.

Saturday 26th March

The crews woke late and knew that there would be a delay. The cloud was low and it had rained all night. After a briefing it was decided to run the event even though it was raining. The first planes would take off at 11h00.

The route was a testing one with some people missing checkpoints due to low cloud. In order to avoid the weather the organizers removed three legs from the track and still there were weather problems. At the end of the route the crews knew that their landings would count and after the same routine as yesterday the provisional results were posted. The sportsman class counted only day 2 for the final awards.

Newcomers and local entrants Paolo and Shane found that it is difficult for the organisers to score their efforts if the GPS logger is under the seat. They must have hit some turbulence after the 3rd checkpoint as the logger did not record anything after that.

The results for the day were:-

Open Class

  • Frank Eckard & Quentin Taylor – 394
  • Hans Schwebel & Ron Stirk – 688
  • Barry de Groot & Mary de Klerk – 1034
  • Jan Hanekom & Henk Koster – 1686
  • Wayne Bond & Greg Wooding – 1984
  • Walter Walle & Dale Joseph – 2066
  • Ernie Alexander & Mike Ehrman – 2522

Sportsman Class

  • Mike Richmond & Jeff Richmond – 562
  • Chris Linakis & Blaine Carstens – 869
  • Cornel Block & Tony Martyn – 2877
  • Larry vd Merwe & Larry vd Merwe – 3197
  • Wichardt Olivier & Francois du Toit – 3575
  • Paolo Cerrai & Shane Sinclair – 3898

Virtual Class

  • Johan van Wyk & Mike Robertson – 821
  • Rassie Erasmus (no navigator) – 1222
  • Merwe (Smittie) Smith & Hein Strydom – 2016

The crews and families had a great afternoon letting their hair down and generally relaxing. The hangar war prepared and turned into a great banqueting hall for the final prize giving event.

The final results for both competitions were as follows:-

National Precision Flying Championships

Jan Hanekom
S A Precision Flying Champion – Jan Hanekom
  • 1st Place Jan Hanekom – 630
  • 2nd Place Adrian Pilling – 648
  • 3rd Place Barry de Groot – 1414
  • 4th Place Ron Stirk – 1764
  • 5th Place Mary de Klerk – 1785
  • 6th Place Frank Eckard – 1832
  • 7th Place Hans Schwebel – 2491
  • 8th Place Walter Walle – 2930
  • 9th Place Ernie Alexander – 3069
  • 10th Place Wayne Bond – 3853
  • 11th Place Quentin Taylor – 5355
  • Landing Champion – Adrian Pilling.
  • 2nd Place Landings – Jan Hanekom
  • 3rd Place Landings – Ron Stirk
  • Observation Trophy – Jan Hanekom

National Rally Flying Championships

Virtual Aviators

  • 1st Place John van Wyk & Mike Robertson – 3619
  • 2nd Place Rassie Erasmus – 3849
  • 3rd Place Smittie Smith & Hein Strydom – 4606

Sportsman Class

  • 1st Place Mike Richmond & Jeff Richmond – 562
  • 2nd Place Chris Linakis & Blaine Carstens – 869
  • 3rd Place Cornel Blok & Tony Martyn – 2877
  • 4th Place Larry vd Merwe (Snr and Jnr) – 3197
  • 5th Place Wichardt Olivier & Francois Du Toit – 3575
  • 6th Place Paolo Cerrai & Shane Sinclair – 3898
Frank Eckard and Quentin Taylor
S A Rally Flying Champions – Frank Eckard and Quentin Taylor

Open Class

  • 1st Place Frank Eckard & Quentin Taylor – 1150
  • 2nd Place Hans Schwebel & Ron Stirk – 1294
  • 3rd Place Barry de Groot & Mary de Klerk – 1320
  • 4th Place Jan Hanekom & Henk Koster – 2126
  • 5th Place Walter Walle & Dale Joseph – 3014
  • 6th Place Ernie Alexander & Mike Ehrman – 3028
  • 7th Place Wayne Bond & Greg Wooding – 4608
  • Observation Trophy: Frank Eckard & Quentin Taylor

A fine prize giving was held in the hangar and the guest of honour was her worship the Mayor of Ladysmith, Dudu Mazibuko accompanied by a senior advisor to the Premier’s Office. Several crews received their provincial colours and Henk Koster has officially qualified as a member of the team to the World Championships in France this year. After a great evening the crews sang Shosholoza and then got into the party spirit with a great braai with the locals.

It was a great weeks flying with much fun and flying had by all. It goes without saying that this event could not have happened without the huge input from the Ladysmith Flying Club and their very friendly members. Although we are scared of leaving anybody out the following must be mentioned: – John Trollip President and in charge of Fuel. Larry vd Merwe is the immediate past President, in charge of all the arrangements, Cornell and Leonie Block for organizing the food, Vaughan for keeping the bar stocked and to all the others who ran around and made an airfield our home. Also to the guys that vacated the hangar to make space for the competing aircraft. One only had to look on with amazement as Walter Walle directed the aircraft into the hangar at night

In addition the following need to be thanked for their huge help. Mr David Perelson – Chief Judge, Chris Booysen – the Competition Director, Denise Booysen – Competition Secretary, Dickie Swanepoel – Chief of the Jury and Jacques Jacobs – Chief Marshal. Wives and friends for going the extra mile. Well done to you all and thanks for making the championships special.

Till Next Year.

South African National Precision Flying Championships – Ladysmith 2006 – Detailed Results

Day One Day Two
Pos Name Reg Class Prov The Mkrs Photo Flight Other Tot The Mkrs Photo Flight Other Tot Land Grand Total
1 Jan Hanekom CVA O 4 0 0 327 0 331 0 0 90 186 0 276 23 630
2 Adrian Pilling KXF O 1 0 20 330 0 351 0 0 40 240 0 280 17 648
3 Barry de Groot APF O 4 0 20 677 0 701 2 0 40 443 0 485 228 1414
4 Ron Stirk IWD O 86 0 60 799 0 945 0 0 80 682 0 762 57 1764
5 Mary de Klerk KXF O 0 0 60 844 0 904 2 0 40 721 0 763 118 1785
6 Frank Eckard MOC O 15 0 0 900 0 915 4 0 40 807 0 851 66 1832
7 Hans Schwebel IWD O 11 0 20 582 0 613 0 0 100 1493 0 1593 285 2491
8 Walter Walle KNI O 3 0 40 1175 0 1218 0 0 80 1380 0 1460 252 2930
9 Ernie Alexander AHM O 0 0 40 509 0 549 16 0 80 1712 0 1808 712 3069
10 Wayne Bond DVA O 2 0 80 1599 0 1681 43 0 120 1627 0 1790 382 3853
11 Quentin Taylor MOC O 45 0 140 1516 0 1701 33 0 165 2756 0 2954 700 5355
1 Larry van der Merwe DOW S 11 0 120 2579 0 2710 0 0 120 2744 0 2864 386 5960
Max score 350 0 160 3400 0 3910 350 0 160 3800 0 4310 700 8920

More Pictures of the National Flying Championships
Click to enlarge
Driving to Ladysmith
Sample of weather – Practice day
Aircraft loggers
Aircraft loggers – waiting for the start
Theory in progress
Theory in progress
Landing spectators
Landing spectators in the rain
The Virtual Aviating Team
The Virtual Aviating Team
Scoring the event
Scoring the event
Precision Sportman Class Winner
Precision Sportman Class Winner – Larry v d Merwe
Trophy table
Trophy table
Rally Sportman Class Winner
Rally Sportman Class Winner
Ladysmith hangar
Ladysmith Hangar – before
Ladysmith hangar
Ladysmith Hangar – after
Ladysmith hangar
Ladysmith – parked aircraft
Ladysmith Airfield
Ladysmith Airfield