2010 SA National Precision Flying Championships

Click here for more picturesBrits, 25 – 27 November 2010
By Adrian Pilling
Well can you believe it another year has passed and another National Championships has come and gone. Once again the ever-willing Brits Flying Club stepped up to the plate and offered their considerable experience and dedication in hosting the event.
Brits has a well-earned reputation when it comes to running competitions, and as expected the event went off like clockwork. This is great news as Brits will be the host airfield for the 20th FAI World Precision Flying Championships in October 2011. It would be difficult to imagine a better-prepared group of dedicated individuals to welcome our International colleagues!

Throughout the week the pilots flew in from all the corners of the province – and the country – to prepare for battle.

Wednesday 25th November
The official briefing took place at the clubhouse on Wednesday evening. Pilots old and new listened in much the same way passengers old and new attend commercial in-flight briefings – with a focus proportionate to their inexperience. Tony and Deon explained the proceedings in detail and Frank opened the competition in his capacity as Chairman of SAPFA. An informal dinner was enjoyed and the pilots retired for the evening.

Thursday 26th November
Before commencement of competition, the official briefing was held in the tent provided by our generous sponsors at the African Outdoor Group (AOG). It started promptly at 8am after which the pilots scattered to their various corners in anticipation of their start times.

The first papers were presented at 9am sharp and the pilots began their plotting. Route “blue” consisted of nine legs, plenty of interesting countryside and some challenging turning points. It started just to the east of the airfield and routed in a clockwise direction around the Brits area. The first pilot exited the flight planning hangar at 10am and was airborne by 10h15. Subsequent departures followed in businesslike fashion at intervals of five minutes.

On return each pilot was immediately debriefed by Jacques and Tony in the AOG rig. Jacques took care of the observation and Tony dealt with the timing. Within minutes of landing each pilot had his full score.

There were some tense moments in the program when some of the pilots almost departed without their loggers. This device is critical to the flight as it shows the track and timing to the judges. So without it the pilot would have earned a maximum score – and as with golf, that’s a bad thing.

The organisers faced some interesting challenges. Barry de Groot arrived from Durban in the afternoon, having been delayed by weather. He had to be briefed, issued with his papers and fitted in. Jan Hanekom suffered a mechanical problem but it was soon arranged that he could share ZS-IWD which then had to fly three times. So getting it all together so well is a real tribute to the organisers.

Some of the pilots were surprised to see how many penalties they had racked up at the secret timing points. Several pilots missing the timing gates altogether!!!
Once all the pilots had returned the provisional results were announced. A period of time was allowed for the protests and after they were lodged with the organisers the pilots retired for the night as the results would only be posted the next morning. This procedure laid out the pattern for the remainder of the competition.

Friday 27th November
The pilot briefing was again held at 8am in the AOG tent and the final results of Day 1 were announced. There were some surprises and a few position changes from the provisional results.
The official standings for Day 1 were:
Hans Schwebel 409
Ron Stirk 489
Mary de Klerk 522
Jan Hanekom 629
Frank Eckard 733
Jonty Esser 752
Adrian Pilling 758
Barry de Groot 832
Closely followed by Walter Walle, Mike Cathro, Steve Van Der Merwe, Rob Kennedy and Thys Van Der Merwe.

With these results in mind, the earliest pilot took off at 10h15 to maintain or regain position. Route “red” proved to be more challenging taking the competitors around Hartebeespoort Dam and over the Magaliesberg. The photos were particularly cunning and some of the checkpoints were a real challenge. On return, some of the pilots were shaking their heads in disbelief, while others were grinning widely.
This day brought no protests, and so the provisional results were declared final. They were as follows:
Frank Eckard 304
Adrian Pilling 455
Barry de Groot 491
Mary de Klerk 499
Jan Hanekom 592
Ron Stirk 652
Hans Schwebel 784
Jonty Esser 1134
Closely followed by Rob Kennedy, Walter Walle, Mike Cathro, Thys Van Der Merwe and Steve Van Der Merwe.

So as those of you reading with calculators in hand will know, at this point there were just 200 points separating the top four contenders. The pilots and their families went out for a well-deserved supper in Brits town.

Saturday 27th Nov
Saturday was always going to be interesting. There were to be three competitions held on the same day. The landings portion of the South African National Precision Flying Championships, the South African National Landing Championships and the Virtual Flyers Landing Championships, all at the same time.

The briefing at 8am was a complicated affair, covering all three upcoming events. The microlight pilots were well represented as part of the National Landing Championships event. Tony explained that each competitor would be flying eight landings. The plan was for each pilot to fly two circuits and landings, take a short break and repeat. After lunch another four landings would be flown, again in sets of two.

Given the lesser tolerance for wind of the microlights, proceedings were changed to allow them to fly all eight landings in one set. For the power flyers it was understood that all eight landings would count towards the National Landings Championship (the worst score of the eight being dropped), while the last four were to be counted towards the landing segment of the National Precision Flying Championships.

As the landings proceeded, the Virtual flyers were flying the same landings on their computers at a virtual Britz runway. The airfield was busy indoors and out.
The wind increased as the day progressed. By lunchtime it was gusting down the runway and occasionally swinging to a 90 degrees crosswind. All in all, a real challenge for the afternoon. Add to that high temperatures which left most pilots very grateful for the gazebos provided by AOG at the landing line. The marshals were particularly hard hit by the strong sun – well done guys.

The afternoon session was a real eye opener. Even experienced pilots were battling the wind and some of the results were horrible to say the least. Even experienced pilots were caught out by the lift generated by the runway, and the variable crosswind pushed several pilots to the limit. Several landings were completely out of the box. One intrepid pilot even decided to eliminate the obstacle she was supposed to land over.

Many pilots finished the session dejected and frustrated at the number of penalties received. All the while the virtual pilots were fighting their own wars. As the judges performed the video reviews, the virtual boys had managed to finish their competition and the results were:-
Stephan Burger 1035 Junior Champion
Dawie Burger 1210 Senior Champion
Kyle Kunz 1520 Junior Runner Up
Andre Potgieter 1555 Senior Runner Up
Renaldo Potgieter 1570 Junior
JP Kruger 1755 Senior
Kyto Kunz 1870 Senior
The virtual pilots did themselves proud and are a credit to the sport.
Back at the clubhouse preparations were being made for the prize giving ceremony and all the partners and supporters were hurriedly working in the background to make the evening a success.

Once the landing results were included the final results for the South African National Precision Flying Championships 2010 are:-
Adrian Pilling Gold Medal & Landing Champion
Hans Schwebel Silver Medal
Ron Stirk Bronze Medal
Jan Hanekom Observation Trophy
Barry De Groot Navigation Trophy
Hans Schwebel Best PPL
Mary de Klerk Best Lady
Brits Flying Club Best Club
North West Province Best Province
The results for the South African National Landing Championships 2010 are:-
Adrian Pilling 118 Gold Medal
Mike Cathro 162 Silver Medal
Hans Schwebel 242 Bronze Medal
Barry de Groot 318
Ron Stirk 322
Jonty Esser 382
Dale de Klerk 474
Jan Hanekom 480
Frank Eckard
Mary de Klerk
Steve Van Der Merwe
Rob Kennedy
Thys Van Der Merwe
Walter Walle

This National Championship is particularly important as it forms one of the two part qualification process for the upcoming 20th World Precision Flying Championships to be held at Brits in October 2011. Congratulations to everyone who took part, especially those who earned a place on the podium.

As part of the Award ceremony, Hans Schwebel presented Tony Russell and Frank Eckard with their badges as International Judges.

As usual there are numerous unmentioned people who make our enjoyment of these events possible, and make their organization seem easy. I would like to give tribute to them. As usual, Brits Flying Club excelled itself. A special thanks to Ursula Schwebel, Nella van der Walt, Brenda van den Berg, Tinka Hannekom and Renata for all their work around the club house and to Tyren Henderson, Dewald Hatting, Piet van den Berg, Cally Eckard, Sandy Goddard and Johannes Hermann for their assistance as marshals. I for one know that they will do a smashing job of hosting World Precision Flying Championships in 2011.

2010 Landing Results

2010 National Precisions – Gallery