2nd WORLD AIR GAMES
Cordoba, Spain – 23 to 29 June 2001.
By Adrian Pilling
Everybody knows about the Olympic Games, the Winter Olympics and the Paraplegic Olympics, but not many know about the Aviation Olympics. That is probably because they only started 4 years ago, the first being held in Turkey and the most recent in Spain. They even have a special name – World Air Games.
Spain was chosen as the venue for the 2nd World Air Games, because of its great climate and multitude of airfields. The events were held in the province of Andalucia at 11 airfields and represented 18 different aviation disciplines. South Africa sent teams to most of these events and in particular sent two very strong teams to the Precision Flying (single crew) and Rally Flying (two crew) events.
The combined precision and rally flying teams arrived at Madrid airport on the 15th June and then were pleasantly surprised to find out that the Spanish trains are very efficient. We caught the bullet train to Cordoba and within 2 hours were at Cordoba station where our manager picked us up and ferried us to our beautiful hotel, in the old town opposite the biggest Mosque in Europe. Unfortunately Spanish thieves are also very efficient and managed to relieve me of my laptop while waiting for the train at the Madrid main station.
Cordoba is one of those beautiful town, steeped in history and dating back to the Roman times – with the original bridge still being used – absolutely incredible. The climate was hot, in fact very hot. The team even has a photograph of an early afternoon temperature display, showing 49 degrees Celsius. One midnight the temperature was 31 degrees. Hot and dry – perfect for flying.
Saturday and part of Sunday were spent organising airplanes and getting to know the area. The countryside is most interesting. It’s either very flat (and completely cultivated with olive trees or wheat) or very mountainous and very difficult to navigate on. To make matters worse it was discovered that the map was less than accurate with complete road and farm track systems not even on the map at all. Just as this was starting to make things interesting, we were able to discover that the maps had the same symbol for a single farm house as for several hundred houses – challenging to say the least. We soon had it sorted out however, by sharing information after each days flying amongst the team at our regular evening team briefings. This allowed us to fast track the assimilation process and within a couple of days we were completely on top of things.
We also used GPS Loggers in each aircraft. This tracks the position of the plane during each second of the flight. At the end of each route we downloaded our track and superimposed this onto a map of the area. Thus we could see how we were doing each and every step of the way. This feature really helped us do well and learn the map and it’s peculiarities really well.
With our six teams sharing four airplanes, it was always going to be difficult to schedule ourselves to get the maximum training in, but with the Spanish summer providing us with daylight until almost 10pm, we were able to fit in most of the training that we wanted. However afternoon siesta and very late suppers wrecked havoc with our planning. Training was further complicated by the fact that four of our crews were flying both events and had to train in two disciplines simultaneously!
The official training week went really well with our teams putting in all the practice they needed. The organisers ran an unofficial navigation day as well as a landings day. Our teams used these as the culmination of the training and did really well during these two events. It was felt that training had gone well and that the crews should have a rest day on Saturday 22nd as Sunday was the Start of the precision event. We also had to move hotel and that added to the pressure on the crews – just keeping the mind right was an exercise in itself. The Spanish had decided that the Opening Ceremony would be held in Seville and true to Mediterranean form it would be a late night affair. It was decided by the team that as the Precision Competition was first, the pilots for this event would not participate as the busses would only return at 4am.
The start of the Precision Flying Competition.
This was a most interesting navigation day with the route taking us through the mountains. A very difficult area indeed. When the crews returned there was much moaning about the difficulty of the course and the quality of the photographs (the colours were no longer accurate!).
Some of our navigators and supporters ( Ron, Mary, Renier & Frikkie) acted as judges and helped the organisers with the event. It was fun talking to them when we returned.
We new we had done well, but as there were protests still to come in we were not sure. Still by the end of day one we were as follows; Nigel Hopkins 1st, Adrian Pilling 7th, Barry de Groot 36th, Jan Hanekom 42nd and Hans Schwebel 45th. Clearly it was a tall mountain to climb but we were in with a chance of a team medal here (the first three scores counting).
Landing test. The day started off with a little fog interfering with the first four groups of planes. Several of the planes lost sight of the runway on downwind (I know I was one of them). It was decided to delay the rest of the field for an hour and pretty soon we were all flying again. The morning exercise comprised the powered landing and the glide approach. At lunch we were ecstatic as a team as Barry de Groot had scored a double bingo (perfect score) putting him joint first and Adrian Pilling ad Nigel Hopkins were in the top ten. Both Jan and Hans had done good landings ad we were looking good for the team landing prize. Then came lunch.
The afternoon slot comprised the flapless glide and the powered barrier approach landings. Things went well with our pilots getting 5 bingos between them for that session. The pressure was on. There were some protests that had to be sorted out first but after that the placings were announced: Johannes Cserveny from Austria was the confirmed landing champion with only 6 penalties, then Otto Bauer from Austria was second with 7 penalties, then Nigel Hopkins joint 3rd with 11 penalties, then Adrian Pilling joint fourth with 17 penalties and so on. Tricky wind conditions in the afternoon took it’s toll of the pilots. Barry had an unfortunate gust to give him 22nd place overall, Jan managed 31st place and Hans 39th place after a gust of wind lifted his wing and he got penalised with a skip. The results left us in a great position as prior to the landings we were fighting the British Team for the team bronze medal, and after the landings we were able to pull clearly away from them.
The last navigation day. The day started off as usual hot and dry. We were surprised to discover that the route took us back over the mountains and into the difficult terrain. This was really a bonus for us as all we had to do was fly well and the other teams would have to do very well indeed to catch us.
The day went very well for us with all our crews flying really well. We knew we had done well when the provisionals came out but could not be sure until all the protests were in. Later the results showed that in our team the placing were as follows; Adrian Pilling 5th, Nigel Hopkins 18th, Barry de Groot 21st, Jan Hanekom 34th and Hans Schwebel 41st. We were not sure if this combined score was good enough to get us into the medals or not. We had to wait for the prize giving.
The first Rally Competition Day.
This day started off with a 4 hour delay due to fog and an increase in the plotting time for the navigator from 15 to 35 minutes. It was interesting to see that the route took us over some mountains and some flat land as well. A really nice mixture. The first day had us looking for 20 photographs as well as some really tricky turning points. At the end of the day and after protests we were thrilled to find out that our placings were; Hopkins/de Klerk 2nd, de Groot/de Klerk 14th, Pilling/Moolman 20th, Churley/Macintyre 27th, Schwebel/Stirk 33rd. This stood us in really good stead as the first two crews counted for team placings and we had built a nice platform for the rest of the competition.
The second rally day went well. The organisers planned a good route but inflicted strict penalties on several of us for not taxiing in certain areas, This lead to many protests but the penalties stood. At the end of the day the exhausted crews dressed and changed for our showcase evening.
We all did our bit as ambassadors for South Africa at the South African Evening with Mr Lungile Mkuyana from the South African Embassy. Here we showed the rest of the world how good we were and of course we showcased our event for 2003 which is the World Rally Championships to be held in the North West Province, at Sun City. Jan Hanekon in his capacity as Chairman of SAPFA conducted a great evening that was enjoyed by all.
At the same time the results for day two were announced. Hopkins/de Klerk 7th, Churley/Macintyre 18th, de Groot/de Klerk 23rd, Schwebel/Stirk 25th, Pilling/Moolman 32nd. The later crews landing well after 6pm. Several of us were hit by those taxiing penalties. It was getting close but the team placing was looking strong.
Final Rally Day. This was a day spent in the olive trees and the flat lands. A really difficult course with many difficult turning points and lots of photos to find. The results for the day were eagerly awaited. Eventually they were announced. Hopkins/de Klerk 6th, de Groot/de Klerk 24th, Schwebel/Stirk 26th, Pilling/Moolman 38th, Churley/Macintyre 39th. We some of us had a particularly shocking day, but well done to the rest. All we had to do now was to wait for the final results to find out how we all did. That night we all celebrated the end of the 2nd World Air Games.
The organisers had arranged for an excursion to a sherry processing factory. This was interesting and we were back in time to enjoy a swim and prepare for the prize giving ceremony to be held in a very old square in the heart of the old city.
At the prize giving it was all about relaxing and enjoying ourselves with many tense moments and crossed fingers to find out how we had done. After dinner and speeches the results were announced:
- Gold Medal: Waclaw Wieczorek Poland
- Silver Medal: Robert Verbancic Slovakia
- Bronze Medal: Adrian Pilling South Africa
- Nigel Hopkins 6th Place
- Barry de Groot 30th Place
- Jan Hanekom 41st Place
- Hans Schwebel 45th Place
- Gold Medal: Chech Republic (Chilar, Jakes, Hajek)
- Silver Medal: Poland (Wieczorek, Darocha, Wieczorek)
- Bronze Medal: South Africa (Pilling, Hopkins, de Groot)
Well done guys – we did it – an individual and a team medal. The best we have ever done. Well done to us all.
- Hopkins/de Klerk 4th Place
- De Groot/de Klerk 16th Place
- Churley/Macintyre 25th Place
- Schwebel/Stirk 26th Place
- Pilling/Moolman 28th Place
- Gold Medal – Poland
- Silver Medal – France
- Bronze Medal – Czech Republic
- 4th Place – South Africa
Wow guys that was close. We were less than 50 points from being in the medals. Well we will show them on home ground in 2003.
So ended the 2nd World Air Games with all the triumph and tragedy of the Olympics. Well done to our teams and to the supporters and to everyone who helped to make our team the success that it was. Well done to Adrian Pilling for his Medal – South Africa’s highest achievement yet. Well done to the Precision Flying Team for bringing back the medal (the countries highest achievement yet) and well done to Nigel and Dale for making the top ten in Rally Flying and very well done to Nigel for being in the top 10 in two disciplines. A special thanks to Deon van Den Berg our team manager for keeping us all together.
Representing South Africa
- Deon Van Den Berg (Manager)
- Mary de Klerk (Navigator/Judge Observer)
- Adrian Pilling (Team Captain / Pilot)
- Jan Hanekom (Pilot/Logger Expert)
- Renier Moolman (Navigator / Judge Observer)
- Richard Churley (Pilot)
- Nigel Hopkins (Pilot)
- Don Macintyre (Navigator)
- Dale De Klerk (Navigator)
- Frikkie Lubbe (International Judge)
- Hans Schwebel (Pilot)
- Ron Stirk (Navigator / Judge Observer)
- Barry de Groot (Pilot)