EC Precision Flying Championships -2005

EC Precision Flying Championships

Held at Uitenhage on 24 September 2005

By Roger Thomas

I was quite indecisive and very non committal about entering the Eastern Cape Provincial Precisions competition. After having achieved some taste of success in normal rally flying with my team member Tracy Simms, it was pretty intimidating thinking that I now had to do the navigating, time keeping and picture spotting and all simultaneously too!

Marshalls setting up the landing box at the 2005 East Cape Precision Flying Championships
Johan Gous, Ray Limbrik and Ronnie Zucher setting up the landing box.

What if I got lost? That was by far the greatest fear – then all would know for certain that I was the ‘handicap’ in the Simms/Thomas rally team. Also in a precision competition, being a solo event, there would be no one to blame or share the blame with. Scary!

Add to this mix the fact that the likes of the real Springbok manne like Hans Schwebel, Ron Stirk, Mauritz du Plessis and Barry de Groot would be competing in the same competition at the same level as you. That is enough to frighten anyone off.

I delayed my entry, at least until I could attend a tutorial session along with Thinus Maritz, AJ van Rensburg, and a rival team on the rallying front, of Johnny Ferreira and Anthony Bailes. The tutorial session led by Dave Perelson re-introduced us to the whiz wheel and other aspects relating to the theory of precision flying. It was clear that, other than Anthony, who flies commercially, all of us had not touched a whiz wheel since our PPL theory. By golly – that thing is actually darn useful – and it doesn’t require batteries.

Ron Stirk lining up for a Bingo at the 2005 East Cape Precision Flying Championships
Ron Stirk lining up for a “Bingo”.

With theory lecture done and a little more confidence, I decided to give it a go. What is the worst that can happen? I could end up having some fun at worst (and maybe get laughed at too by your mates – but hey, I have learned to laugh along with them). With a field of 16 competitors I might not even come last.

The trip out to Uitenhage was pretty uneventful, other than the butterflies in my stomach wanted to fly their own way to FAUH. I think the worst of it, was the fact that my take off time was pretty late in the morning, so the nerves really had time to fester themselves. Luckily Ursula Schwebel was on hand and she had some little calming pills to take care of the little suckers that had now grown to full maturity in my intestines. Who knew that some of the aforementioned manne also required tummy settling pills?

Finally, it was time to do my bit. The theory section went pretty much as I expected and for a first timer, I was happy with my 16 out of the maximum 350 penalty points.

The one thing I did learn was that there is more than sufficient time between the theory and the actual flight to prepare your map. I had enough time to really study the map in detail and to try and almost visualize the flight.

Winner of the Sportsman Class - Rod Crews with Denise Booysen
Rod Crews (1st Sportsman Class) with Denise Booysen.

One aspect that I slipped up on, was relying too heavily on local knowledge. I believe that being a local can sometimes be a handicap. My slip up was that I looked at the start point and thought to myself – ahh, I know where that is – I have flown past that railway junction a million times – all without really confirming the location as you would normally if you had no local knowledge. Needless to say I started at the wrong point about 2 miles to the East of the actual start. After the start I thought to myself – Wow this wind is strong, as I confirmed that I was way East of where I should have been.

This faux pas was responsible for me incurring quite a number of time penalties for the first 2 legs as I struggled to get back on time. But for me, my main aim for the day was not so much being on time, as it was not to get lost. I accepted that I was not going to win a precision my first time out! 😉 I believe there are some school fees to be paid in partaking in these events and thus also did not concentrate too much on photo identification.

On to the spot landings. Okay so now I had to remember the order in which they had to be performed. First is a normal approach, second was to be a glide approach closing the throttle at 1000ft on the downwind leg abeam the landing grid, the third a glide and no use of flaps, and lastly over the 2m obstacle. I resorted to writing N, G, GF, O on my left hand thumb so I would not forget the correct order.

2005 East Cape Precision Champion Barry de Groot with Denise Booysen
2005 East Cape Precision Champion Barry de Groot receiving his trophy from Denise Booysen.

I was pretty happy with my spot landing performance until the last one. I still want to object to the marshal who dropped the obstacle as he thought I was going to hit it! Bloody chicken! I was far from hitting it! 😉 Ah well I still had loads of fun, and quite honestly I do not think the 400 penalties incurred on that one landing were going to make a huge difference to me coming third last in the competition!

I think I talk on behalf of all the competitors when we would like to thank Dave Perelson, Glen Meyburgh for the great competition – it really was loads of fun. Also to the marshals of the day Chris Booysen, Jacques Jacobs, Francois Knoetze, Marna Kruger, Alison Leitch, Ray Limbrik, Denise Booysen and Ursula Schwebel, for standing in the sun and wind so that we could have the fun day. Also to Glynis Truter who drove a barrel of the good stuff (Avgas) to FAUH to assist with refueling. Many thanks also goes to the residents of the Uitenhage airfield for allowing us to use the airfield for the day and giving us right of way, not to mention the tasty refreshments they had for us on sale, especially to Johan Gous, Herman van Teylingen and Ronnie Zucher. Lastly, thank you to the out of towners for taking the time to come to Port Elizabeth and contribute to the spirit of the competition – we really enjoyed having you visit us.

If you have never taken part in a precision or rally and thinking about it – go for it. From the little experience I have gained – if you approach it with the attitude of going to have some fun – I can guarantee you that you will!