Article in S A Aeronews – June 1983
By Tony Pennell
The Aero Club power flying committee has voted to introduce a standardisation of air rally event format based largely on the World Air Rally Championships for all provincial status events in the future. In addition it is proposed to have a national status event held annually which will rotate by incorporation in one of the provincial events, commencing with the Western Province event in December 1983.
By creating a prestigious series with a regular National Event, Air Rallying will surely be put on the ‘Aviation Map’. This will in addition enhance the potential of worthwhile sponsorship and publicity. Attempts at standardisation in the past have been frustrated by petty self interest of organising clubs, officials who have had diversified ideas on air rally conduct, the non-existence of a worthwhile national status event, and the lack of regular Springbok participation in the World Air Rally Championships.
It is not generally known by the S.A. flying fraternity that there are two distinct World Championships which rotate on a bi-annual basis. One is a Precision Flying Championship which involves judgement of precision landing tasks as well as a navigation cross country exercise, each team com promising three ‘solo’ flown aircraft, and the Air Rally Championship which has the emphasis on a series of cross country precision navigation tasks including a judged landing at the end of each exercise. Teams comprising three aircraft flown with pilot and navigator crews.
For 1983 the World Precision Flying Championships will be held in Norway and regrettably due to political pressures R S A has not been invited to compete. However, for 1984 the World Air Rally Championships are scheduled to be held in Italy and the Springboks have been invited to attend.
In the past, selection of the Springbok team has largely been based on results of the S.A. National Precision Flying Championships, with teams representing provinces plus past national winners by pre-qualifications, competing in a somewhat ‘closed shop’ event.
The national event in recent years adopted the World Championships format, but selection of the provincial teams has been based on a private flying DCA type test with no navigation required! The glaring inconsistency here is that a top navigator may never come to the notice of the Aero Club Springbok selection committee by virtue of the fact that he is not a good upper air work flyer capable of featuring in results of a DCA type flight test. Most provincial status events in the past have been poorly supported with absurd situations occurring where competitors were co-opted from spectators on the day!
For 1983 the system remains much ‘as before’ due mainly to the lack of time and the fact that a Springbok team will be competing this year. However, for the World Air Rally event in 1984 to be held in August, the Aero Club is proposing to rethink the criteria by which selection of a meritorious Springbok team should be made for 1984. There are two alternatives open or even a combination of both.
1. A series of standardised provincial events based largely on the world format including landing competitions and photographs, to include the national event with a points system to determine the top national crews. This series to replace or be incorporated in the existing calendared provincial air rallies.
2. A complete change for 1983 of the existing format of the National Flying Championships both at Provincial and National levels to a more suitable event based on the World Air Rally tasks.
There are arguments for and against both proposals and the cry will be heard, ‘what about the social rally competitor and crews who can’t afford to compete in events other than their home province’. The answer lies much the same as in any sporting involvement, you reach the top by enthusiasm, dedication, determination, practice and above all, competition. Standardisation and acceptance of the proposed rally format has, by and large, already been instrumented in most provinces during 1982. There was nothing but acclaim for the Southern Transvaal, Natal, E & W Province events last year both from social and serious competitors. Free State introduced photographs as far back as 1977 so there is nothing new or radical in the proposed standardisation. The events can only grow in stature by virtue of the ‘over border sorties’ of crews and the resultant healthy competition will produce competent pilots and navigators worthy of national selection thereby avoiding the embarrassment of a Springbok placing last overall as happened in the 1981 World Championships. Most provincial events, due to the weather consideration, are held in the July to October period with the exception of Cape Town in December. Some will be after the World event in 1984 hence the possibility of alternative (2) for next year.
The problem here lies in the number of likely competitors for a special series outside the traditional dates so early in the year. The concentration of such a series over a short period of time would probably preclude some crews who could otherwise afford to campaign during the ‘normal’ year. In addition the problem of weather at that time of year is ever present.
Having considered all the pros and cons the Aero Club is looking to use the 1983 air rally season as a trial series and even if a points system is not finalised with all the events still to come, including the National Air Rally scheduled for Cape Town, it is quite probable that the team to represent RSA in Italy next year will be selected from performances and results from the 1983 air rally series in addition to the results of the National Precision Flying Championships.
It should be emphasised here that selection of Springbok teams in the past has been made with due consideration to past consistency of performance in rallies and flying championships and not necessarily on results of the current years Precision Flying Nationals.
The series commences in Natal during July and will culminate with the Western Province event in Cape Town in December. There is only one event in the Transvaal, scheduled for 20th August. The July 22nd and 23rd date for the SA National Navigation Rally has been deleted from the calendar.
As most of this years event directors are closely associated with the Aero Club, the proposed series should be a worthwhile challenge to both aspiring national status crews and social competitor alike. See you there!