Pietermaritzburg Fun Rally

Pietermaritzburg Fun Rally 2019

By Cally Eckard

Some of the contestants gathered in front of one of the three club aircraft before the first team took off. From left: Curtis Mutambo, Martin Hellberg, Ian McDonald, Dave Taylor, Mike McDonald, Johan Riekert, Chris Nicholson, and Competition Director Frank Eckard.

For the first time in 24 years, Pietermaritzburg Aeroclub held a Fun Rally. Frank Eckard, who got his PPL at the club 32 years ago and was on the committee for seven years, has lots of very fond memories of his years spent there and was thrilled to set up a rally on his old stamping ground.
Martin Hellberg, who was Frank’s first navigator and who competed with him in Denmark in 1995, was one of the competitors. Unfortunately, the turn-out was low, despite valiant efforts by club Chief Flying Instructor Telani Lithgow while the predicted weather put some crews off.Five brave teams eventually took off after a delayed start due to low cloud and all received excellent scores, missing only one turnpoint each – a fabulous feat for first-timers. The route started at a turnpoint near Thornville, crossing the ridge at Richmond, then turned South before joining the Umkomaas and following the valley, then back to Pietermaritzburg via Eston. 

Lara Denton and Adam Winter arrive back at the airfield after the rally.

Unfortunately for Adam Winter and Lara Denton, they had problems setting their clock, and joined the “One-minute Club” – flying the entire route one minute late. This sadly put them in last place, but taught them a valuable lesson they are probably never going to forget. Chris Nicholson takes part in anti-rhino poaching excursions, so was well-prepared for flying low-level VFR, and achieved a fantastic score. Curtis Mutambo, who is working hard on getting his CPL learned a lot of techniques from Martin Hellberg, who was impressed at how much technology has changed the sport.

Waiting patiently for their results, whilst recalling their experiences during the rally, Chris Nicholson and Dave Taylor (front) with Telani Lithgow and Johan Rikert (back).

They all arrived back at the clubhouse begging for another rally to be held soon and are sure to inspire and encourage other pilots in the area. It would be a great event if surrounding clubs would also get involved, as Pietermaritzburg is quite central in KZN and has a large flying area.

Winners with a terrific score of only 384, Dave Taylor and Chris Nicholson.

Second place went to the team of Martin Hellberg and Curtis Mutambo.

A very grateful third place kiss from Chief Flying Instructor Telani Lithgow and Johan Riekert.

– The team of Adam Winter and Lara Denton were placed fifth after an unfortunate timing error.

1 Chris Nicholson, Dave Taylor Sling2 – 384
2 Martin Hellberg, Curtis Mutambo Cessna 172 – 507
3 Johan Riekert, Telani Lithgow Sling 2 – 579
4 Ian McDonald, Mike McDonald Cessna 172 – 625
5 Adam Winter, Lara Denton Cessna 172 – 641