Presidents Trophy Air Race 2016 – Home Page


Presidents Trophy

Air Race


President’s Trophy Air Race (PTAR) 2016 By Athol Franz

The Bethlehem Aero Club certainly ‘pulled out all the stops’ in terms of the preparation of the airfield and other arrangements for the more than 300 pilots, navigators, wives, girlfriends and spectators to enjoy what turned out to be a delightful weekend of aviation.


Start of the race – Athol Franz

Overall, the 2016 PTAR was an outstanding event which was safe and successful, but not without the usual complaints about handicaps. However, in all the years that I have attended the PTAR there is one thing that is certain: there will be controversy and there will be those competitors for whatever reason feel that their handicaps are unfair. However, this year 90% of the participants crossed the finishing line within nine minutes, which meant that the handicapping team actually had it right! Watching the finish was incredibly exciting as waves of aircraft crossed the finishing line, sometimes at up to seven abreast. I even heard one youngster say to his father: “Pa dit lyk soos in oorlog”  (Dad that looks like war!) as the planes roared overhead the airfield.
ZS WAP winning aircraft – Athol Franz ZS WAP overall winners – Athol Franz
Tribute must go to Philip Jacobs, chairman of the Bethlehem Aero Club and his closely knit team of volunteers who undertook all the planning. It was Philip’s wife Jacolien and her outstanding team who set up and managed the Saturday evening awards’ banquet that was brilliantly organised with considerable flare in one of the superbly decorated Bethlehem hangars!

Philip told me that the Bethlehem Aero Club was divided into various sub-committees where each was tasked with a particular assignment. The huge airfield’s dry winter grass had been cut very short so as to ensure that there was not any possibility of a run-away veld fire being any sort of danger to the arriving aircraft. The team of Isak Venter and Frans Moeder also ensured that fencing was in place and that security had been arranged for the protection of the aircraft and spectators. Then to cap it all the weather was ideal for racing with a very light easterly wind, cold nights and warm sunny days.


Frank Eckard (SAPFA Chairman), Philip Jacobs and Nico Smith (winners),
Robbie Myburgh (assistant race director) and Robin Spencer-Scarr (race director)

Sponsors and contributors
Shell Aviation
 paid for the Saturday evening gala dinner
Airborne Insurance donated caps and medals
Century Avionics donated a headset, watch and photographs. The company also assisted with the GPS aerial masking on all participating aircraft
The Airplane Factory donated a show stand and cash sponsorship
Professional Aviation donated a show stand and cash sponsorship
Eagle Air donated the aircraft race numbers
CemAir donated R22 000 worth of airline tickets
NAC donated a show stand and cash sponsorship
Air Traffic Control sent Whitney Stone from the Johannesburg O.R. Tambo tower
Permanon donated money towards Sharon Potgieter’s legs’ rehabilitation
African Pilot donated 10 full year magazine subscriptions and assisted with the advertising of the PTAR over the last few months.

Entire race group after briefing – Athol Franz

A message to the PTAR 2016 from an ancient airman

Poem by Tony Petter-Bowyer read by Mark Moses at the formal banquet

We are all aviators,
We all try to understand the air.
We know that things can go wrong there,
And life is not always fair.
But if I look at today,
We are flying at 400 ks(kay’s)
We touch the tall grass on the mountains,
We witness views that amaze.
How can we explain, I ask,
To those who do not fly,
The neurological nourishment,
That we get from being in the sky.
If we look at today for an example,
We have covered a thousand squares,
Of hills and valleys and meadows
Of god’s creative wares.
We have flown over Moonies and Pipers,
Sadly overtaken by a twin,
Got our knickers in a knot over a Lancair
Whose speed is actually a sin.
How can we thank these people,
Who come from millions of miles,
To organise this programme for us,
Who give of their time, for our smiles.
And yet you get the serial moaners.
Those complainers of note.
Who get slighted by the faintest of stalls,
Must get the committees goat.
But thanks to Robin and his team,
And all those who work in the wings,
The President’s Trophy Air Race.
Is undoubtedly the sport of kings.

At a personal level, may I thank each and every one who made this great weekend possible. Well done to the team from the Bethlehem Aero Club, the ATC, the sponsors – I hope I mentioned all of them, the marshals, the scorers, the handicappers, the SAPFA officials, the folk who organised the catering, the after dinner guest speaker Chester Chandler who made a splendid speech about the origins of air racing, the banquet organisers and everyone involved. Apart from the usual handicapping bickering due to considerable male testosterone levels, the weekend had a superb atmosphere where almost everything worked out to plan.

Winning Piper PA-28R-200
Christine Brits
Jabiru J400
Christine Brits

Message from the Race director: Robin Spencer-Scarr

It has been 3 weeks since the greatest air race ever was held in Bethlehem. I say this with sincere pride because, yet again, we broke a number of records.

For starters, the result was one of the closest we have ever seen with the first 50 aircraft crossing the lines within 3 minutes and 25 seconds of each other. This was followed by the rest of the field giving us a total result of the entire fleet crossing the line within 9 minutes and 9 seconds. This speaks volumes for the improvement in the handicaps.

The next record to be broken was the hospitality at the venue. The Bethlehem Aero Club excelled and the Prize-giving Dinner was, without a doubt, a truly Gala Affair.

My heartfelt congratulations go to all those competitors who took off and landed safely on both days of hard racing. Thank you for keeping the track record of the PTAR clean and safe.

We will be making small amendments to the handicap system for next year and will advising everyone of the details of the algorithm as soon as we are comfortable that it is as truly fair to everyone as it can possibly be.

We look forward to seeing you in Springs in May 2017

Results Day 1 Results Day 2

 Overall Result