Precision Flying

The sport of Precision Flying is a single crew operation comprising three sections:

Sample logger trackSample logger trackFirstly there is a flight planning (theory) test. This is where a route is worked out by the competitor who has to calculate the distance, ground speed, time and heading of each leg of the route based on a constant airspeed and a given wind factor. Remember you old whizz-wheel, well here you get to use it in a practical way, no aviation or scientific calculators allowed here! Penalties are allocated for every incorrect calculation of time or heading. Only very small tolerances are allowed.

Secondly there is the flying section. Now this is the fun part where you fly along your track, accurate to the second - yes I said second!! Now just as you thought this was getting interesting, you also have photographs to identify as well as ground markers. These need to be marked on your map. Penalties are awarded for each second early or late over certain unknown check points and turning points as well as for misidentification / misplacement of the ground markers and photographs.

Thirdly there is the landing section where you have 4 landings to perform from 1000ft on downwind, 2 of the landings are glides (one flapless) and the other 2 are powered approaches (one over a 2 meter barrier). The idea here is to put you main wheels down onto a 2 meter deep stripe painted on the runway. Penalties are awarded for each meter long or short of the line.

That's Precision Flying in a nutshell, if you can do all this then you will be a better pilot.

History of Precision Flying

Development of Rally and Precision Flying internationally

The concept of Rally and Precision flying started in the Scandinavian countries between the two world wars. The object was to create a set of skills that combined hunting, flying and cross country skiing. So imagine flying to some remote location, landing in the mountains, skiing to a likely spot, shooting some target (animals or enemy) and then flying off to the next spot, to repeat the exercise. This sounded like a good idea at the time and for a few years the concept caught on with the Scandinavian countries, with regular competitions being held.

After the second world war more countries became interested in the concept and over a period of years a set of rules was drawn up that separated out the flying aspects only. Later two disciplines evolved, those of Precision and Rally flying.Sample Logger TrackSample Logger Track For many years the Scandinavians dominated the sports, but as acceptance was gained and the sports grew in popularity the former eastern block countries came to dominate the scene. Now with the economic changes sweeping Europe, the sports are pretty much open to everyone. The Southern Hemisphere countries are coming into their own and are starting to represent a serious threat to our cousins up north.

With more and more countries joining each year the situation is now such that the two sports have been combined with all aviation sports (aerobatics, parachuting, gliding, aero modeling, ballooning, etc) into a movement that is now asking for Olympic status. To this end the First World Air Games was held in Turkey in 1997. The second was held in Spain in 2001 and a third in Italy in 2009. These special events have been called the Olympics of the air. They are very prestigious and if you get involved now, you could get into the team and represent your country at this amazing event.

Precision Flying in South Africa - The Early Years

Major General James GillilandMajor General James Gilliland

Through all the years of apartheid the Aero Club of South Africa was able to maintain a presence at FAI, particularly through the influence of Major General James Gilliland, and SAPFA, in turn was represented at the Genereal Aviation Commission of the FAI (the Power Flying side of FAI).

In 1973 GAC decided to take the format of the European Championships and turn it into the format for a new World Competition in Precision Flying and it was decided that this would be held in Sweden in 1975. The SAPFA representative on the Committee at the time was Charles Wotherspoon, and through his efforts we were allowed to send a team to this competition. Mike Hartley, a member of the SAPFA Committee and a flying instructor, was asked by SAPFA to study the rules and to coach a team for the event. Accordingly, the South African Precision Flying Championships were held at Bloemfontein with a view to selecting a team to represent this country and in May 1975 the following team was awarded Springbok colours - the first time that this had happened in aviation!

Auriel was the daughter of Les Millar, the well-known flying instructor from Durban and Robbie and Bryn were businessmen from Johannesburg. The team left a week before the event in order to familiarize themselves with the Swedish terrain and to make sure their aircraft were in order. Auriel, the team's least experienced pilot, flew a Cessna 152 as recommended by the coach, whilst Robbie hired a C172 and Bryn a brand new Beechcraft Bonanza that he flew up from France.

1975 South African Precision Flying TeamL to R: Mike Hartley (Coach), Auriel Miller,
James Gilliland, (Manager), Robbie Schwartz, Bryn Tuckett
and Bennie Coetzee, (non travelling Reserve).

The competition was flown from an airport at Gavle, about 70kms north west of Stockholm, and proved to be a great experience. At the time any sort of bounce in the landing competition carried penalties and the team proved that this can be achieved in a C152 and a Bonanza, but that it virtually impossible to land a C172 without a bounce, however small. Desperate measures were resorted to, such as putting rocks on the back seat of the C172, but to no avail. It will bounce - try it!

Well, the Swedes proved to be great competition hosts, though they were uncertain about how to treat a team from Apartheid South Africa. The team adopted a low profile and came through the event without attracting too much attention. At the competition, the Swedes erected a large results board on the side of one building and each competitor's name was painted in order of take-off. The army helped by providing radio communications with each checkpoint round the circuit. Each station was on a different frequency and times and penalties were radioed back to headquarters as the planes flew the course. A sign writer painted up the results as they were recorded and most of the information about each competitor and the penalties he had incurred was written on the board before he landed. Great organization! though rules and facilities have changed somewhat since then. Protests were not permitted so it all went off very well.

Of course, the Poles were the winners and they continued to dominate the sport for a great many years to come. But the South African team did not disgrace itself, with Auriel coming 16th and the other two in the late twenties.

The report back to SAPFA was that the Precision Champs are a great and exciting sport and our participation in this, the first competition, ensured that South Africa would compete again and again! In fact, we have competed in every competition since then except one - and that was only because of our banning because we came from "Apartheid South Africa."
1977 South African Precision Flying TeamL to R: Charles Wotherspoon (Manager), Bennie Coetzee, Colin Jordaan and
Kevin Machel-Cox with James Gilliland, Chairman of Aero Club
of South Africa and
Mike Hartley (Team Coach).

The next World Championship was to be held in Wels, Austria and we had no problem entering that country. Again the South African Championships were used as the tool to select a team The team to win their Springbok colours this time was: Colin Jordaan, now a senior captain with SAA, Bennie Coetzee from Bloemfontein and Kevin Machel-Cox from Durban, with Charles Wotherspoon as Team Manager and Mike Hartley again as Coach.

A fatal helicopter crash in front of the assembled teams marred this event just as the opening ceremony was about to start. This put a damper on the opening ceremony, but the competition continued in spite of poor weather on one day. This time the team did not achieve quite what had been hoped for but there enthusiasm could not be faulted.

The green blazers were becoming a part of the World Championships and were again to be seen in 1980 at the 3rd Rally World Championships (Frikkie Moolman and Colin Jordaan) and in 1981 at the 3rd Precision World Championships, this time in Nottingham, England. This time the team comprised Colin Jordaan, Mike Seymour, Mike Basson and Frikkie Moolman. Mike Hartley this time assumed the role of Team Manager as it was no longer thought necessary to have a team coach as the expertise of the team was now outstripping the knowledge of the coach.
Colin JordaanWe have all heard about "sexy" planes but this is ridiculous!
Colin Jordaan at Nottingham in 1981

GAC was now alternating the Precision Championships on a yearly basis with the Rally Championships and we were able to attend most of the latter. South Africa could not, however compete in Precision competition in Norway in 1983 because of political reasons.

It was in 1984 that tragedy struck! This time the Rally Championships were to held in Italy and during the flight from Milan to the competition venue one of the aircraft struck the side of a mountain in bad weather, killing the pilot, Frikkie Moolman and Lyn Seymour, the wife of Mike Seymour. This was indeed a sad moment for SAPFA and the Aero Club of South Africa. Despite the trauma of the accident Chris Kyle and Gavin Beck still took part and finished a creditable 16th overall, and 2nd in the landings. The SA team was awarded a special trophy for their endurance under such difficult circumstances.

We resumed attendance at the Championships in Florida, USA in 1985. Colin Jordaan and Mike Basson, and Mike Seymour were again part of this team along with a new boy - Adrian Pilling

In 1989 a Springbok team was selected to take part in the Championships in Denmark but the team did not participate as they were refused visas.

But life goes on and we were present at the Precision Championships in Argentina in 1990 and had the ultimate privilege of hosting the World Rally Flying Championships in Stellenbosch in 1991. This extremely well organized event was run under the direction of Colin Jordaan who was now putting back something into the sport he had enjoyed for so many years. That event saw the coming-of-age of SAPFA and led to the hosting later of a GAC meeting at Sun City, followed a year or two later by a Conference of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Our teams have spread their wings in many parts of the world and can look back on the past with pride and to the future with confidence. We have also played host to the world at the 2003 World Rally Flying Championships at Sun City/Rustenburg. This was a memorable event for all who come to our country.

South Africa continues to hold its head high and plays a very active part in the world body, believing that both Precision and Rally flying competitions are good for the soul, stimulating to the mind, and a great way to spread the word that flying is, indeed, the king of sports.

21st World Precision Flying Championships - 2013

The daily team manager reports are added below.

The South African Precision Flying Team is taking part in the 21st World Precision Flying Championships in Bautzen, Germany.

The SA Precision Team for 2013 was selected from the contestants of a series of pre-determined rallies that were held over the last 12 months. All of the team members have flown at world competition level in the past, either as navigators, precision or rally pilots.
The participants are not sponsored, and therefore they put their heart, souls and wallets into partaking in this competition. The team consists of Frank Eckard (captain), Barry de Groot, Mary de Klerk, Hans Schwebel, Ron Stirk, Henk Koster, Thys van der Merwe, and Cally Eckard (manager).
Jacques Jacobs and Ardyyn Moolman are international judges, specializing in the landing competition aspect of the sport, and Chelsea de Klerk is a judge observer. Supporter Ursula Schwebel is a great asset, as interpreter and assistant.
This year’s competition takes place in Bautzen, Germany. Bautzen is situated East of Dresden, in what was previously the Democratic Republic of East Germany, close to the Polish and Czech borders. The airfield is an old military airfield, and the runway is 2,5km long.
The first week is spent practising, and this is very important for our team, as we do not have the practise and competition opportunities that the Europeans have. We are also disadvantaged by the fact that the European team can fly their own aeroplanes, whereas we have to hire planes from the organisers. Many of the top teams are also heavily sponsored, but it is difficult for the South African team to muster financial support.
The championship week starts with three days of the precision contests, and then a day of landing competition. The precision contest tests pilot’s navigation, observation and timing skills, while the landing competition requires the pilot to land his plane on a line.

21st World Precision Flying Championships - Day 01

Dear Supporters
Day 1 of our practise week:-
Ten of us arrived in Bautzen yesterday, excited to fly a few practise routes, but the weather is not co-operating. Rain, extreme winds and cloud predicted until Wednesday. We then hoped to at least get some landings in, but were again disappointed that only one of the 4 aeroplanes that we ordered are at the airfield. Frank and Hans were eager to help the organisers to fetch them, but bad weather prevented them from accomplishing even that. Henk’s aeroplane, is close enough to fetch but is being repaired. This problem (of the aeroplanes not being available from Day 1 occurred at Spain as well, and we are going to have to address this issue next year before we spend money arriving early and sitting around waiting for planes to fly).
Otherwise, all is great. The hotel is very nice, and we had a really delicious breakfast (which is very important as we are going to be eating it for two weeks). When the organisers at the airfield eventually got the cafe set up, they served us really good veggie soup with a bratwurst.
The venue is a very strange airfield. It was built as a military airbase during the Cold War by the East German government, and has a very spooky air about it. There are a lot of derelict buildings, which are constructed in the typical communistic style (grey, tiled, low-ceilinged and totally devoid of any character). The registration and communal room building has a very eerie atmosphere, and is a bit dark and dreary. However, in true South African style we brightened up the room with our flags and personalities and before long it was buzzing with noise.
At the moment, we are in one of the hotel’s conference rooms, and Frank is trying to set up a photo recognition workshop (one of those that Leonard sent to us).
Tomorrow we are hoping for a break in the weather long enough for us to fetch the aeroplanes, and if we are really lucky, even fly a practise route, or practise a few landings.
Goodnight from a grey, chilly, drizzly Bautzen.
Cally (Team Manager 2013)

21st World Precision Flying Championships - Day 02

Day 2 of our practise week:-
Today was much the same as yesterday, but today we were prepared to spend the day grounded, and Captain Frank had all the photos and practise routes ready. The idea was to do the routes on Google first, so that when we fly them we can focus on timing. We also did a few photo-recognition exercises, and we all agreed that these exercises, which Leonard prepared before we left SA, have been of immense help. Ron, who has always complained that he struggles to find photos, is now finding more than some of the other pilots.
We had a General Briefing today by the Competition Director, which basically told us what we already knew – that there would be no flying today, and that the weather would improve tomorrow. However, we smelt a rat when he also told us that the barbeque which was scheduled for Wednesday would now be held on Thursday because of the weather. So we are not too optimistic about being able to fly tomorrow morning.
Hans provided his own printer from his house in Germany, but being unused for so long, he and Frank struggled to get it working, but finally, after many hours, they got it working.
Arriving back at the hotel early, we went for a bit of a walk-about in the search for an eisbein. We were then informed that we were not likely to find one as it is not a local dish. Undeterred, we walked the streets of the medieval part of the town, and were directed to a mustard restaurant. Bautzen is famous for its mustard, and this restaurant was exactly what we wanted, and also had esibein on the menu. 10 eisbein were ordered, and it was absolutely delicious, melted in our mouths, with sauerkraut that was totally different in taste to what we are used to. This was a real impromptu team-building event, and we even perfected our plan for our team song, which has been in planning stages since our trip from Frankfurt. We will present it tomorrow to the rest of the world, and I will report on its success in my report tomorrow.

21st World Precision Flying Championships - Day 03

Not much more to report today, except that the weather which was supposed to clear today did not do a complete job, but good enough for Hans and Frank to fetch their aeroplanes. They only arrived back at the airfield mid-afternoon, so we only managed to get a few landings in.
Frank is very happy with his plane, but Hans and Ron, who are sharing a plane, have been allocated one with a Rotax engine. This is a problem for them and for the team on many fronts. Firstly, they are not rated on this engine, which the organisers here assure us is fine in Germany, and we are covered from an insurance point of view; secondly Ron flies from the right-hand seat because he only has one arm, making it very difficult to control the plane; thirdly the cowling covers a huge area of the front window, making it difficult to spot pictures and turn-points, and making it more difficult to calculate and estimate distances and times. The organisers assure us that there are no other planes available in the area, so Ron and Hans have very bravely accepted the challenge, and will fly this troublesome plane to the best of their ability.
I was really proud of the team today, when Thys and Frank offered to swap planes with Ron and Hans, but Ron and Hans philosophically said that they will play the hand they are dealt. This is what team spirit is all about, and today I saw it in action.
Henk’s plane also arrived today, but no one noticed it, including the organiser, so it sat on the run-way for 3 hours while we waited for it. This was really frustrating for us, and particularly for Henk who works overseas and relies on his practise time in the week before the championships. However, he is happy with his plane and had a chance to do a short flight and a few landings.
The team became complete this afternoon with the arrival of Ardy and Chelsea. They drove all the way from Frankfurt, only stopping once, in their eagerness to join the team.
Ursula, Jacques and I joined a little group on an excursion to Tituma, a watch-making factory in a little village south of Dresden called Glashuer. It was absolutely fascinating to see how intricately and passionately these watches are made, and we all agreed that we now understand why they cost so much.

21st World Precision Flying Championships - Day 04

Hoping to get an early start to our practise now that all the planes have finally arrived, we were disappointed to see that the entire town was covered in dense fog until about 9 am.
Determinedly we fought our way to the front of the queue to put our names down for landing slots, and each pilot also managed to do one of the practise routes.
Hans and Ron fight on valiantly with the aeroplane that is so unfamiliar to them, and are familiarising themselves with its quirks. The others also did very well today, considering this is the first full day of flying that we have had.
After today’s briefing we attended a presentation on ANR, which is a newly-devised type of rally in which four contestants take off simultaneously; each aeroplane then flies through a “corridor” similar to a normal rally but with much shorter legs, and then they all land at the same time. Apparently this sport would have a much greater spectator value than a traditional rally, and looks quite exciting for the pilot to participate in.
Old-time rally pilot and SAPFA committee member Walter Walle and a friend of his came to visit us to offer their support for a few days. While Walter lives in Bloemfontein, he also has a home near Kassel in Germany.
The airfield is getting much busier, and posters and notice-boards, bunting and signage is making the very dour space look a lot more cheery. With the sun shining, the little seating area outside the catering kiosk has become quite a popular place to be, and although the airfield is far too large to be suitable for spectators, it is close enough to the apron to provide some interest.
A webcam has been situated on top of the kiosk, and from there our supporters, family and friends can see some of the action. It is available on the championship website www.wpfc2013.
Tonight we were treated to a barbecue (yes, a braai!) in one of the hangars on the airfield, where the German sausages and beer were devoured in huge quantities in a very short space of time. Hungry work this flying business!

21st World Precision Flying Championships - Day 05

The team is getting used to their aeroplanes, and to the terrain and maps and therefore the results are improving. The weather is very good today, with clear skies, although the wind whips up a bit in the afternoon.
Walter Walle has joined us for a few days. Walter is a long-time rally pilot and SAPFA committee member, putting many hours and effort into this sport. He lives in South Africa but also has a home in Germany, where he is staying at the moment.
We realised today that, apart from the host country of Germany, we have brought the most pilots. We certainly create the most interest, and have the most team spirit. We are pleased to see that many of the pilots wear SA team shirts and caps from previous years.
Tonight we gathered in the town square for a walking tour of the medieval town, with “Monk Eusebius”, who is a marvellous story teller, and captured our attention with his myths and history of the town. The walk ended with a delicious dinner at a medieval restaurant, with jugs of local draught beer, platters of roast stag, pork knuckles and red onions and sauerkraut.

21st World Precision Flying Championships - Day 06

Another sunny, warm day found the South Africans at the airfield by 8 am, putting in some early landing practise, and flying the last of the three official practise routes. The navigation results are looking really good, but the timing is still a problem with all of the teams.
The landings are going really well, which is probably a testament to the fact that we have put in a lot of practise in this area, both at home and in the last few days. We have high hopes for some of our team members in this area, as both Ron Stirk and Hans Schwebel have claimed first and second places in this section of the competition in previous years.
The first official General Briefing was held this afternoon, after which we all donned our team shirts and posed for photos in front of one of the large banners, and in front of our aeroplanes.
The most exciting thing that happened today was that Barry de Groot’s son, Dean, who is working on a boat in the Mediterranean, jumped on a flight and arrived in Frankfurt, hired a car and drove through the night to surprise his dad this morning at breakfast. It was a very emotional reunion for everyone, and Dean will be staying with the team for the weekend.

21st World Precision Flying Championships - Day 07

A lovely sunny clear day, but rain is predicted for the next week! Today was scheduled for official landing practise, and this went off without a hitch. The first set, which was a flapless glide, was completed with a constant wind, and Thys and Frank made 2 of the handful of “bingos”. Then the wind picked up, and became a gusting cross-wind, which havoc with the final approaches for the barrier landings. This resulted in some hair-raising landing styles, and Thys took the prize for the most entertaining landing, coming in on the landing strip behind the spectators, and turning onto the competition runway at the last minute, and landing just a few feet behind the bingo line. We were so proud to see that he was placed third overall in the landings. For the team score, we came fourth, behind France, Poland and Czech Republic.
After lunch at the airfield we had a bit of a break in the afternoon, and then gathered for the Official Opening Ceremony. Children dressed in quaint traditional Sorbian dress greeted us as we exited the hotel, and led us country by country into the town square. There we were addressed by the mayor of Bautzen, the President of German Aeroclub Klaus Koplin, and Competition Director Ralph Grunwald.
We had some team photos taken in our green-and-gold, and then went back to the hotel where we were treated to champagne, and then a buffet of local traditional dishes. We were all in high spirits after our excellent performance, and this been a tremendous confidence booster. Thys was the toast of the night, and we are now even more confident than before that we can win fourth place in at least the landing division of the competition.
The rain prediction has forced the organisers to re-think the arrangements for tomorrow, so instead of the first navigation rally, we are going to do the landings instead, and these will only start in the afternoon, so we are all really excited to sleep in a little later tonight.

21st World Precision Flying Championships - Day 08

We were able to sleep in a little longer this morning, due to the expected rain and the briefing was held and hour later than usual. The landings were delayed until 1:30 this afternoon when the clouds lifted enough to the required minimum altitude for visibility. The temperature dropped as the afternoon wore on, and the judges and manager and assistant were exposed to freezing cold weather as we watched and judged the landings.
The first two landings (normal landing and a barrier landing) put team SA in a very good position, with zero scores from Barry (2) and Frank and Mary 1 each. The rest of the team all scored very well too. However, the next two landings (glide with flaps, and glide without flaps) proved more difficult, and only Hans made good landings in all four categories.
Much criticism has been levelled at the German Landing System, but video footage taken by Cally demonstrated its accuracy. It’s a fact that the eye is slower than the movement of the aeroplane, and therefore most landings appear to be 2 m ahead of the actual point on the ground where the aeroplane touches down. This definitely appeared to be the case, and the spectators soon learn to judge the landing 2m behind where they thought it to be.
When we arrived back at the hotel we download the video footage, and were impressed with the quality of the iPhone video. It is of great assistance to show pilots how they landed, and what their landings look like from the ground.
The final Landing Competition Results put Czech Republic in the lead, with their pilots coming 1st and 2nd, previous Polish pilot Michal Wieczorek in 3rd place, a surprising 4th and 5th place by the Swedish team, and Hans Schwebel of SA 6th. Mary de Klerk came 17th and Thys van der Merwe in 25th place.

21st World Precision Flying Championships - Day 09

The weather which was predicted on the weekend to be raining all week, has fortunately taken pity on the championship, and given us good visibility with high cloud, and the only unpleasant aspect is the cold weather.
An early start to the day found the first group of pilots in the briefing room at 8:15am
Team South Africa provides not only one of the largest contingents of pilots for the competition, but also a larger number of judges and volunteers than any of the other countries, with the exception of the hosting country. We have Jacques Jacobs, a highly respected and experienced judge, specializing in the landings, Arddyn Moolman who has been judging for several years and has also served as manager, and Chelsea de Klerk who has volunteered for the last few years and is now due to receive her International Judge badge. Supporter Ursula Schwebel has also been roped into volunteering for the week, and has also been a great assistant to the manager.
Most of the pilots were very unhappy with their flying today, and hopefully , if the weather holds and we manage to get two more days’ competition in, it will be scrapped, and days 2 and 3 will be used. Mary was the winner of the day, Frank second and Barry third.
The route was quite frustrating as it went over huge forests in Poland that are very difficult to navigate over. Very strong gusty winds also blew some of the aeroplanes off track, making flying itself very hard work. They also found that a lot of the features look very similar to other features that were off-track, which led the pilots astray, resulting in their missing some of the “secrets” and some turnpoints.
We are regarding today as a serious exercise, and hope to learn from our mistakes today.

21st World Precision Flying Championships - Day 10

The weather is still overcast and cold, but the cloud base is high enough to complete the route set for us today. The pilots were very eager to improve on their scores from yesterday, and most of them achieved this goal. Hans had a very much improved day, and claimed first place, followed by Mary, then Frank.
Barry had a mishap on take-off when the back of his seat broke off. He considered turning back, but decided to continue, and was doing very well until turn-point 5 when the strain on his back caused him to lose concentration. This is a great pity because Barry is one of South Africa’s long-time top rally and precision pilots, and his score is usually one of those used for the combined team score. The seat malfunction was reported to the technicians, and hopefully they will fix it before tomorrow.
The Swedish team continues to do well, and they might be the cause of South Africa losing their usual fourth place slot. In the team and individual divisions, the Polish, Czech and French team fight it out for the first three places. Today Poland will be very pleased to have taken all first four places, and all six of their pilots are in the top 10.
The team members constantly debate the reasons why we do not achieve better results. One of the reasons is lack of sponsorship, which precludes some of the younger pilots from competing overseas because of financial constraints. It also prevents some of the experienced pilots from participating in all the rallies that are organised.
Every pilot in the team comments at the end of the competition that he feels prepared by this time to participate. This means that we require a week or two before the competition to start practising in earnest.
Another reason is that the maps in South Africa have heptometric tint, while those in Europe show areas of green for forests. Heptometric tint is the shading of areas to indicate valley and mountains.

21st World Precision Flying Championships - Day 11

An even earlier start to the day, because rain is predicted for the afternoon, so the organisers hoped to get the routes completed before the bad weather arrived. However, the judges had a flight over the route in the morning, and found that the visibility was not good enough, so the first take-off was delayed for an hour. Group 1 then took off, and completed their routes, although there was heavy rain between the Finish Point and the runway. Group 2 was then told to wait, and after a delay of an hour, the organisers announced that the entire day’s flying would be cancelled.
This was really bad news for the South African team, because Frank had done extremely well getting the best results ever, Hans had done exceptionally well.
The remainder of the day was spent debating whether the “rain day” would be used, scouring the skies for signs of the clouds lifting, and searching websites for news of the weather.
The organisers had planned a barbeque for the evening, and we had asked them if we could include what we call “The South African Party”. It started a number of years ago and has evolved into a “national drinks party” where each country brings its own national drinks and snacks. We and the other teams were anticipating a very quiet evening because we expected to be flying the next day.
At the team managers’ meeting just before the event, however, the organisers regretfully announced that they had made the decision to cancel any flying for the rain day because heavy rain and very low cloud was predicted over the area where the route had been planned, namely South of Bautzen, and over parts of Czech Republic. This is a very mountainous and picturesque area, but now conducive to flying when the weather is bad.
This means that the competition is now over, and the results from the First and Second Navigation Tests will be used. Had the Third Navigation Test been used, the pilots would have been able to discard their worst result. All of our pilots had been feeling very confident about flying the Third day, and are terribly disappointed that they will not have the opportunity to improve their scores.
There was nothing to do but accept their decision, and we spent a very good evening spending time with the other teams and the organisers. Team South Africa has a reputation for being friendly and tonight we did not disappoint in that area.

21st World Precision Flying Championships - Day 12

All of the pilots are a bit quiet today, and throughout the day they were commenting about the weather, and wondering whether in fact it was as bad as had been predicted.
The organisers had planned a bus trip to Dresden for us, and two bus-loads of pilots were taken on a guided tour of the beautiful capital of Saxony. Situated on the river Elba, the river valley is fronted by gracious manor houses, a wide green belt with cycle paths where pedestrians, cyclists and dogs mingle.
The public gardens are vast and beautiful, with two kilometre-long pedestrian paths heading in various directions.
Then we were dropped in the centre of the Old City, which is the area that was so heavily bombed during the Second World War. We were astounded to see how the beautiful buildings had been perfectly and lovingly restored to their former glory. There is a maze of palaces, museums, gardens, houses, public buildings and statues. Facades that miraculously survived the bombing were left, and the remainder of the building built around it, faithfully keeping to the original design. The most beautiful building is the Church of the Virgin Mary, which only recently was completed. Climbing up to the top and seeing the view from there was something that we will always remember.
We were treated to lunch in a very unusual restaurant building under the foundations of one of the old buildings, and we were fascinated by the decor which depicted scenes of a by-gone era.
Hopping back on the bus, we returned to the hotel in Bautzen for the Closing Ceremony and Prize Giving.
I will report on the positions of the various teams, and ours in particular, in the next report.

21st World Precision Flying Championships - Day 13 (Final report)

As Manager for Team South Africa, it has been my pleasure and privilege to serve this group of strongly committed, talented and experienced pilots. Their sportsmanship, dedication, sacrifices and sense of humour combined to form a team of which I was very proud to be a part.
Although we had anticipated to be placed higher, the pilots did their best in every respect to perform to the best of their ability. In spite of many outside obstacles to their success, for a team with very few resources, to gain 6th place among 13 countries, is a magnificent accomplishment.
Considering the fact that our pilots compete against others who are sponsored, are flying aircraft that they are familiar with, in terrain and from maps that they are used to, and have the opportunities to fly many other regional and national competitions throughout the year, they are greatly respected by the other teams for their knowledge, experience and talent.
I am also proud of the camaraderie, humour and friendliness shown by all the members of our team, including the judges, observers and supporters. We are definitely the liveliest group, and other teams look to the South Africans to provide the vibe that makes the World Champs so enjoyable.
We return home in the next few days, weary and proud, with a determination to achieve even better results next year. We thank all of you who have followed our progress, wept with us, laughed with us, and prayed with us. We can assure you that we made South Africa proud, and that we regard ourselves at all times, to be both sportspeople and ambassadors of our country.

South African Precision Flying Trophies

Previous South African National Rally Flying Trophy Winners

Year Open
Champion
PPL Champion
Wotherspoon
Memorial Trophy
Landing Champion
Adrian Pilling Trophy
Team Champions
Inter-Provincial Trophy
Club Team
Aero Club Trophy
Observation
Trophy
Timing
Trophy
2010 Adrian Pilling Hans Schwebel Adrian Pilling North West Brits Flying Club Jan Hanekom Barry de Groot
2009 Mary de Klerk Mary de Klerk Ron Stirk Gauteng Brits Flying Club Adrian Pilling Frank Eckard
2008 Adrian Pilling Adrian Pilling Adrian Pilling North West Province Brits Flying Club Adrian Pilling Adrian Pilling
2007 Adrian Pilling Adrian Pilling Adrian Pilling North West Province Brits Flying Club Jan Hanekom Adrian Pilling
2006 Jan Hanekom Jan Hanekom Adrian Pilling North West Province Brits Flying Club Jan Hanekom Adrian Pilling/
Frank Eckard
2005 Nigel Hopkins Jan Hanekom Adrian Pilling North West Province Brits Flying Club Nigel Hopkins Nigel Hopkins
2004 Nigel Hopkins Hans Schwebel Nigel Hopkins North West Province Brits Flying Club Nigel Hopkins Nigel Hopkins
2003 No event            
2002 Nigel Hopkins Jan Hanekom Nigel Hopkins North West Province Brits Flying Club Adrian Pilling Nigel Hopkins
2001 Nigel Hopkins Adrian Pilling Nigel Hopkins North West Province Brits Flying Club Nigel Hopkins Nigel Hopkins
2000 Nigel Hopkins Barry de Groot Nigel Hopkins/
Hans Schwebel
North West Province Brits Flying Club Nigel Hopkins Nigel Hopkins
1999 Nigel Hopkins Hans Schwebel Nigel Hopkins North West Province Brits Flying Club Nigel Hopkins Adrian Pilling
1998 - - - - - - -
1997 Adrian Pilling Nellis Nel Nellis Nel - - - -
1996 - - - - - - -
1995 Adrian Pilling Hans Schwebel - - - - -
1994 Adrian Pilling Barry de Groot Barry de Groot Transvaal Brits Flying Club    
1993 Adrian Pilling Geoff Henschel Adrian Pilling Western Province US Flying Club    
1992 Adrian Pilling Johan Dorfling Eastern Province Brits Flying Club    
1991 Riaan van
Niekerk
Peter Norton Orange Free State Orange Free State    
1990 Johan Campbell Johan Dorfling Transvaal -    
1989 Adrian Pilling Geoff Henschel Orange Free State Orange Free State    
1988 Andre
Schoeman
Johan Swart Western Province US Flying Club    
1987 Adrian Pilling Chris Kyle Natal Natal    
1986 Dave Perelson Andre Schoeman Western Province Western Province    
1985 - Adrian Pilling Natal Natal    
1984 - John Adams Orange Free State Orange Free State    
1983 Mike Seymour - Orange Free State Northern Transvaal    
1982 Mike Seymour - Orange Free State Orange Free State    
1981 - - Western Province Western Province    
1980 - - Orange Free State Orange Free State    
1979 - - Northern Transvaal -    
1978 - - Namibia -    
1974 - - - Western Province    
1971 - - - Natal    
1970 - - - Natal    
1969 - - - Natal    
1968 - - - Durban Wings Club    
1967 - - - Durban Wings Club    

2010 SA National Precision Flying Championships

Click here for more picturesClick here for more picturesBrits, 25 – 27 November 2010
By Adrian Pilling
Well can you believe it another year has passed and another National Championships has come and gone. Once again the ever-willing Brits Flying Club stepped up to the plate and offered their considerable experience and dedication in hosting the event.
Brits has a well-earned reputation when it comes to running competitions, and as expected the event went off like clockwork. This is great news as Brits will be the host airfield for the 20th FAI World Precision Flying Championships in October 2011. It would be difficult to imagine a better-prepared group of dedicated individuals to welcome our International colleagues!

Throughout the week the pilots flew in from all the corners of the province – and the country - to prepare for battle.

Wednesday 25th November
The official briefing took place at the clubhouse on Wednesday evening. Pilots old and new listened in much the same way passengers old and new attend commercial in-flight briefings – with a focus proportionate to their inexperience. Tony and Deon explained the proceedings in detail and Frank opened the competition in his capacity as Chairman of SAPFA. An informal dinner was enjoyed and the pilots retired for the evening.

Thursday 26th November
Before commencement of competition, the official briefing was held in the tent provided by our generous sponsors at the African Outdoor Group (AOG). It started promptly at 8am after which the pilots scattered to their various corners in anticipation of their start times.

The first papers were presented at 9am sharp and the pilots began their plotting. Route “blue” consisted of nine legs, plenty of interesting countryside and some challenging turning points. It started just to the east of the airfield and routed in a clockwise direction around the Brits area. The first pilot exited the flight planning hangar at 10am and was airborne by 10h15. Subsequent departures followed in businesslike fashion at intervals of five minutes.

On return each pilot was immediately debriefed by Jacques and Tony in the AOG rig. Jacques took care of the observation and Tony dealt with the timing. Within minutes of landing each pilot had his full score.

There were some tense moments in the program when some of the pilots almost departed without their loggers. This device is critical to the flight as it shows the track and timing to the judges. So without it the pilot would have earned a maximum score – and as with golf, that’s a bad thing.

The organisers faced some interesting challenges. Barry de Groot arrived from Durban in the afternoon, having been delayed by weather. He had to be briefed, issued with his papers and fitted in. Jan Hanekom suffered a mechanical problem but it was soon arranged that he could share ZS-IWD which then had to fly three times. So getting it all together so well is a real tribute to the organisers.

Some of the pilots were surprised to see how many penalties they had racked up at the secret timing points. Several pilots missing the timing gates altogether!!!
Once all the pilots had returned the provisional results were announced. A period of time was allowed for the protests and after they were lodged with the organisers the pilots retired for the night as the results would only be posted the next morning. This procedure laid out the pattern for the remainder of the competition.

Friday 27th November
The pilot briefing was again held at 8am in the AOG tent and the final results of Day 1 were announced. There were some surprises and a few position changes from the provisional results.
The official standings for Day 1 were:
Hans Schwebel 409
Ron Stirk 489
Mary de Klerk 522
Jan Hanekom 629
Frank Eckard 733
Jonty Esser 752
Adrian Pilling 758
Barry de Groot 832
Closely followed by Walter Walle, Mike Cathro, Steve Van Der Merwe, Rob Kennedy and Thys Van Der Merwe.

With these results in mind, the earliest pilot took off at 10h15 to maintain or regain position. Route “red” proved to be more challenging taking the competitors around Hartebeespoort Dam and over the Magaliesberg. The photos were particularly cunning and some of the checkpoints were a real challenge. On return, some of the pilots were shaking their heads in disbelief, while others were grinning widely.
This day brought no protests, and so the provisional results were declared final. They were as follows:
Frank Eckard 304
Adrian Pilling 455
Barry de Groot 491
Mary de Klerk 499
Jan Hanekom 592
Ron Stirk 652
Hans Schwebel 784
Jonty Esser 1134
Closely followed by Rob Kennedy, Walter Walle, Mike Cathro, Thys Van Der Merwe and Steve Van Der Merwe.

So as those of you reading with calculators in hand will know, at this point there were just 200 points separating the top four contenders. The pilots and their families went out for a well-deserved supper in Brits town.

Saturday 27th Nov
Saturday was always going to be interesting. There were to be three competitions held on the same day. The landings portion of the South African National Precision Flying Championships, the South African National Landing Championships and the Virtual Flyers Landing Championships, all at the same time.

The briefing at 8am was a complicated affair, covering all three upcoming events. The microlight pilots were well represented as part of the National Landing Championships event. Tony explained that each competitor would be flying eight landings. The plan was for each pilot to fly two circuits and landings, take a short break and repeat. After lunch another four landings would be flown, again in sets of two.

Given the lesser tolerance for wind of the microlights, proceedings were changed to allow them to fly all eight landings in one set. For the power flyers it was understood that all eight landings would count towards the National Landings Championship (the worst score of the eight being dropped), while the last four were to be counted towards the landing segment of the National Precision Flying Championships.

As the landings proceeded, the Virtual flyers were flying the same landings on their computers at a virtual Britz runway. The airfield was busy indoors and out.
The wind increased as the day progressed. By lunchtime it was gusting down the runway and occasionally swinging to a 90 degrees crosswind. All in all, a real challenge for the afternoon. Add to that high temperatures which left most pilots very grateful for the gazebos provided by AOG at the landing line. The marshals were particularly hard hit by the strong sun - well done guys.

The afternoon session was a real eye opener. Even experienced pilots were battling the wind and some of the results were horrible to say the least. Even experienced pilots were caught out by the lift generated by the runway, and the variable crosswind pushed several pilots to the limit. Several landings were completely out of the box. One intrepid pilot even decided to eliminate the obstacle she was supposed to land over.

Many pilots finished the session dejected and frustrated at the number of penalties received. All the while the virtual pilots were fighting their own wars. As the judges performed the video reviews, the virtual boys had managed to finish their competition and the results were:-
Stephan Burger 1035 Junior Champion
Dawie Burger 1210 Senior Champion
Kyle Kunz 1520 Junior Runner Up
Andre Potgieter 1555 Senior Runner Up
Renaldo Potgieter 1570 Junior
JP Kruger 1755 Senior
Kyto Kunz 1870 Senior
The virtual pilots did themselves proud and are a credit to the sport.
Back at the clubhouse preparations were being made for the prize giving ceremony and all the partners and supporters were hurriedly working in the background to make the evening a success.

Once the landing results were included the final results for the South African National Precision Flying Championships 2010 are:-
Adrian Pilling Gold Medal & Landing Champion
Hans Schwebel Silver Medal
Ron Stirk Bronze Medal
Jan Hanekom Observation Trophy
Barry De Groot Navigation Trophy
Hans Schwebel Best PPL
Mary de Klerk Best Lady
Brits Flying Club Best Club
North West Province Best Province
The results for the South African National Landing Championships 2010 are:-
Adrian Pilling 118 Gold Medal
Mike Cathro 162 Silver Medal
Hans Schwebel 242 Bronze Medal
Barry de Groot 318
Ron Stirk 322
Jonty Esser 382
Dale de Klerk 474
Jan Hanekom 480
Frank Eckard
Mary de Klerk
Steve Van Der Merwe
Rob Kennedy
Thys Van Der Merwe
Walter Walle

This National Championship is particularly important as it forms one of the two part qualification process for the upcoming 20th World Precision Flying Championships to be held at Brits in October 2011. Congratulations to everyone who took part, especially those who earned a place on the podium.

As part of the Award ceremony, Hans Schwebel presented Tony Russell and Frank Eckard with their badges as International Judges.

As usual there are numerous unmentioned people who make our enjoyment of these events possible, and make their organization seem easy. I would like to give tribute to them. As usual, Brits Flying Club excelled itself. A special thanks to Ursula Schwebel, Nella van der Walt, Brenda van den Berg, Tinka Hannekom and Renata for all their work around the club house and to Tyren Henderson, Dewald Hatting, Piet van den Berg, Cally Eckard, Sandy Goddard and Johannes Hermann for their assistance as marshals. I for one know that they will do a smashing job of hosting World Precision Flying Championships in 2011.

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2011 SA National Precision Flying Championships

by Adrian Pilling
As usual the Brits Flying Club stepped up to the plate and put on a spectacular event for the competing teams. Crews flew in from around the country and congregated at the airfield for the National Championships. One pilot Henk Koster having arrived a week early to fit in extra training for the event.

This particular event being extra important as it is the second leg of the selection process for the National Team to represent South Africa at the World Championships to be held in October. And what’s more, the worlds will be held at Brits itself. So for the first time in a long time we will have home ground advantage.

The event was run according to the new world format, taking the best part of a week to get through the various events.

MONDAY 4th
Most crews arrived to practice and get accustomed to the area. The great hospitality of the Brits club made all instantly feel at home. The weather was good and most managed to get in a few good practice navigations and some landing practice.

TUESDAY 5th – Official Landing Practice
The pilots busied themselves with various practice navigations and prepared themselves for the official Landing Practice session to be run in the afternoon. Jacques had the landing equipment out and ready for the official practice session in the afternoon. Deon the Competition Director and Tony the SAPFA Vice Chairman were at the landing line to judge.

Each plane took to the air in turn and completed the 4 prescribed landings on runway 02. The landings were all good and Adrian the 2010 champion was again top of the log for the day.
That evening the competition was officially declared open at a supper held in the club house. Ominous weather reports were filtering for the next day. Everyone had fun and retired fairly early to prepare for the morning.

WEDNESDAY 6th – Official Practice Day 1
After the 8am briefing the Competition Director Deon, announced that the anticipated early take off for the navigation section had been delayed for an hour due to low cloud. This hour came and went and another hour delay was announced. This too proved to be a problem and Deon took to the skies in his own plane to check on the route. He landed just 30 minutes later to announce that the navigation must be postponed as the cloud was just too low. After a quick briefing it was decided to run the official landing practice. The competition suddenly got serious as this set of landings will count as the official landings should the weather deteriorate in the coming days. The results of the landing practice were:-
1 Adrian Pilling 14 Penalties
2 Ron Stirk 72 Penalties
3 Hans Schwebel 122 Penalties
4 Jan Hanekom 190 Penalties
5 Frank Eckard 204 Penalties

As the weather continued to hang around it was decided to call it a day and the pilots and organisers retired to the club house, After a brief period the landing results were posted on the board and suddenly the competition was on. Now things were serious. The weather was still looking ominous and what’s more several out of town pilots were grounded and could not get through to the competition.

THURSDAY 7th Official Practice Day 2
The 8am briefing was held and the we were all told that if the weather situation got worse the results from yesterday and today will count for the competition (this being the new world format) and ultimately for the selection of the national team. Barry de Groot managed to make it through the bad weather from Durban and Mike Cathro also made it through. Both joining the competition. We missed Jonty who was in recovery due to a horse riding incident and could not make it (be careful of those one horsepower vehicles!!!).

The weather has been checked and the competition director gave the thumbs up for the competition to commence. The first pilot went into flight planning at 8h45 and was airborne at 10am. The planes departed at 10 minute intervals and the competition was on. The route selected for today is the Yellow route which boasted 7 legs, 8 photos, ground markers and 25 timed points. This was truly a test for the pilots.

After all the pilots had returned they were debriefed and the results were posted on the board for all to see. The first 5 positions were (top 5 only)::-
1 Adrian Pilling 530
2 Mary de Klerk 650
3 Hans Schwebel 742
4 Ron Stirk 746
5 Jan Hanekom 817

Then after a quick lunch it was on to the official landing practice. To make matters more interesting, runway 20 was in use so the crews were faced with a landing competition on a runway that they had not practiced on. Well this really scattered the field and at the end of the day the top 5 landing positions were (top 5 only)::-
1 Jan Hanekom 70
2 Mary De Klerk 108
3 Frank Eckard 120
4 Ron Stirk 158
5 Hans Schwebel 210

Adrian Pilling (8th position) had a video query on his second landing and decided to protest, which triggered a procedure with all the results remaining provisional until the protest had been resolved.
Don’t forget that if the following few days had bad weather (and the forecast was not good), and the landings could not be run, then these results would stand.

The pilots enjoyed a great supper at the Brits Flying Club and after checking on the weather forecast Adrian withdrew his protest and the landing results became final.

FRIDAY 8th Official Day 1
The day dawned bright but overcast. The briefing at 8am started on time and the support team provided a great breakfast for us all. Tony and Deon provided a great briefing and after all was done wished the crews all the best. The first pilot was into flight planning at 8h45 and airborne at 10h00. The route for today was the Blue Route.

2011 Precision Nationals2011 Precision NationalsAround noon the pilots started to return and by lunch time Tony and Deon were working on the scores and Jacques was setting up the landing equipment. After a brief lunch it was down to the landing line and thank goodness it was runway 02 and not runway 20.

The landings were held in two sets of two landings with the power and glide in #1 and the glide without flaps and the barrier in #2. The aircraft experienced variable winds with a few gusts challenging the competitors. After completing the two sets each, the nervous pilots walked back to the club house where the navigation results were posted on the wall. Wow none of us could believe what high penalties we had. There was much grumbling.

Tony explained that there was an error in the navigation in that a runway that was used as a turning point was incorrectly marked on the map and this had generated massive penalties for the competitors. A recalculation of the route was done electronically. Three legs were effectively cancelled and the secret timing points being moved onto the remaining of the legs. This gave some competitors huge penalties. At this time the landing results were also released and the results are as follows (top 5 only):
Navigation:- Landings:-
1 Hans Schwebel 461 1 Adrian Pilling 58
2 Jan Hanekom 931 2 Hans Schwebel 78
3 Mary de Klerk 1023 3 Mary de Klerk 124
4 Walter Walle 1043
5 Adrian Pilling 1084
A great party was had by all and then off to bed to get the necessary rest for the coming day.

SATURDAY 9TH Official Day 2
After a great breakfast and a briefing at 8am sharp the competition was put on hold as an hour delay due to weather was in force. Later an additional hour was added and then it was all systems go. With yesterdays high penalties fresh in everyone’s mind, most were determined to improve their scores.
The Red Route was flown comprising 5 very long legs over sparse country. A simple trick by the organisers to lull the pilots into a false sense of security. There were 9 photos, 5 ground markers and 21 timed points for this competition. The pilots were so hyped up for this that one pilot, Ron, actually forgot to take his loggers along and so incurred the maximum penalties for the route.
Well after the regulation 90 minutes or so the pilots returned and after a very efficient debriefing session the results were announced (Top 5 only):-
1 Adrian Pilling 278
2 Jan Hanekom 490
3 Barry de Groot 509
4 Hans Schwebel 692
5 Mary de Klerk 756

This left us all working out who was first, second, etc. The pilots busied themselves with these calculations and a few took families and friend for a flip around the airfield. As 6pm approached the pilots got dressed and entered the Brits Flying Club which looked spectacular. As usual the ladies in the back had made the place look stunning and the food was equally great.
Tony was the MC and as usual he did a sterling job. The necessary thank yous were made and the final overall results announced as follows:-
First Hans Schwebel 1231 Gold Medal + Timing Trophy
Second Adrian Pilling 1420 Silver Medal
Third Jan Hanekom 1571 Bronze Medal
Fourth Mary de Klerk 1903 Observation Trophy
Fifth Barry de Groot 2088
Sixth Frank Eckard 2289
Seventh Walter Walle 2545
Eighth Mike Cathro 2842
Ninth Thys Van Der Merwe 3014
Tenth Henk Koster 3276
Eleventh Ron Stirk 3777

The Landing Results were already known as:
First Adrian Pilling 58 Gold Medal
Second Hans Schwebel 78 Silver Medal
Third Mary de Klerk 124 Bronze Medal
Fourth Barry de Groot 126
Fifth Ron Stirk 132
Sixth Jan Hanekom 150
Seventh Frank Eckard 178
Eighth Walter Walle 246
Ninth Mike Cathro 254
Tenth Thys Van der Merwe 276
Eleventh Henk Koster 648

Then of course the big announcement for the evening. The selection of the National Team to the World Precision Flying Championships to be held in October at Brits. The team was announced, based on the previous Nationals and this Nationals performance as:-
Adrian Pilling, Hans Schwebel, Ron Stirk, Jan Hanekom, Barry de Groot, Mary de Klerk and Frank Eckard.
Captain Thys Van Der Merwe was elected as manager but had to stand down as there was a scheduling conflict with the airline where he works. Later the committee elected Frank Eckard as Coach, Nigel Hopkins as Assistant Coach and the post of Manager is waiting to be fulfilled. Adrian Pilling was elected Team Captain.

A big thank you to all at the Brits Flying Club and to Deon, Jacques, Tony and all those who made this wonderful event happen.

More pictures Here

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