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2006 SA National Landing Championships
The competition was run along the same lines as the landing section of the World Precision Flying Championships and comprised four different landings viz a normal landing, two glide approaches, one flapless and a normal landing with a two meter barrier 50 meters before the landing box.
A number of potential competitors and organisers could not make it to Tempe as the weather conditions along the coast from George to Durban were terrible, with low cloud and rain. Walter Walle had to give up his place as competitor to assist Hennie Stander and Jacques Jacobs with the organisation and scoring.
The landings are scored using a sophisticated “Bingo Box” that has a series of tubes across the runway linked to a control box that registers the point that the wheels first touch. Visual scoring is also necessary to detect abnormal landings, bounces and other events requiring penalties.
Weather conditions were very difficult for the event. There was wind and also a great deal of turbulence with up and down drafts.
There were only fourteen entries including an unofficial entry of a gyro. Numbers were low as the event was not well advertised. It was probably also held far too late into the year with most pilots thinking of Christmas holidays (or all the work that needed to be finished before the end of the year). There was an interesting selection of aircraft from a Bonanza to a Yak 52.
Competition was expected to be stiff with the current World Landing Champion, Ron Stirk expected to be the man to beat. There were five competitors that had been part of the Protea team that competed in France.
After the first landing (normal landing with the use of power, if needed) Ron knew he would not have it all his way. Ron scored 42 penalties and Hans Schwebel and Lucas Wiese performed good landings with 7 and 14 points respectively.
The second landing is a glide approach with the use of flaps permitted. After the second landing newcomer Schalk Kotze gave notice that he would be a serious contender for the gold medal. His landing was only 2 meters after the landing box resulting in 4 penalties. This feat was equalled by Mary de Klerk. Hans and Lucas maintained their positions as the top two pilots.
Then came the third landing, this time a glide approach with the use of flaps not permitted. With glide approaches the power is cut on downwind, abeam the threshold at 100ft. The use of power after that is not permitted (except of course for a go-around). Lucas missed the full landing box and incurred 150 penalty points. This put him out of medal contention. By this time the medal positions were becoming more obvious with Hans, Schalk, Mary and Ron all having good landings. Hans would have to have a bad final landing if someone was going to take the gold medal from him.
The final landing was the barrier landing. While the barrier does not interfere with a normal landing approach, it does psychologically. Frank Eckard and Jan Hanekom decided to show the participants how it should be done. Both hit the “Bingo” line and scored the only two zeros for the day. If only they had practised more! Once again the top contenders all had reasonable landings.
Gold went to Hans Schwebel, Silver to Schalk Kotze and Silver to Ron Stirk. Mary de Klerk in 4th position had the same score as Ron but a countdown starting with the more difficult landing gave Ron the medal.
As usual the Free State hospitality was excellent and the prize-giving function was a fun affair. Apart from the medals the top five competitors were awarded Provincial Flying Colours for complying with the requirements laid down by SAPFA.