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2009 SA National Landing Championships
BRITS - FABS - 3 & 4 JULY 2009
By Mary de Klerk
The South African Landing Championships were held last weekend at Brits Airfield out in the North West Province. This is a very popular venue with local Gautengers for many reasons. It is unmanned, the approach is clean and flat, there is plenty of parking space, fuel is on hand, but most importantly the club house always sports a friendly face with a hearty “bord kos” and hot coffee.
This year saw a record entry of 32 participants. The entries comprised five Microlights, seven Virtual Aviators, nine Sportman's Class and eleven Open Class pilots.
The event was directed by the well known and respected aviation stalwart, Deon van den Berg. He was ably supported by Chris Booysen, the current chairman of SAPFA, as Chief Jury, and Jacques Jacobs, the infamous International Judge in the position of Chief Landing Judge. Antony Russell was the video judge.
Aircraft started arriving on Friday 3rd July from 12H00. A briefing was held and twice world champion lander, Ron Stirk, and Jan Hanekom, briefed the competitors on how to execute the kind of landings required for this competition.
The “bingo box” was set up on Runway 02 and a team of marshals was on hand to assist competitors with their practice landings.
The competitors are required to do 2 x 4 kinds of landings:
1. Normal Powered Approach using Flaps
2. Powered Approach over a 2m Barrier 50m before the landing line
3. Glide Approach from 1000’ abeam the threshold using Flaps
4. Glide Approach from 1000’ abeam the threshold using no Flaps.
Each competitor is allowed to drop the score of his/her worst landing and the winner will be the competitor with the lowest score.
The landing box spans 80m in length and is set up with painted lines 1m apart. The Bingo Line is 2m wide and the objective is to put the main wheels down on the Bingo Line and thereby incur zero penalties. Landing short of the line is very expensive as far as penalties go, but landing after the line less so.
Competition day dawned and brought with it a healthy cross wind from the North East. After the briefing, the competition got under way at about 09H00. Aircraft were sent off in batches of 4 with the Microlights setting the pace.
Early on in the day, it was easy to see that the wind was going to be a huge challenge. By midday it proved too much for the Microlights when Roel Jansen arrived gracefully doing the dreaded “goose step”. This is where one tyre digs into the tar and sets up a series of side waddling oscillations which tend to grow with each step. It is pretty much unrecoverable, and in Roel’s case ended up in a slow motion forward tilt onto his nose with no damage to him and minimal to his craft. The 911 Ambulance was fast on the scene but fortunately was not required. I think the spectators needed more attention than the pilot. After this incident the Microlight section was stopped and results were given from 3 sets of landings already completed. As it happened, Roel ended up in first place in his section.
Even the fixed wing aircraft found the conditions quite challenging, but fortunately there were no further incidents and all landed safely. It was very encouraging to see that lots of newcomers to the sport were brave enough to take on the challenge and improve their skills. As Ron Stirk said “It matters not whether you come first or last, what matters is that you have participated, and at the end of today, you will have improved your landing skills”. It was particularly good practice for the 3 pilots, Hans Schwebel, Ron Stirk and Mary de Klerk, leaving on 11th July to compete in the World Precision Flying Championships in Poland.
Back in the clubhouse, there was a hive of activity with an entire section cordoned off to accommodate that elite group of aviators flying their virtual machines. This talented group of Virtual Aviators fly in exactly the same conditions as the actual ones do, except indoors on a computer. “This is no mean task” says Hans Schwebel, the current SA Landing Champion, who tried his hand at landing virtually, “it is extremely challenging to fly these virtual aircraft and it requires an enormous amount of skill”. Freek Stegman, the Chairman of the Association of Virtual Aviation of South Africa, says that Virtual Aviation is a growing sport not only in South Africa, but worldwide. “With the costs of flying aeroplanes becoming so prohibitive, we are finding more and more aviators supporting their sport by training virtually. We also have a groundswell of youth entering the sport, which is very encouraging indeed.”
The Prize giving was held in the clubhouse and the results were as follows:
1st Postion - Andre Potgieter - ZV-CCO
2nd Position - Dave Burger - ZV-DHP
3rd Position - Freek Stegman - ZV-GFS
1st Junior - Kyle Kunz
1st Postion - Roel Jansen - AZP
2nd Position - C Botha - KCB
3rd Position - J van den Berg - BUD
1st Postion - M van Niekerk - MJM
2nd Position - M Rodger - IYW
3rd Position - S Pretorius - CXY
1st Postion - Hans Scwebel - IWD
2nd Position - Jonty Esser - EIL
3rd Position - Jan Hanekom - JAD