We are almost on the eve of the 2017 World Aerobatic Championships, and I think that it is important to pause and reflect for a moment on how we got to this auspicious point, which certainly represents a highlight in the history of South African sport aerobatics specifically, and for our wider aviation community too.
South Africa has for a long time enjoyed a proud aerobatic heritage, we have been active on the world aerobatics stage since the 1960s.
Not only have we been active, but we have also been victorious having fielded two world champions Glen Dell and Michel Leusch, who we remember fondly, and still miss greatly.
Aside from these two international victories we have also seen South African pilots visit the international podium in second and third places several times.
It is a fact that our pilots have attained huge credibility within the international arena.
Our achievements have not only been confined to the cockpit. We have a number of judges who have achieved accolades for their judging accuracy, and are held in high esteem across the world. A South African has also carried the mantle of chief judge more times than anyone else in international competition.
We have also shown our mettle in being able to conceive and successfully host the very first World Advanced Aerobatic Championships back in 1995 as well as the first Intermediate World Championships more recently in Mossel Bay.
There is no doubt that South Africa is a valued member of the international aerobatic fraternity, and one could argue that taking into account the relativity small size of our countries GDP we certainly box way above our weight category when it comes to aerobatics.
And now we are about to host the Unlimited Aerobatic Championship in the country, this is the very top of the sport aviation pyramid; and by the looks of things WAC 2017 is set to be another cracker of a contest.
I would like to pay tribute to the following people for helping us to get to this point –
To John Gaillard for never giving up and for powering through to see this event become a reality against some huge odds.
To Quintin Hawthorne for being the most reliable guy I have ever met. Q works quietly in the background, he is always there in support, always getting stuff done, always applying very wise judgement, and always making the correct decisions; moreover he does all this without fanfare or reward, and without upsetting people. Quintin always has the clubs interest at heart first and foremost. I am certain that most members of the SAC would be very surprised to learn just how much Q has done, I can guarantee that without him we would not be hosting WAC 2017 in South Africa.
To “Cliffy the magnificent” for arranging our largest sponsor and for getting stuck in on the ground to get so much done.
To Annie for picking up whatever ball needed picking up and successfully running with it, whether it be in her traditional role as team manager, or project manager, or what else she is needed to do.
To Adam for organising the opening and closing ceremonies, and to Glenn Warden for helping with this too.
To the rest of the committee Laz, Barrie, Helm, Nigel, Mark Hensman, Mike, Neville and Natalie, for all the effort you have put into this event.
To Alan Haynes Chairman of the Aeroclub who has also been a huge help, as has Santjie White.
To Kelly for an awesome logo that has set the tone of excellence for this contest.
Thanks to an old member Jason Alexander for doing the video and making a documentary, welcome back pal.
Thanks also to all the helpers and officials who will be at the event, I will not list you all as I am sure to leave people out in error.
And thank-you also to CIVA and the FAI for placing their faith in the SAC.
And a very special thanks to an honorary SAC member Mel Preddy. Mel lives in Malelane and heads up local business council. It is not possible to thank him enough for all that he has done. There would certainly not be a contest without him. It is as a direct result of his credibility and the esteem with which he is held by the local community that the people of Melalane have opened their hearts to us and made this event possible. Mel Preddy is a credit to Melalane and indeed to South Africa.
Finally to our national team – Nigel, Mark, Patrick, Bertus, Barrie, Neville, Sammy and Leigh. You guys are already champions to have made it to this point. Each of you has attained an enviable reputation as a highly skilled and professional aviator and athlete on the local aviation scene, and many of you have achieved similar accolade internationally too, in both the competition and airshow contexts (on that note well done on Red Bull Paddy).
To me, even more impressive than your demonstrated flying skill is the human story behind each one of your journeys to this point. I know you all personally and I understand the sustained and dedicated commitment that you have invested to get you were you are. I have seen your sacrifices in money and time, and I have understood the emotional investment and the perseverance, the sweat and yes sometimes the tears too. You are all a brilliant bunch of people and a magnificent team.
You already make South Africa proud, we wish you all good success.
Fly Good, because You Guys Can’t Suck.
I understand and accept that the inherent nature of aerobatic flight places demands on both equipment and aircrew that necessitate higher levels of safety vigilance than almost all other flight operations.
I understand that the two most important components of safety in aerobatics are knowledge and self-discipline. Knowledge to be able to identify hazardous conditions and circumstances, and self-discipline to proactively avoid such hazards.
I am sensitive to the reality that once the basic handling skills have been mastered, the resultant euphoria of aerobatics can often induce displays of unwarranted overconfidence and showmanship which often lead to misjudgement and other dangerous practices beyond the ability of pilots and equipment.
As a member of the aerobatics fraternity I have an obligation to inform other aerobatic pilots of any of their actions that I deem hazardous. In turn, I have an obligation to accept such critique when offered to me by fellow pilots.
I recognise that aerobatics attract significant attention, and hence I have an obligation to exhibit high levels of airmanship in order to set an example of professionalism at all times.
The opportunity to fly aerobatics is an extraordinary privilege requiring extraordinary levels of maturity, discipline and judgement.
Deserve the right to be part of aerobatics.
We are all still reeling from the dreadful news of Michel's accident at an airshow on Saturday 27 August 2016, and I am certain that the entire Sport Aerobatic Club as well as the wider aviation fraternity will be deeply affected by his passing for a very very long time.
DURBAN SKY GP
With the launch of the SKY GP in Durban held recently we are blessed to have the
international pilots back on our soil at the end of May 2016.
The 5 International pilots competing in this years SKY GP will be:
We look forward to seeing you all there - book at Computicket now.
NEW ACTIVE AEROBATIC BOXES
Kitty Hawk, Tempe, Middleburg & Uitenhage all have active aerobatic boxes as of
March this year. We will be able to host aerobatic events at these locations in the
near future. These new aerobatic boxes together with Vereeniging and
Syferfontein will help to promote the sport in a safe way.
There are standard procedures for the activation and closure of these boxes.
Please refer to the document in the Briefing Room on this website.
It is with great pride and joy that I get to congratulate Michel Leusch on his new title. WORLD INTERMEDIATE AEROBATIC CHAMPION.
The event was not without its interruptions from the weather as two competition program flights could not be completed. I doubt if it would have had any effect on Michel’s overall score but for the rest it could have.
The feedback from every pilot who flew was positive and we all learned a lot from the experience. Some local pilots had their first introduction to international judges and this would be very valuable going forward to prepare for future comps around the world.
The British Pilots could not believe how they were treated as celebrities in Swellendam by the town locals. "We can only try but will fail to make you guys feel as welcome in the UK compared to the South African experience" they said. The New Zealand team manager wished they had our energy as they can only scrape two competitions together a year.
We can all agree that this was a successful event held at a brilliant venue. As we flew in on Thursday I was greeted with a 40 Knot Headwind into Bloemfontein. It was cold and with that wind, there was clearly no flying in the box. Friday morning with icy conditions and wind-chill below 0 deg we got flying only around 9am. The benefit of these cold conditions was good engine performance.
The amount of work that has gone into building such an incredible aerobatic box marked on the ground was clearly visible from the sky above. Wally Goodrich and Conrad Botha have created the best looking aerobatic box in South Africa, if not in most parts of the world.
Gary Whitecross has joined the SAC with his Pilatus B4 Glider and kicked off what hopefully sooner rather than later will become a great new following in aerobatic competition flying in RSA.
Would you believe it, we did not get blown away! The week started with winds up to 35Kts on the ground and stronger in the box. The last 2 days,although cold,were windless compared to the start of the week with unbelievable flying conditions.
Some pilots flew their first competitions at Nationals and we are pleased to see new talent joining our family. The evening socials as always are very enjoyable, and once again the folks at the Klerksdorp Airfield delivered.
The winners of each class were:
Sportsman -Jason Alexander
Advanced -Elton Bondi
Unlimited -Nigel Hopkins
Freestyle -Nigel Hopkins
By Neville Ferreira