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.