By Dane Laing, as published in www.flightlineweekly.com
As a young boy, I always dreamed of taking to the air, when I left school I was adamant to start my flying career as soon as possible and was fortunate enough to realise this at a young age.
I now have amassed over 5600 hours and currently flying for a local airline but one of my aviation dreams had still not been realised until fairly recently that is. I’ve always wanted to delve into the adrenaline-filled world of aerobatics and thanks to the dedicated guys at the Sport Aerobatics Club (SAC) this is finally becoming a reality.
The journey began when a beautiful Vans RV4 appeared on the market, my father decided to purchase the machine giving me access to an aerobatic capable aircraft. The RV range of aircraft is the perfect all-round aircraft that allows you to perform “gentlemen aerobatics" with some going very far in professional aerobatics.
I had been shown some basic aerobatic manoeuvres in the RV4 but had never had any formal aero training. The only manoeuvre I was comfortable to perform on my own was an aileron roll but craved more and needed some proper training in the aircraft.
The SAC arranged a number of RV aerobatic training camps throughout 2019 and word got around in the RV Fraternity, all very positive I must add. When I heard about a camp being hosted early in 2020, pre-Covid days, I jumped at the opportunity.
The camp consisted of two days of thorough briefings as well as a number of flights with an aerobatic instructor going through the various basic and slightly advanced aerobatic manoeuvres. Unfortunately, due to work commitments, I was only able to attend one day of training and was unable to complete the course. I did, however, learn a lot through my instructor, Elton Bondi, and left feeling a lot more confident and with immense respect for aerobatic flying.
A few months had passed since the aerobatic camp with no real practice from my side due in part to the restriction on general aviation during lock-down, my confidence had all but disappeared.
Fortunately, a close family friend, Jaco Van Zyl, who has been flying competition aerobatics in his RV7 for a number of years, reignited my passion. He took me up in his RV7 and coached me through the basic the aero manoeuvres, which allowed me to regain my confidence, I then went out and practised in the RV4.
Jaco then reintroduced me to Gary Glasson and Eugene du Preez from the SAC and with their help and a lot of “crit" was able to iron out some of my bad habits and greatly improve my flying. I was finally signed out by Nigel Hopkins to perform the graduate sequence allowing me to finally pursue my dream of flying competition aerobatics. I hope to graduate to Sportsman Level at the next coaching clinic which will be held at Kitty Hawk on the 7th and 8th of August.
One thing I can say for sure is, “no amount of flying experience will help you when starting aerobatic flying”. It is flying on another level, a level that I would highly recommend to any pilot. Aerobatic flying has opened up another world for me in aviation. The camaraderie in the aerobatic fraternity is unbelievable. Everyone is there to help make you a better pilot. If you own or have access to an RV you would do very well to join one of the clinics planned and step out into a new world of flying.
In terms of the SACAA General Notice 2020/003 dated 3 July 2020, aerobatics may now be flown with certain restrictions to be observed. Pilots are required to submit a request for approval to fly via the Aero Club of SA website using their application portal http://www.aeroclub.org.za/proficiency-recency-flight-requests/
The SAC Standard Operating Procedures for Recency flights are to be adhered to at any SAC convened aerobatic event. All persons attending an SAC event are required to complete a Covid Screening questionnaire. Excercising suitable social distancing and the wearing of a face mask or scarf is mandatory.
The 2020 SA National Championships was scheduled to take place on 16-21 June at Tempe Airfield. However due to the restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, we have decided to reschedule this contest to a later date. The new dates will be 4-7 August 29 Sept - 3 October 2020.
There is an airshow planned for the 4th of October in Tempe but this is dependent on the public gathering restriction being lifted.
If we are not able to have an airshow then the contest will begin a day later and will then be scheduled from 5-8 August 30 September 2020.
A team from the SAC was recently invited to conduct a training camp in Swakopmund, Namibia for local RV owners. By all accounts it was a successful venture and enjoyed favourable compliments from the participants. Read the recently posted article on Flightline Weekly Online magazine, below.
Johnie Smith, Quintin Hawthorne, John Gaillard
Two SAC judges were honoured at the 2019 Aero Club Awards function held at Rand Airport. Quintin Hawthorne and Johnie Smith both received Special Recognition awards for their achievements at World Championship events during 2019 where each was ranked first at the World Aerobatic Championships (WAC) held in France, and the World Intermediate Aerobatic Championships (WIAC) held in the Czech Republic, respectively. Judges are assessed and ranked according to their ability to correctly apply the requisite judging criteria and to correctly rank the pilots overall placing.
While attending the World Aerobatic Championships in France earlier this year, I came across a newly released book that has, as it turns out, an important South African aviation connection. Written by acclaimed aviation author Annette Carson, Camel Pilot Supreme tells the story of a South African born pilot who achieved fame during the Great War.
It was with sadness that we learnt of the passing of Ian Popplewell on 6 October 2019 after an illness bravely borne. Ian was one of the longest serving members of the Sport Aerobatic Club and apart from the most recent years, he was actively involved with aerobatics for almost 40 years. Based at Baragwanath from where he flew his DH Chipmunk, Tiger Moth and Pitts S2A aircraft in local competitions, Ian served on the committee of the SAC for many years and in his quiet inimitable manner, got whatever task he accepted, done. He was Team Manager of the team that competed at the 1986 World Championships in England for which he was awarded National Colours.
Our condolences and thoughts go out to his wife Helen and their extended family.
RIP Ian Popplewell.
There’s a bunch of pilots who dedicate lot of time working behind the scenes, sharing their aerobatic knowledge and experience with those still new to the sport. These good spirited guys spend a chunk of their free time over weekends training and coaching others to become more proficient at the sport. All with the goal of achieving better scores at contests. Because that’s what you need. Better scores. Those in the know will tell you that trying to better your skills on your own is just a waste of time and avgas. Having someone on the ground who has been there already, offering advice on the little tricks and nuances to get you those scores is a no brainer! And it’s safer! However, not everyone is within easy flying reach of these dedicated guys, so what to do? No problem, they’ll make a plan to head over to an airfield near you.
The 2019 World Aerobatic Championships – a judging perspective.
The pinnacle of achievement for any sport aerobatic competitor is winning the World Aerobatic Championship at Unlimited level. Beating the worlds best is no mean feat and it obviously takes an enormous amount of practice, time and money to be able to reach that level of expertise. Sport Aerobatics is still an amateur sporting discipline and unlike golf and tennis and any major achievement is limited to the respect and admiration of your peers and somewhat devoid of major media exposure. However, the aerobatic community across the globe shows a keen interest in these major achievements, and that’s what matters.
It is with sadness that we've learnt of the passing of both Mike McAuley and Val Otten in a car accident recently. Janet McAuley was injured during the accident. Our sincere condolences go to both families and we wish Janet a speedy recovery.
Mike was a long time member of the SAC based at Baragwanath and competed in contests from the 1970's to 2000. He was a close friend of Noel Otten who succumbed to illness earlier this year. Mike was also an accomplished aerobatic judge and was part of the judging team that represented South Africa at WAC in 1990.
RIP Mike and Val
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