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.
Captain DV Armstrong, who hailed from Durban, left South Africa in 1915 to join the RFC and went on to become a legend for his feats in the little Sopwith Camel fighter plane. His superb piloting skills and mastery of the aircraft saw him earn key successes against the enemy in the aerial war and was also to put him in great demand as a flying instructor. He was considered to be the ‘finest pilot the Royal Flying Corps ever produced’. My interest was really piqued when I read of his dazzling aerobatic performances; his low-level loops from take-off and flick rolls after bouncing the little Camel on the runway before landing, were legendary and the young pilot quickly earned the reputation of being the ‘best aerobatic pilot of his day, bar none’.
Along with a pilot’s-eye-view of flying WW1 aircraft, Carson gives a wealth of detail about Armstrong’s South African roots and time in the RFC, with many asides of his friendships, his life off the airfield, too and eyewitness accounts of his extraordinary skill. It is particularly well illustrated featuring over 170 images including original photographs sourced from Armstrong’s own collection, enlivened with colour paintings by well-known artist Lynn Williams.
While some of his contemporaries, like Pierre Van Ryneveld and Quintin Brand were lauded for their later achievements, very little was known of this South African flying hero until Annette Carson published this well researched biography that now allows Captain Armstrong to take his rightful place among the heroes of pioneering flight. A ‘must-read’ for any aviation enthusiast, it looks set to appear on many a Christmas list. Published by Pen and Sword, it is available locally in hardcover from www.Loot.co.za An eBook version is available at www.pen-and-sword.co.uk.
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.
WoW! What an incredible weekend of flying was had at the SAC Western Cape Regionals, held at Swellendam Airfield. We could not have asked for better weather on the day!
Initially we had a field of 20 entries, but unfortunately 3 pilots from Namibia had to withdraw, owing to high winds in their path to Swellendam, and a number of unfortunate pilots who own Sbachs had received news a week prior, that the aircraft was not allowed to do aerobatics until further notice from the XA factory.
That being said, we still had a great turnout, and as always, the members from the Swellendam Club pulled out all the stops to make us feel at home!
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
At the recent AGM held during the 2019 National Championships in Klerksdorp, Gary Glasson was elected as Chairman while his wingman Eugene du Preez was elected as vice chairman. All of previous committee agreed to remain in office while Conrad Botha (Free State) and Mike Stark (KZN) were returned as provincial representatives.
In addition to the normal course of business, the AGM agreed for the CIVA representative John Gaillard to submit a bid for South Africa to organise the next World Advanced Aerobatic Championships, earmarked for Malelane in 2020.
No South African pilots will be participating at the 2019 World championships, however all the international judges will see duty; John Gaillard assisted by Cindy Weber is the Chief Judge and judge Johnie Smith assisted by Quintin Hawthorne will attend WIAC in Czech Republic. Quintin Hawthorne assisted by Laszlo Liszkay will do duty the WAC in France.
It is with sadness that we learn of the sudden passing of Piet Nutt on 2 April 2019, aged 85.
Louis Philip "Piet" Nutt had been associated with aerobatics in South Africa since the early 1960's, firstly as a competitor and in later years as a judge. He had gained his PPL in 1959 and shortly afterwards joined up with renowned aerobatic pilots Nick Turvey and Mike Van Ginkel, competing a Zlin 226. Piet was selected to represent South Africa at the 1968 World Championships in Magdeburg, Germany but unfortunately had to withdraw due to work comittments. He was one of the founding members of the Sport Aerobatic Club of South Africa and took on the role of Chief Judge, which he continued to do until 1988. Piet also judged at the 1980 World Championships in Oshkosh, USA as part of the South African team. He was chief judge of the 1985 World Masters championship held at La Mercy, KZN, and acted as CIVA judge at many international championships including in Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and China. Piet was a hugely popular person and he would always avail of his time for anyone interested in learning of his time in aerobatics.
Piet was a highly respected structural engineer by profession and was instrumental in the design and construction of some of the more eminent dams and bridges in South Africa during the 1970's and 1980's. Apart from aviation he had many other interests including travel, classical music, fishing and would stop whatever he was doing at the chance of playing a hand of bridge. Piet was an avid pet lover and always seen in the company of a rescue dog.
We will always remember Piet with affection and acknowledge his contribution to the sport in South Africa. RIP Piet.
South Africa was once again represented at the World Advanced Aerobatic Championships held in Romania from 15 - 25 August 2018. Eugene du Preez and Leigh Le Gonidec competed while the judging contingent consisted of John Gaillard (Chief Judge) assisted by Roger Deare and Quintin Hawthorne assisted by Johnie Smith.
See the full article at Team SA at WAAC 2018.
Full results at www.civa-results.com
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