Pilot Insure 6th Speed Rally Finale

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Ward Councillor Mariaan Chamberlain with Jack and John and the Harvard they competed in

The skies were buzzing on Saturday morning, 10 August, as more than 30 aircraft took to the skies. The speed rally is a unique rally aimed at aircraft and has a handicap system. Teams will fly a 5 nautical miles square route to determine its handicap. This will normally take place the day before the race. Some of the officials arrived early Friday, 9 August, to prepare the course and finalise the entries and their handicaps, where test flights were done throughout the day. Club Chairman, Hardie Voges, planned for food on site, accommodation and providing local members to assist with officiating.
This event is one that is flown at full speed under handicap conditions. The course is about 125 km long, has approximately 11 turning points with each turning point identified with a correct photograph. For this event, the route was mostly to the northeast of the airfield, not in the most scenic part of the country, which is mostly dotted with power stations and coal mines. Competitors would thus have been more concerned about keeping track than looking at the scenery.
Saturday morning saw unfavourable weather conditions and the planes stayed grounded for a while. The start of the rally was delayed by 30 minutes. This gave the organisers a little extra time to get everything in order.
The pilots’ meeting were done and dusted and the pilots did some final touches to their planes. The teams were subjected to a “shakedown” before takeoff. Scrutineers were on hand to seal up all portable GPS capable devices and phones while also handing out papers at the allotted time and checking the fuel tanks were full. This meant that the officials made sure that there were no extra navigation systems on board that would give teams an unfair advantage.
The Secunda Club went all out to make this a memorable event and between SAPFA and the club, it had also arranged video recording teams to follow the preparation and the event’s proceedings. The entries started at 40, but some competitors dropped out due to technical issues and by Friday morning 32 entries were confirmed.
The start of the rally saw the 30 odd planes taxi to the starting point to runway 29. The planes lined up as some departure times were quite close to each other. As the planes took off there were some times a small delay of seconds only before the next plane would take to the skies.
The teams all headed in the direction of the first navigation point. No engines roared and it sounded strange after the busy morning. The rally took about 90 minutes to complete and the planes started to arrive. They would cross a line to determine their times before entering the circuit for landing. At one stage, there were close to 20 planes in the holding circuit above the airfield.
The planes started landing and the calculations could begin. Trackers were installed, by Beegle tracker, in some of the planes and spectators could follow the progress on the ground. At just before 12 noon, the first aircraft over the line was the Harmony ZU-FWS with Leon Bouttell and Martin Meyer, followed 10 seconds later by two Slings with half a second between them followed by Jonty and Jonathan Esser’s C150. Within 2 minutes there were 15 aircraft over the line and within 6 minutes the remainder of the field, showing that fewer competitors had missed turn points or strayed too far off course. However, with the wind picking up, the first of the slower aircraft gained more speed on the downwind home stretch to clip their handicap speeds.
The Bulletin caught up with Beegle tracker team as the climbed out of their plane. Pilot Quintin and Navigator Johan had a lot of fun. The made a mash out of the navigation and flew far of course. “We were halfway to Durban,” Says Johan as he laughed, “We nearly didn’t find Secunda again.”
The teams descended on the clubhouse for a well-deserved drink and to have something to eat. The atmosphere was jovial as everyone discussed their flight times and navigation. The visibility in the air was not great and it made the navigation a little more difficult, but all the teams made it back safely.
The prize-giving function started at 18H00 and the overall standings were read out to the teams, first to the navigation winners then to the overall winners. The positions were calculated taking into consideration the handicaps that were given the day before.
For this, the final in the season, the overall winners with the best handicap speed was Leon Bouttell & Martin Meyer in their Harmony ZU-FWS, while in second place were first-timers Johann Horn & Deidre Batchelor in their Sling ZU-WMM. Father and son Hendrik and Jandre Loots nabbed the final step of the podium in their Sling ZU-IHK.
The winners in the accuracy category were the team of David Ross and James Braid in a Sling ZU-JAR with father and son Ryan and Chris Shillaw in a Cirrus SR22 ZS-ACA the runners up with third place being awarded to Bob Cohoe and Johann van Niekerk in an American Champion Citabria ZS-OZI.
The Pilotinsure Speed rally is unique in the world in its current format and more and more pilots are joining the rallies. It is a fun exercise even for those that are not flying in the rally.
With increasing popularity, more and more sponsors have come on board and there are now 6 teams being sponsored by entities all vying for the teams to obtain top honours in winning. The latest of these being The Airplane Factory, sponsoring the Sling team of David Ross and James Braid and Beegle Micro Trackers sponsoring the team of Johan Whiteman and Quinton Kruger. The other sponsors are Prompt Roofing, Pilotinsure (main sponsor of the event), Pilots Post and Excel E+l. A special thanks also to The Merchant Hotel for the accommodation.
Friday saw some unrelated issues at the airfield. A student pilot did some navigation exercises and departed from Bronkhorstspruit, flew to Wonderboom airport and turned back for some general flying and got lost. He eventually managed to land at Secunda where a CAA official asked for his licence. He did not have it with him and was immediately grounded. Safety in flying is paramount.
Some info was sourced from an article by Willie Bodenstein and published on www.pilotspost.com
-Encee van Huyssteen

Paul Botha and Morne Pretorius

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