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World Aerobatic Competition 2017 - Malelane

The small agricultural town of Malelane became the center of world aerobatics for the last week, the best of the best from eleven participating countries took part in the Twenty Ninth FAI World Aerobatics Championships.

South Africa was well represented with six competitors, Nigel Hopkins and Barrie Eeles Taking part in Extra 330 SC’s , Patrick Davidson in his monster Sukhoi 31, Bertus du Preez in a Sbach XA42, Mark Hensman in his MX2 and Neville Ferreira in the one and only Slick 540. Neville was the first person ever to compete at this level in a South African designed and built Slick aircraft.

The Competition Runs over a week and s divided into two categories Aresti and Freestyle.


The Aresti Catalog is the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) standards document enumerating the aerobatic manoeuvers permitted in aerobatic competition. Designed by Spanish aviator Colonel José Luis Aresti Aguirre, each figure in the catalog is represented by lines, arrows, geometric shapes and numbers representing the precise form of a manoeuvers to be flown.

The catalog broadly classifies manoeuvers into numbered families. Families 1 through 8 depict basic figures, such as turns, loops and vertical lines; family 9 depicts rotational elements that can be added to basic figures to increase difficulty, change the direction of flight or invert the g-loading of the aircraft.

The Aresti competition is competed over four programmes the first of which is a Free Known sequence consisting of ten Manoeuvres each of which is judged by seven judges and marked between 0 and 10, 10 being a perfect score. Followed by three rounds of Free Unknown sequences.

All this takes place in a “Box” the box is 1000m long by 1000m wide by 1000m in height.

Each manoeuvre is given a “K” number wich depicts the difficulty level of the manoeuvre a higher “K” number equates to higher points.

The Aresti competition was dominated by Mikhail Mamistov from Russia in his Extra 330SC followed by three French pilots also in Extra 330SC’s. The top performing South African was Patrick Davidson flying a Sukhoi 31 he managed a very respectable thirteenth position. Nigel Hopkins the second SA pilot walked away with an eighteenth.

The Freestyle competition is a completely different animal, pilots are allocated 4 minutes to perform a sequence of their choice. The judges score them purely on what is performed no sequence is supplied. Rob Holland from the USA once again dominated the freestyle as he has for the past few years. Rob managed a score of 84,22% which was almost 4% clear of second place, what makes this more remarkable is that he was flying in Mark Hensman’s MX2 where he normally uses a MXS which is a single seat version of the MX2.

Rob Holland

Nigel Hopkins very narrowly missed out on what would have been SA’s first medal in Unlimited Aerobatics he managed a fourth position only 0.02% behind the Spaniard Castor Fantoba in third. Second place belonged to Olivier Masurel from France.

Neville Ferreira and Patrick Davidson kept the SA flag flying with a twelfth and thirteenth position respectively.

Unfortunately conditions weren’t ideal throughout the competition with lots of smoke from fires in the area, the smoke was so thick that the competition had to be stopped until it cleared as the pilots could no longer see the horizon. The freestyle competition also had to be postponed due to very high winds.

The competition was officially closed of by a wonderful display flown by Team X-treme, Nigel Hopkins in his Extra 330SC, Jason Beamish and Mark Sampson in Sbach's and Mark Hensman in his MX2.

Well done to all the South African competitors you guys did the country proud achieving great results against the best of the best in the world.

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