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News Letter 7 February

Good day all

All aviators in the Gauteng region please don’t miss the Rand Airport Challenge this promises be a Fun Rally event. This is the 14th year of running this popular event; The organisers will be looking at waiving parking fees. Meet in the old customs hall.


08H00 Arrive and Breakfast

09H00 Fun Rally Briefing

10H30 First a/c off

13h30 Prize Giving

Please remember to book online at in order for us to adequately cater for the numbers.

Contact: Contact Frank Eckard email: cell: 083 269 1516.

SAPFA will be holding their AGM after the Rand Airport Challenge at the Harvard Café, Rand Airport on the 10th February 2018 at 14h00.

Agenda of the Annual General Meeting of the South Africa Power Flying Association.

1. Welcome & Apologies

2. Previous Minutes

3. Election of New Committee for 2018

4. Chairman's Report

5. Treasurer’s Report

6. New Rally Rules & GAC Report

7. General

8. Closing

Congratulations are in order for two South Africans that flew the flag high and proud in the last week. Elon Musk for the successful launch of his company SpaceX ‘s successful launch of their Falcon Heavy rocket. And to Patrick Davidson for competing in his first Red Bull Challenger series Air Race in Abu Dhabi

Elon Musk

Patrick Davidson

Elon Musk's Falcon Heavy rocket launches successfully

SA born entrepreneur Elon Musk has launched his new rocket, the Falcon Heavy, from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. The mammoth vehicle - the most powerful since the shuttle system - lifted clear of its pad without incident to soar high over the Atlantic Ocean.

The SpaceX CEO said the challenges of developing the new rocket meant the chances of a successful first outing might be only 50-50.

"I had this image of just a giant explosion on the pad, a wheel bouncing down the road. But fortunately that's not what happened," he told reporters after the event.

With this debut, the Falcon Heavy becomes the most capable launch vehicle available.

It is designed to deliver a maximum payload to low-Earth orbit of 64 tonnes - the equivalent of putting five London double-decker buses in space.

Such performance is slightly more than double that of the world's next most powerful rocket, the Delta IV Heavy - but at one third of the cost, says Mr Musk.


For this experimental and uncertain mission, however, he decided on a much smaller and whimsical payload - his old cherry-red Tesla sports car. A space-suited mannequin was strapped in the driver's seat, and the radio set to play a David Bowie soundtrack on a loop. The Tesla and its passenger have been despatched into an elliptical orbit around the Sun that reaches out as far as the Planet Mars.

The Falcon Heavy is essentially three of SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 vehicles strapped together. And, as is the usual practice for SpaceX, all three boost stages - the lower segments of the rocket - returned to Earth to attempt controlled landings.

Two came back to touchdown zones on the Florida coast just south of Kennedy. Their landing legs made contact with the ground virtually at the same time. "That was epic," said Mr Musk. "That's probably the most exciting thing I've ever seen, literally."

The third booster was due to settle on a drone ship stationed several hundred kilometres out at sea. Unfortunately, it was unable to slow its descent by re-igniting sufficient engines, missed the target vessel and was destroyed as it hit the water at some 500km/h. By then, the upper-stage of the Falcon Heavy, with its Tesla cargo, was heading on a trajectory that would hopefully take it towards Mars' orbit.

That required the engine on the upper-stage to fire on three separate occasions, with the third and final ignition only occurring after a long cruise phase - something which was confirmed some six hours after the launch.

Having such a large and powerful rocket should open up some fascinating new possibilities for Mr Musk and his SpaceX company. These include launching:

Much bigger satellites for use by US intelligence and the military. The scale of these satellites is limited by current rocket performance.

Large batches of satellites, such as those for Mr Musk's proposed constellation of thousands of spacecraft to deliver broadband across the globe.

Bigger, more capable robots to go to the surface of Mars, or to visit the outer planets such as Jupiter and Saturn, and their moons.

Huge telescopes. Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, is having to be folded origami-like to fit in its launcher next year.

But it is the low cost - brought about through the recovery and reuse of the boosters - that Elon Musk believes will be a game-changer when allied to the new performance.

"It'll be game-over for all other heavy-lift rockets," he told reporters on Monday.

"It'll be like trying to sell an aircraft where one aircraft company has a reusable aircraft and all the other companies had aircraft that were single-use where you would parachute out at your destination and the plane would crash-land randomly somewhere. Crazy as that sounds - that's how the rocket business works."

Red Bull Challenger Class

Patrick Davidson achieved a 6th position in his first Red Bull Challenger Class race setting the ball rolling for the rest of the season. "It was an interesting experience and there was a lot of information to take in. This morning I was nervous, but the run was my best net time so far, but I picked up a penalty. I'm looking forward to the season and going to new venues with the new raceplane. It's a good learning ground and a great way to get into the Master Class, and now that we have the Edge we're getting closer to them" Patrick said after the event.

Florian Bergér was unstoppable in the track today and claimed the top spot with a time of 57.073s. He had been struggling in the week but put in a perfect performance to claim 10 points in the first race.

Daniel Ryfa was on track to beat Bergér, hitting every split time quicker, but at the penultimate gate Ryfa clipped a pylon. That penalty gave him a final time of 59.420s and saw him drop to fifth, a huge disappointment for the title challenger.

Luke Czepiela came closest to Berger, but he was still 1.460s slower than the German pilot. The third podium spot went to Kevin Coleman who had been improving all week and will be pleased to start his season this way.

Dario Costa, competing in his first race, looked nervous heading to his raceplane, but he flew cleanly and crossed the Finish Gate in 59.418s, which would have eased his nerves. His time was good enough to see him fourth on the leaderboard, a great result in his first race.

The other new pilot Patrick Davidson was first to fly and set a time of 1:00.544, which included a two second penalty. That time saw him finish sixth but that performance in his first ever race will give him a boost going forward.

Daniel Genevey was last to fly and picked up a two second penalty for an over-G, which saw him finish seventh in the first race of the year.

Abu Dhabi 2018 Challenger Cup results


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