The Spots Aerobatics Club (SAC) National Championships were held at New Tempe airfield in Bloemfontein from the 1 to 5 of August. Bloemfontein has over the years become a favourite city to host national aerobatics competitions mainly due to the probability of good weather and its location being the most central city in South Africa.
Many of the competitors arrived in Bloem as early as the 28th July as the field was open training from 7:30 in the morning up until sunset every day until the competition started on the 1st August.
Aerobatics is divided into five Classes namely Graduate, Sportsman, Intermediate, Advanced and Unlimited the classes are determined by the pilot’s skills and experience. It takes pilot many hours to make the way up the ranks from Graduate to Unlimited; very few pilots ever progress to compete in the Unlimited Class.
Graduate class is not part of the National Competition and all graduate pilots are encouraged to validate and enter the sportsman class. Graduate Validations took place on the first day of competition.
All competition is judged in an area known as the “Box”. The aerobatic box is a volume of airspace in which the aircraft must remain while performing a sequence. Its length and width are each 1,000 metres (3,280 ft). Its height varies based on whether FAI, national aero club or local rules apply to the competition. White ground markers at each corner of the box make it visible to the pilot from the air. For most categories, penalties are assessed for flight outside the aerobatic box. The box has two axes, the identification of which is based on the location of the judges. The X-Axis runs across the line of sight of the judges. It is along this axis that most figures are usually flown.
The Y-Axis runs perpendicular to the X-Axis, toward and away from the judges. This axis is used for cross-box position correction. The official wind direction is always declared by contest officials to be along the X-Axis. This, however, does not always reflect reality, and generally during the course of a sequence the competitor will drift either toward or away from the judging line. The competitor can extend or shorten manoeuvres flown along the Y-Axis to obtain the desired positioning.
The box floor is as high as 460 metres above ground level (AGL) for sportsman level competitors and as low as 100 metres AGL for Unlimited level competitors. The box ceiling is 1,000 metres above its floor. Before a category starts, a competitor will mark the box by flying along its boundaries at its floor. This allows the judges to visualize the box in the sky and prepares them to adjudge an aircraft flying below the box floor.
Judges hard at work
The programme was designed to be complete in four days with a fifth set aside in case of bad weather, which fortunately wasn’t necessary as the weather was perfect throughout the competition.
Day one (1st August) started at 1:00pm with a briefing for Intermediate, advanced and Unlimited pilots, Sportsman Class were not included as some of them were still to fly their graduation sequence form Graduate Class. Which they did after the Intermediate to Unlimited class flew their Free Known Sequences later that day.
Day two started with a weather briefing and then immediately into the Advanced and Unlimited Submissions of Free Unknown Sequences (programme 2).
The Sportsman Class then took to the air in their Known programme followed by the Intermediate Free Unknown Programme.
After Lunch it was the turn of the Advanced and Unlimited pilots to strut their stuff in the Free Unknown Sequence by now the competition was heating up and every percentage point became very important.
The Sportsman Class closed off the day’s flying with their Free Programme second sequence. The day was ended off with the holding of the SAC Annual General Meeting.
Day three was started as always with a weather briefing, followed by the Programme three sequence selections for Intermediate to Unlimited Class.
Eugene Du Preez
The intermediate pilots then made their way to their aircraft to compete in their Free Unknown Programme 2, followed by the Sportsman Unknown Sequence 1.
The rest of the afternoon was taken up by the fiercely fought competition in both the Advanced and Unlimited flying their Unknown programme three sequences and the Intermediate and Sportsman Classes flying their second unknown sequence.
The last day of competition dawned and after the weather briefing the Intermediate, Advanced and Unlimited concluded the Aresti side of the competition with their Programme Four Unknown Sequence.
The only part of the competition reaming was the 4 Minute Freestyle competition which is definitely the most spectator section of the competition.
After the freestyle competition everyone nervously prepared for the Awards dinner where the final results would be made public.
All the organisers, judges, and competitors very importantly the sponsors well done on yet another very successful competition and to the pilots selected to represent South Africa at the upcoming Advanced World Aerobatics Champoionships (AWAC) Good luck and bring some gold home.