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SAC Training Camp - Wings Park East London

There is an age old saying: “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!!”, and nowhere is that homily more apt than in the art of flying; particularly when it comes to aerobatic flying! Keenly aware of this, the Sport Aerobatic Club of SA under the energetic leadership of Gary Glasson and Eugene Du Preez have taken the bull by the horns and embarked on a series of aerobatic training camps. The mission is: “reach out and debunk the art of aerobatic flying in a controlled, safe environment and ensure that all the knowledge and experience built up over years is shared and passed on to future generations!”

The fifth such training camp was organized by the Wings Park Flying Club on the weekend of 23 to 25 August 2019. Border Aviation Flying club also agreed to make a significant contribution, by hosting the first evening’s braai and lecture at their very congenial venue based at East London airport. As luck would have it this coincided with one of their solo parties, which once again proved that flying is to a large extent all about fun. Nonetheless, once the solo certificates had been awarded, the aerobatic candidates and coaches retired to the classroom to begin the camp in earnest. Helm addressed the assembly with a short talk on classical Aresti type competition aerobatics and the immensely important role it plays in safe aerobatic flying and displays. Coaches and students were astounded to learn of the significant international contribution South Africans have made to the development of this, the king of aerial sports, over the past fifty-five years.

Friday morning brought low cloud and somewhat chilly conditions, so coaches and students spent the first part of the morning in lectures and briefings at the Wings Park facilities. As the weather improved the real flying began. Candidates were separated into two groups - those that needed instruction in the plane and those that wanted to hone their skills by being coached and judged from the ground. It is, by far, beyond the scope of this article to recount each pilot’s flight, but, if the broad smiles of the coaches and pilots were anything to go by, these sessions proved a huge success! By the end of the day a happy if tired bunch of aviators were sharing their aerobatic experiences around a roaring fire.

Saturday saw the more experienced aerobatic pilots flying their home-grown unknown sequences in front of a harsh nit picking judge, while the newbies continued, they’re in-flight aerobatic instruction under the hands-on guidance of the vastly experienced, Mark Hensman, Wim Kotze and Patrick Davidson.

Although not a contest, it was decided to hold a short awards ceremony on Saturday night to highlight some of the milestones achieved and to create a platform to thank all the volunteers and selfless helpers without whom an event of this nature would simply not be possible. The ensuing festivities and vibrant fireside chatter and laughter late into the night bore testament to a thoroughly successful event!

Special mention for improvement: Pierre van Wyk, Wian du Plessis, Neil Grobbelaar.

Most improved pilot trophy: Mitch Hill.

Sunday morning brought the true acid test for three newbies. Dale Houzet, Mitch Hill and Edward Sharp each flew a Graduate sequence in front of the judge and pilot instructors. All three acquitted themselves admirably. Welcome Dale, Mitch and Ed to that quirky band of brothers …… aerobatic pilots!

There can be no doubt that: “feedback is the staple diet of champions” so let’s hear from the participants themselves:

“I only got my PPL 2 years ago, so for me it has always been straight and level, with the odd steep turn here and there since then.

But this weekend opened my eyes to a different world. Rolls, inverted flying, Loops etc. It’s been such an exciting weekend with lots of adrenaline flowing through my veins.

Even though I did not get a chance to put a sequence together and limited time to fly or go in the box, I am hooked and will continue practising with the local guys at Wings Park. I think the bug bit a couple of guys at Wings Park and you will be seeing some of us competing at Aeros in the not too distant future.” Johann Odendal

“This past weekend was a really great learning experience for me.

I walked into our local border aviation club Thursday "everyone's welcome, no one's invited braai "and met a whole new group of friends that are all passionate about what they do.

I share in a Yak syndicate ZU -DTL with 6 other partners and am not yet converted to type.

However, after the weekend, I feel confident that my conversion is not far off, and as an added bonus, I learnt about rolling, spinning and looping ZU - DTL.

The rolling and spinning, I feel comfortable to practise, on the loops I'm going to need some more instruction.

I came out of the weekend with my bag of luck seemingly undiminished, and my bag of experience nicely added to.

Thank you so much to the SAC for taking the time to come down to our slumtown in the Eastern Cape and sharing your knowledge with us.” Darren Hanner

“I wanted to give you a quick feedback from the camp.

I think a lot what was achieved during the short space in time. From the flying and more importantly the safety aspect.

The input from the ground sessions alone was a great learning curve in itself.

The real fun was had in the air though where our instructors ( Wim, Mark and Patrick) got to show us how to safely fly aerobatics and recover from bad situations. This has given us the confidence and know how to practice and compete in this wonderful sport.

We would all like the thank you guys for coming down and making the training camp a great success. We look forward to flying in competitions in the future and hope to see you all soon.” Edward Sharp.

Anyone interested in joining in the fun, please find the relevant details on


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