Four intrepid aviators left Tedderfield in three RV’s bound for Kitty Hawk on Thursday 12 March. We were an anxious bunch, some displaying a lot more nerves than others. The mission to attend an aerobatics camp for two solid flying days at FAKT.
The excitement was high, the anxiety perhaps higher, the expectation of instructors strutting around in flying overalls, wearing bone domes and barking orders was all too real. The WhatsApp group came alive with communication about places to stay, offers of transport to and from our chosen digs, and then the week prior, offers of hanger space. Now I think about 15 aircraft arrived and to my knowledge all but one unfortunate lonely Yak, slept inside nice clean hangers, I suppose compared to our little RV’s the Yak is a large ungainly and unsightly beast so perhaps it deserved to stay outside <G>.
The food was wholesome, and the vetkoek for those of us from south of the boerewors curtain were the highlight of the week as far as matters of the stomach were concerned. All we did was pop another cholesterol pill and all was good.
Right, so on Thursday evening we started with a briefing, not an overall or bone dome in sight. Introductions done, each of us had been asked to write down expectations and goals, which we repeated to the crowd attending the briefing. The lecture commenced, dealing with legal aspects, safety and then the flying. Figures, lines manoeuvres and how to fly them were explained by Eugene with the aid of a really agile purple model glider, now that machine could do some amazing things in the right hands. Hover, even fly backwards, all with no motor. After it sank in that some of what was being spoken about, we were going to be doing, the nerves fluttered a little more, dinner followed, a few beers and off we went to bed.
Now some of our anxious crew did not get much sleep, the coveralls and bone domes were waiting for us, and on top of that the weather that night was appalling, massive storms, pounding rain on the metal roof of our B&B. Anyway, day dawned, we arrived promptly at the airfield at 06h45, (breakfast to be served from 07h00), ready to be lined up, marched up and down and shouted at by the bone dome brigade. Not a soul in sight, but bang on time the doors to the clubhouse were opened by a friendly lady offering some coffee and soon we were tucking in to bacon and eggs. Others drifted in, and at 08h00 the briefing started. Safety, weather “Box guys” and a bunch of other important issues covered.
Instructors allocated, safety dealt with, time slots set, colour coded zones and waypoints explained and we were ready. Off to our first briefing, well what a different experience to our preconceived ideas, firstly no bone dome, secondly no overall, a pair of shorts and a really nice guy who wanted to hear about my flying experience, then on to expectations and then an explanation as to what we would do. All in all most intimidating and truly informative.
So off went all four of us for our first briefings and flights, fears of getting sick, anxiety about our capabilities and concerns about instruction were all closed up inside the canopy prior to take off.
Barry Eeles was my man, he calmly explained what we would do, how it would work and then off to prep the aerie for flight.
After take off headed out east and climbed up to the appointed altitude, a stall, discussion about trim settings and then another stall, but bang in the power once you stall, there we sat, wafting around like a leaf controlling that aeroplane in a stalled state, simply unload the wing and fly away. What a revelation! I bet you, the instructor who taught me to fly when I got my PPL has to this day probably never done that!
Something amazing happened on each flight, the pilots returned to the ground with a huge grin and nothing but praise for our individual instructors and wonderful excitement on having got to grips with some of the capabilities of our aircraft.
Polishing my loops, rolls and spins brought the realisation that I could perhaps go away from the camp with an aerobatic rating. So some work on the stall turn and flying straight, vertical and horizontal lines was the next challenge, as you exit the spin, push the nose down so you are vertical then begin the pull out brought different skills into play, by extending the down line you generated energy, which you could then use in the next figure without having to resort to throttle alone.
By the end of day one, after a few beers the stories of our prowess about flying through your wake at the bottom of the loop were proudly discussed, dissected, questioned and learned from by all around the table.
Our little aeries were moved into a higher category of awesomeness. Boy, Van did a great job when he designed those little packages and Andrew and I as builders did a great job of putting our particular one together, we received compliments from our now approachable, bone dome brigade instructors, on how nicely it flies, and also on how well we all did.
Friday night, the meal, the beer and the stories carried on until our beds were calling. My head hit the pillow and it was lights out, the excitement, adrenaline, achievement and a wonderful first day were played over and over in my head. Upon waking, I flew my bed through the sequence a number of times, pulling too hard, putting in outside elevator at the top of a stall turn and pushing a little to get the vertical for the down line. We were ready for day two.
Breakfast, followed by the briefing now focusing more on precision this time, than flying the manoeuvre was to be the plan for the day. Well the first flight revealed that my bed flying seemed to help a bit, in some areas, but in others it was all a bit of a mess. Hmmm, not so easy. Much discussion with other pilots, listening to pre-flight briefings of others and talking flying was on for the rest of the day. After lunch, sortie two for the day would follow.
This time, I would fly the sequence with little and no control input from Barrie, the challenge was set and off we went. On the way to our designated location we discussed what to do again, then it all started to happen, I got one almost right, my recovery from the spin was on the line, the loop felt beautiful and we exited onto the line of the road, I did manage to remember outside aileron at the top of the stall turn, and pushed for the down line, all that remained was a roll and a few turns. It went perfectly. A few more sequences followed and we headed for home. I was chuffed, Barrie wondered where this competence had come from and in a moment of weakness, pronounced that he was prepared to sign me out. So in order to qualify, all I needed to do was repeat the sequence on my own in front of some judges, in the box.
On landing Barrie went off to arrange a time slot for that, Andrew went off in our aerie to fly his last sortie and the weather decided to close in. As Andrew returned with our aerie, the rain started and because of a glitch at the fuel bay we could not refuel, so it was left for the next weekend to arrange to do the sequence and get my official rating.
This evening I got a WhatsApp from Barrie, asking if I was planning to show up at Vereeniging on Saturday afternoon to finish off and I quote:
That is honestly how the bone dome brigade are, really great guys, giving their time and expertise to promote the sport, they are approachable and helpful. To the organisers, instructors and everyone involved, a fantastic weekend and experience was had by us all. Thanks to Gary Glasson, Eugene du Preez, Barrie Eeles, Mark Hensman, Cliff Lotter and Elton Bondi, Glen Warden and Natalie Stark for the time and effort you all put in to making a truly memorable weekend for all of us (I hope I have not left anyone out).
So to anyone with an acrobatically capable aircraft, get in touch with the Sports Aerobatic Club and beat a path to their door for the next camp, you will have more fun than you have had in ages with an aeroplane and you will be a much safer and more confident pilot. The guys will push you as far as you wish to go, and no pressure, attitude or any such thing was experienced by any of the Tedderfield crew. We all had an awesome time and some of the most fun we have ever had with our aeries. Oh one last thing, take more than a few cans of oil as you will need it, if as like us you do not have an inverted oil system.
Ian Beaton ZU-FSG RV7
Other pilots from Tedderfield who featured in this story, Andrew Robinson in the same aircraft as me, Craig MacMurray in RV6 ZU-FIY and Mike Lemon in RV7 ZU-DJH.