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22nd World Rally Flying Championships Gets Off to a Grand Start

Brits Airfield is hosting the 22nd World Rally Fling Competition this week, the opening ceremony was held at this friendly airfield on Sunday 13 November. The members of Brits Flying Club have really pulled out all the stops to make this a very successful event.

South Africa was granted the honour of hosting the Championships in 2020, to coincide with the Aero Club of South Africa’s centenary, sadly that had to be postponed due to the pandemic. In 2021 South Africa was once again chosen as the host, Stellenbosch Airfield was waiting with open arms to welcome the world but once again COVID-19 ruined the plans. When South Africa was offered the hosting duties for the third time a decision was made to move the competition to Brits.

Most of the visiting International teams arrived the previous weekend, ready to take advantage of the week set aside for practice. “Sunny” South Africa decided to lob those plans a curve-ball, unfortunately, the long overdue summer rains finally arrived and stuck around pretty much for the whole week. The competitors did however manage to get a few practice runs in once all the validations were taken care of.

Martin Meyer, a long-time SAPFA member was tasked with appropriating aircraft for the visiting teams to use for the competition, this was no small feat. Most flying schools were not willing to make their aircraft available for the championships as they are experiencing very high volumes of students and releasing their aircraft would deprive students of flying time. Martin however managed to secure seventeen aircraft of which three of them were Jet-A1 conversions as was requested by a few of the teams. All the visiting Pilots had to be evaluated by local instructors and SACAA validations were obtained. Martin would like to thank the CAA representatives that went over and above working late after hours to ensure all the competitors were legal and ready to fly.

Slots were created around the inclement weather for the teams to orientate themselves with the area, as well as get some spot-landing practise. Safety Officer Nigel Musgrave, who was recently appointed as the brand ambassador for Aero SA, was kept rather busy with all the requests for training flights throughout the week.

Sunday arrived at it was time for the official opening of the competition, a moment Rob Jonkers, Competition Director, and his team had waited three years for. All the teams assembled at the RV-9 wind vein before individually marching to the clubhouse area to the sounds of their respective National Anthems. Karl Jensen, the MC for the day welcomed each team in their mother tongue, as well as in English a gesture I’m sure was greatly appreciated by all the foreign visitors.

The Namibian team had only one member present as they had experienced a technical problem on the flight from Windhoek and had to do an emergency landing somewhere in Southern Namibia, they were all safe and sound and were planning on continuing their journey by commercial flight.

The rather large South African team were the last team to march in led by Team manager Ron Stirk and was greeted with great applause from the crowd that had assembled. South Africa will be represented by ten teams consisting of a navigator and a pilot.

Once all the teams had taken their positions along the main taxiway everyone was entertained by Nigel Hopkins and Jason Beamish flying their usual flawless display in two Extra 330s, conditions were not ideal but the massive black cloud developing to the south of the field made for a beautiful backdrop highlighting the two brightly coloured Extras.

Lohan Otto the chairman of the Brits Flying Club welcomed everyone to the competition, Brits and South Africa, before handing the podium over to Rob Jonkers, the Competition Director, Rob explained how the competition had over a three-year period had finally founds its way to the small North-West town of Brits. The final speaker was Hans Schwebel the South African representative to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) the governing body for all aviation sports worldwide.

As soon as the speeches were completed the heavens opened forcing everyone to run for cover at the marque outside the clubhouse. A very scrumptious late lunch was then served under the marque, during lunch, a lucky draw was held for a Hot Air Balloon experience kindly donated by Bill Harrop's Original Baloon Safaris, Shane Somerville for Century Avionics was the lucky recipient of this unforgettable experience.

Good Luck to all the South African teams taking part, we know how much hard work you have put in over the last few months and I’m sure it will pay dividends. Flightline Weekly will have all the action and results in our edition next week.