By Garth Calitz
Aerobatics got off to a good start for 2024 with ten pilots taking part in the inaugural competition for this year at Heidelberg Airfield. Last year aerobatics in South Africa took a turn for the worse with many competitions being cancelled due to a lack of competitors the comps that did go ahead became more of a practice session for the team preparing for the World Advanced Aerobatics Championships that were held in Las Vegas towards the end of 2023. We must take this opportunity to congratulate Barrie and Tristan Eeles as well as Elton Bondi for flying the South African flag high at AWAC 23.
Arriving at the field on Saturday the competitors were greeted with much cooler conditions than what was expected for this time of the year, fog started rolling in but it fortunately cleared up as quickly as it arrived. Some of the competitors were held up slightly but all made it in for the briefing at 9:00.
Adam Pucjlowski, the Contest Director, and his team went over and above to make the competition a success, the “box” was freshly marked out judging area was prepared and of course, the all-important coffee station was laid out in the clubhouse. Adam welcomed everyone to the competition and was followed by a safety briefing by Chief Judge Quintin Hawthorne.
Normally the competition would kick off with the RV Class but Trevor Warner requested an earlier slot as he had to do a simulator session later in the day. Trevor was flying in Sportsman Class in a Goodyear Eagles Pitts S2B.
The RV Class was kicked off with Nigel Hopkins with his known sequence in his RV8. Nigel normally takes part in Unlimited Class but his Extra 330SC is in for repairs so he decided to fly in the RV Class. Ian Beaton followed Nigel in his RV7, Ian was one of the pilots who were introduced to the wonderful world of aerobatics at the series of RV training camps that were held in 2020 and 2021.
Professional golfer Jaco van Zyl was next up in the Sportsman Class, Jaco was flying in his Christian Eagle, he recently made the step up from flying in his RV7. Harry Kessel was next up in his newly acquired Game Bird GB1, he purchased the aircraft from Stu Davidson the father of the famous Patrick Davidson, Trevor Warner has been training Harry and the hard work seems to be paying off.
Trevor Warner slipped in a did his free sequence before heading back to Johannesburg for his sim session, the final Sportsman Class competitor was Bernard Botha in his Bellanca 8KCAB Decathlon.
Advanced Class also had four competitors Tristan and Barrie Eeles both flying in their Extra 330SC and Cliff Lotter and Warren Eva both flying in Yak 55s they all flew their Free Known sequences before everyone headed back to the clubhouse for lunch.
After Lunch, the judging team once again took up their positions at the foot of the tower for the second session. The judging team was a good mix of youth and experience and talking about experience Quintin Hawthorne has been appointed as the chief judge for the 2024 World Aerobatics Championship which is planned to be held in Poland on the Ukraine border, the organisers are considering moving the competition to Germany due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
After all the competitors completed their second sequences, Nigel Hopkins got airborne in Harry’s Game Bird and showed everyone what this amazing aircraft was capable of.
The final results were given to all the competitors before they made their way home. Tristan Eeles managed to outscore his dad for what I believe is the first time he has managed this in a competition. Well done Tristan its always special when the student surpasses the master but I’m sure Barrie will be fighting back at the next competition.
Warren Eva is busy acquiring at least one or maybe two Yak 52s that he is planning on making available to young aspiring aerobatics pilots to kick off their aerobatics careers. The aircraft will be put into a ten-member syndicate and shares will be sold to pilots who are interested in flying aerobatics but are prohibited by the excessive costs involved. So far there seems to be lots of interest in the programme and this bids well for the future of aerobatics in South Africa.