By Andre Venter
Jack Taylor airfield based just outside Krugersdorp is the operational base of Helivate Helicopter Services, established in 2011 in response to the ever-increasing helicopter charter, helicopter training market and helicopter hire market within South Africa and its neighbouring countries.
For the fifth year running Helivate have hosted the Helivate Olympics, a challenging yet fun way to hone the participating pilot’s skill in a relaxed competitive atmosphere. Safety is always a priority in these events so, as always, the day started off with a safety briefing and a walk through explanation of the challenges that can be expected.
The competition consisted of three tasks, devised to test the flying skill of the pilot as well as the communication between pilot and navigator. The first task sees the teams attempting to drop a weight into a bucket and then wrap a rope around the bucket without disturbing the bucket or letting the weight on the rope touch the ground.
Task two requires good communication between Nav and Pilot, a rope equipped with a hook is used to pick up a series of buckets from a drum. Each bucket is colour coded and is matched to an obstacle course that must be flown for that colour bucket. The teams must pick up all four the buckets and place them on a drum before moving on to the next task.
The last task is “Bottle Top”, the pilot will start the task by hovering inside a marked box, time will start as soon as they are in the hover within the box. A bottle opener is mounted on the pilot side skid and with this bottle opener, the pilot must try to open a beer bottle which is mounted on a pole in the corner of the box.
The pilots were penalised twenty points for every time they move out of the frame, 100 points will be awarded if they manage to complete the task in the allotted three minutes, no penalties were awarded if the task wasn’t successfully completed in the time allowed.
Fortunately, the weather was perfect for this type of flying with almost no wind at all, attempting precision flying like this in windy conditions would prove to be extremely difficult. Thirteen teams took up the challenge competing in two categories, Student and Qualified pilots the majority of whom were based at Krugersdorp, except for Rudi Marx in The Alouette II who's machine is based at Rand Airport.
The difference between the student's scores and the qualified pilots was remarkably small, highlighting the need for ongoing practice of precision flying by all helicopter pilots no matter the level of experience. The students by law had to have an instructor on-board so it was decided that Hayley would fly along with the qualified pilots to even the playing field as weight is a major factor in this type of flying.
Student Section winners were Genevieve King (pilot) and Luke Jacobs (navigator) both Genevieve and Luke are seventeen, not yet old enough to take a sip of the beer they successfully managed to open, with the highest score of the day 370 points.
Second place belonged to Gary Arnold (pilot) and Andy Crocker (navigator) with 320 points followed by Dylan Houten (pilot) and George Gerber (navigator) with 170 points.
The Qualified Section (PPL) was a very close affair with Andy Crocker (Pilot) with Gary Arnolds (navigator) edging out the second-place team with 365 points.
That Second place team was Leon Senekal (pilot) and Carel Hoffman (navigator) with 345 points, third place was claimed by Rudi Marx and Animike Cloete with 340 points a gap of only 25 points separated the top three teams.
After the competition, many of the competitors stayed for a braai and some socialising a the highest score of the day the Helivate hangar, where some of those opened beers could finally be put to good use.
Helivate must be commended for promoting the development of all helicopter pilots with initiative’s like this they really test the helicopter pilot in ways the normal day to day flying don’t, and all of this is done in a very safe environment.