By Dian Townsend Photos by Andre Venter
As November rolled in, days have gotten warmer, nights a little shorter and our side of the aviation community who are not so fond of the cold are seen at airfields just that little bit earlier again on the weekends. This past Saturday's airfield excursion took me to Jack Taylor Airfield in Krugersdorp.
On the grass runway set up was Helivate's 8th version of their Heli-Olympics skill course. 14 teams consisting of a pilot and a navigator competed in a series of challenges, testing both flying and communication to the max.
The first of the challenges was a 360 with a cone on the skid. The first part of this challenge was picking up the cone, threading the needle if you may. Then came the challenge of completing the 360 around a barrel without dropping the cone. Any forward pitching would lead to dropping the cone. Ending off the challenge means placing the cone back onto the barrel pilots picked it up from, definitely easier said than done!
Next was the grappling hook. Navigators sat in an open door, wielding a grappling hook with which they pick up coloured buckets which must then be flown through various obstacles. Points are deducted for various mistakes like the bucket touching the grass, touching one of the obstacles and spilling water out of the bucket. After navigating the obstacles, buckets are placed on top of a barrel and the next bucket can be picked up. Although a challenge of accuracy, the time limit of 5 minutes for this challenge made for a delicate balancing act of speed and precision.
The last challenge was called the dipstick. Pilots have to push down a dipstick mounted on a pole in between two markers on the dipstick. This challenge proved to be the most difficult of all, testing the pilots' low-speed manoeuvering skills to their limits.
Although immense skill was displayed by all teams participating, two did come out on top. In the SPL category were Dries Boyse and his father, Dries Boyse. For the PPL class, it was Haydon Heres and Gerhard van der Bank taking the win.
A special thank you goes out to the team from Helivate for organizing such a fun event and being such a great host to all!