By Ian Beaton Photos by Garth Calitz, Andre Venter and Dian Townsend
I have written a few pieces about the goings on at SAC events. My first foray into the world of aviation journalism featured the Bone Dome Brigade, being the instructors who helped light the fire in my belly about flying aerobatics safely and learning a whole lot more, ultimately making me a better pilot. The second story featured Lynette’s legendary Vetkoek which a bunch of us from south of the boerewors curtain, travelled by air to sample, once again these beauties made a welcome appearance at the Friday night dinner.
So on to this event, on Friday, I took off with Gary sitting alongside me in the RV7, and as we checked in on box frequency, in an overly rich British accent with slow enunciation, we got from Q on 129.3 “Foxtrot Sierra Golf, the box is yours”. Gary and I had a quiet chuckle as this brought back the memory of John Gaillard, which is exactly who Q was nodding his head too. John was probably looking up from the hot place one goes to when you pass on, if you misbehave, and said “bloody right”.
All in all, a fantastic two days of aerobatic flight, camaraderie and practice was held.
One short story starts on Thursday with Quintin and the new to him and Warren Yak 55, being fuelled up with fuel contaminated with water as some bast@%*s had stolen the fuel and replaced it with water to delay the discovery of the theft. Being the conscientious and procedural pilot he is, Quintin checked the fuel, smelled it and determined there was definitely something amiss then spent much of Thursday, draining tanks and getting it all sorted out. Come Friday, when it was time to fly a mag issue cropped up and so Warren and Quintin, were on the phone with Johan Lok and Mark Hensman for some info and insight set about solving the problem. Turned out to be a connection to the points which then manifested itself in a magneto malfunction.
Finally with all issues resolved Quentin decided the time was right to commit aviation and the Yak came belting down the runway and leapt into the air at which time for a split second the engine appeared to falter. Hearts sank, adrenalin pumped, but with a roar, he re-opened the throttle and off he went and climbed up and out with nothing more amiss.
After his flight we quizzed him about the blip and told him our hearts had all stopped, his response was “you should have been in the aeroplane”. It appears because Quintin has large and heavy feet, and the Yak, being a Russian-designed petite and dainty lady (not) did not like the fact that Quintin was bedding in the brake pads on his take-off roll and so the Yak, took a little longer to get airborne than normal. I think the syndicate who owns the aircraft will be sending him a bill for a set of brake pads.
Well so much for that, now to the People who make it possible.
Warren Eva – Chief in Charge, organiser and all-around nice guy. He sent hundreds of Whatsapp messages, issued instructions, found accommodation, arranged hangarage (with thanks to the hangar owners who allowed us to overnight our aeries in their hangar), sorted out transfer arrangements, arranged members' pricing for fuel with the FAKT committee, making sure the restaurant was open, setting up box slots, posting pictures and a whole lot more. It is a mammoth task.
Dawie Pretorius, Kitty Hawks Airfield Manager, did sterling work, I personally witnessed him chasing after the kudu that ran across the runway. I did not see any meat cut for biltong, so I guess the kudu was faster than Dawie.
Warren conducted the pilots briefing both days, threatening us with Dawie belting down the runway behind a departing delinquent pilot should anyone leave with an unsettled bill. Warren, my account was cleared, so can I come back again (I discovered courtesy of Garth Calitz, apparently we are on the Wonderboom delinquent list)?
I spoke to Warren specifically and he felt we had an overwhelming response with yes, as opposed to the “not sures” when the event was formally published. Then all of the “yes’s” arrived with the exception of the Phalaborwa crew who unfortunately had the weather to contend with and just could not make it through, next time Ingmar.
Nigel Musgrave, as so often, was our safety officer for the camp. In preparation for writing this piece, I spoke with Nigel, who with his radio, kept all in line, the riff-raff out of the box and enabled a safe and enjoyable camp. In my discussion with Nigel, he told me he started helping out in the aviation circle at an event at Klerksdorp as a Marshall, and it was Nigel’s job to act as a starter, not sure if the event was a nav rally or an aerobatics competition, but one gentleman, also with an English name, shared by an ageing best-selling music artist of all time, who flew to FAKT for this camp in his beautiful, polished silver Cessna 140 on Friday, told Nigel in Klerksdorp “I am going to go and sleep under the wing over there, call me when it is my turn”. Now I did not get to what happened, whether Nigel actually awakened Elton at the appropriate juncture, but Nigel has been an integral part of aviation events for many years, assuming the role of safety officer at our SAC and Kitty Hawk events regularly.
Nigel recorded 73 aircraft movements in total over the two days. Not too shabby for a small airfield and it all kept him on his toes, monitoring 125.40 and then talking on 120.65 with the arriving and departing aircraft, making sure everyone knew the box was active and to stay clear. Not a small task.
Thanks, Nigel, the camp and participants truly appreciate the effort and help you provided. He was brisk and efficient on the radio. Telling you where and when to join and keeping things in a relatively busy circuit on track and safe. He manned the radio for the two days and we had no incidents, incursions or bad behaviour at all, which is always a great thing and probably because of the communication on the airwaves everyone coming in or out of Kitty Hawk respected the aerobatic box and gave us a wonderful two days of training.
Trevor Warner, ran a parallel entry-level camp taking up a few arrivals for an introductory flight and actively assisting IP Ferreira, Craig MacMurray and Harry Kessel, with getting their hands properly on the stick and performing some aerobatic manoeuvres. The feedback from these candidates was great to hear and we hope to see them become a regular part of the SAC events in the future. Chatting to the “newbies” at the bar, they all thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the opening of their eyes to the capabilities of the machines and perhaps the pilots.
One of the attendees for this aspect of the camp was IP who has had an RV for several years and wanted to learn a little about the world of aerobatics, his comments regarding the professionalism, the organisation, the effort and the calibre of the instructors (in his case Gary and Trevor) was at a phenomenal level. The delay with the late start as a result of the weather was accommodated and everyone got a chance to fly, the man was truly impressed. The focus on safety was something significantly more than he anticipated.
This incredible generosity of time from the instructors, read Bone Dome Brigade means, that people like me can participate and become more proficient, perhaps swelling the ranks of pilots competing in the future.
For those who do not know much about competition aerobatics, the sequences are flown in front of judges, who score them on their perception of what you told them you were going to fly and then what they saw you fly. Without feedback from people on the ground, the pilot is oblivious to errors and slightly shallow lines and incorrect pulls or pushes. So the training part requires observers on the ground to provide input to the pilots to enable proper practice, the whole purpose of the camp was to practice and improve skills.
Now every time I fly, I fly my figures perfectly, but when I land and speak to the “observers” a totally different story unfolds. So to these important people staring into the sun all day and providing crit to the pilots, Elton Bondi, Quintin Hawthorne (Q), Patrick Davidson, Gary Glasson and Warren Eva all played their parts (sorry if I left anyone out). Several of the judges turned up too and so we had a full contingent on the flight line.
I heard Paddy say on the radio to Tristen, whilst Tristen was flying, “do XYZ manoeuvre again, whilst I fight with your Dad down here on the ground for calling me a tjop” I do not know the outcome of the ground discussion was, but it was great to have Paddy active critting the advanced guys for much of the day.
My vote on awards is first prize to Nigel for keeping us safe and taking the time out to help with the radio work for the two days.
Second prize to Warren as the chief organiser.
Joint third to Gary, Paddy, Q, Elto, and Trevor for the training and crit. For me Gary took the cell phone shot of the camp, Patrick walking away from an RV with a Yak taking off into the sunset. This was not planned, it was dumb luck that the Yak appeared in the frame, as we were all standing around giving Paddy a rev and Gary telling him to stand still etc, it is a memorable image that you captured. Nice one Gary.
Fourth to Roger Deare, for the biggest improvement, he left with a big smile on his face as he really improved his flying.
And finally, a special mention to Quintin for his heart-stopping take off
So in the words of Nigel heard frequently throughout the day “Wind Light and variable, Runway 01 clear and take off at own discretion.”
hanks a lot and see you all at the next SAC event. (Perhaps at Heidelberg in April sometime).