By Piet Meyer
During the past weekend, the National Spot Landing Competition was held at Brakpan. As is the norm for SAPFA, the event was well organized and hats off to all involved in planning and effort that went into the competition held on Saturday.
I have competed in many an air race, nav rally and ANR events thought that I knew my plane, I am aware of my comfort levels and my abilities in handling my Jabiru J400….until I tried the spot landing competition. This was my very first spot landing competition. During fly-in breakfast, the odd spot landing is done at the airfield but that is just one landing and not as detailed as with the competitions. The competition format is that you fly two sessions with 4 landings each. First a normal landing with power and normal configuration. Second landing, Glide approach from 1000ft and flaps allowed to be used. Third, you land with a glide approach, no flaps. Then the last a power approach but landing over an obstacle.
I skipped work on Friday and met up with Jonty, Fanie and Tarryn at Brakpan as we all had the idea to do some practice runs before race day. Was I in for a surprise! You have an idea of glide approach and your aircraft’s glide ratio etc. Well, I can tell you, if you are wrong, unless you have competed in spot landing competitions before. During my PPL training and now during some weekend flips, I will simulate an engine failure and do a glide approach, set up for landing on an imaginary field and then think, I will make it, give power and off you go. Easy. Well, here you must land and no “I will make it” power up and go. You must land else no points.
Firstly, I realized after 5 hours of practice and more than 30 landings on Friday, is that I suck at my landings that I used to think were perfect. Putting your plane down softly of a long runway each time is not the same as putting it down perfectly on a specific spot time after time. Secondly, I realized that what I thought I would do in the event of an engine failure and my handling of an emergency landing was completely wrong.
I now know for sure what I can and cannot do in the event of an emergency. I also did many a go-around due to sucking so much at this spot landing thing. Now, this is also a skill that needs to be practised. Flap settings, when to adjust, how to apply power and rudder and what to expect while doing the go-around. Watching your airspeed and not going into a stall. You learn this by actually doing it and not just “simulating” at 7000ft in the general flying area.
During the competition, I have some good and some bad landings. Side slips, using the controls like a proper Tswana lady stirring the pap pot and stepping on the rudders like stepping on your child’s lego blocks at 2 am in the morning. I made my plane dance, sway and some strange Jerusalema moves to get it on the runway. Even did a go-around on one of the landings. End of the day, my experience and knowledge of my own abilities and aircraft capabilities greatly increased.
I highly recommend attending these events. Yes, we compete against professionals and beginners alike. Mostly you compete against your self to try and beat your personal best. I got exceptionally well at going around, orbit and some rather good landings. My swear jar also got a nice big deposit after some of the landings that did not go according to plan.
On paper, I ended up last in the unlimited class, but on the scorecard, I had one Bingo (perfect landing), so that in my mind, makes me a Top Gun pilot. Mic drop. Maverick out