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President’s Trophy Air Race 2024

By Tarryn Myburgh

Photos by Charles Hugo and Dieter Bock

The 2024 Presidents Trophy Air Race took place at Louis Trichardt Civil Airfield, hosted by the Soutpansberg Vliegklub and organised by the South African Power Flying Association. Louis Trichardt Civil is a beautiful airfield, located within Makhado Military Airspace in one of the most northern towns in the country.

The Soutpansberg Vliegklub pulled out all the stops to ensure the airfield was in fantastic condition and that competitors were welcomed with great food and well-kept facilities, with the club even putting in a lovely grass taxiway to each end of the runway for us.

With a large portion of the field first-time competitors, many speed tests were required to set up handicap speeds and competitors poured in throughout the day on Thursday. A total of 39 aircraft registered but 3 were not able to attend, resulting in a total of 36 entrants participating.

The weather played along for the first time in many years with blue skies and light winds predicted throughout the week and into the weekend. On both days the route started to the southwest, flying around the western edge of the Soutpansberg Mountains, north as far as Messina, and back to complete a loop. The finish line for both days was the long taxiway connecting the hangers to the runway. This gave a good vantage point for those on the ground to watch the competitors return.

On day 1 the northern loop was in a clockwise direction while day 2 was anticlockwise and included a crossover. Navigation on both days was challenging with sparse information on the maps corresponding to little notable infrastructure on the ground. This meant that a few crews flew rather creative routes, including one that decided to return to the field rather than try to complete the course.

The relatively long legs tested the crew's ability to remain focused as they flew over game ranches and spectacular wild areas dotted with magnificent baobab trees. The conditions proved interesting with strong tailwinds somehow covering most of the route on both days, resulting in very fast times for all.

The Lethaba, Soutpansberg and Eagles Creek flying clubs all rustled up many new and enthusiastic teams that performed very well. Novice team Edri Vorster and Johan Pieterse of Lethaba Flying Club flew their Cessna 172 exceptionally well and finished third overall.

In second place was Fanie Scholtz and Herman Haasbroek in their Sling 2, a mere 5 seconds behind the overall winners Johan van Zyl and Eric Addison in their RV7, ZU-VZJ.

The celebrations continued late into the night at the gala dinner held at the airfield. The hangar was spectacularly decorated with a bushveld theme, and everyone stuffed themselves with the most delicious food.

Final results

The vibe, comradery, airmanship and scenery certainly made this PTAR one for the books. A huge thank you to Soutpansberg Vliegklub and the SA Power Flying Association for all their effort in making this a successful and memorable event.



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