By Garth Calitz
With all the disruptions to the aerobatic competition calendar this year the SAC committee decided to have a very special competition at Baragwanath Airfield on Saturday 18 September in memory of the late Junior Coetzee.
Junior Coetzee was a long time supporter of Aerobatics in South Africa, although his introduction to the sport was rather unorthodox he nevertheless became a driving force in the world of aerobatics. In 1986 while Junior and lifelong friend Quintin Hawthorne were busy with their private pilots' licences, they decided to go and watch the National Aerobatics Championships which were held in Mkuze that year. The two of them were joined by friends Peri Tsitsopolous, Howard Bingham and Paul Lindenburg this bunch of misfits made up what was known as the “Flying Circus”. The band of merry men spent the competition offering criticism to all the competitors much of which was induced by the bravery often received from a brown bottle. The contest organisers decided the only way to stop them from disrupting the competition was to put them to work assisting the judges and that’s where the journey began.
Sadly junior was fatally injured in a car accident in 2001 and twenty years later the SAC decided to host a competition in his honour. Andre Coetzee of Henley Air, a helicopter charter and flight training centre based at Rand Airport was approached to join and he immediately offered to sponsor the day in memory of his Uncle Junior. In addition to sponsoring the lunch and drinks, Andre also volunteered the services of the newly formed Rocket Helicopter Emergency Medical Services for the duration of the competition.
The Raptors RV Aerobatic team performed a beautiful formation aerobatics display which was concluded with a missing man formation in honour of Junior Coetzee.
In what is becoming the norm the weather didn’t play ball and after a perfect week of weather, Saturday morning arrived with low clouds and high winds. The bad weather delayed the start of the competition but finally started clearing in the late morning. Due to the delayed start in the flying, it was decided to move lunch a bit earlier and try and get all the flying in, in the afternoon.
Once everyone had enjoyed the amazing spread offered by Henley Air Gary Glasson called all the competitors to the clubhouse for the competition briefing. After a moving tribute to Junior, the competition rules and procedures were briefed and then it was time to get the first aircraft in the air.
Sadly the turnout for the competition wasn’t as good as expected with only ten pilots making it to BaraG on the day. The RV Cass pilots all decided to take part in Sportsman Class, which was quite a challenge for them. No Unlimited pilots took part leaving only Intermediate and Advanced Classes.
The first pilot to get airborne was Ian Beaton in his RV7 followed by Thys Kuhn in an RV8, Warren Eva completed the official entrants in the Sportsman competition. Trevor Warner, a regular Intermediate competitor decided to compete Hors Concour in his RV7.
The Intermediate competition consisted of only two pilots, Dustin Hughes was up in his Yak55 first followed by Roger Deare in his Ecko Unltd sponsored Extra 300.
Advance Class was more of a competition with four pilots taking part. They were led out for their known sequence by current SAC Chairman Cliff Lotter in his Yak 55 followed by Andrew Blackwood-Murray in his Nashua Extra 300. Pierre du Plooy in his Ultimate Aviation Giles 202 and the first round of flights was concluded by Tristan Eeles in his Ecko Untld Extra 330SC.
After a short break for the judges, the order was repeated with the unknown sequences being flown. The last flight of the day was flown by Tristan in his Extra 330SC which was also the conclusion of the first competition this young man flew in the Advanced Class.
After a bit of a delay in releasing the scores, Natalie Stark was working remotely from Cape Town and a few technical glitches had crept into the system, it was decided to forgo the prize giving and rather let the pilots fly back to their home bases without having to contend with failing light.
The scores were released later in the evening, the Advanced Class was won by newcomer Tristan Eeles. Tristan is on his way to becoming a brilliant aerobatics pilot that will soon be competing on the world stage. Andrew Blackwood-Murray took second place with Pierre du Plooy in third.
Dustin Hughes kept Roger Deare at bay to win the Intermediate Class.
In Sportsman Class, Warren Eva managed to take the laurels ahead of Thys Kuhn and Ian Beaton. Trevor Warner scored a very respectable 74.527% overall but was not included in the official results.
A big thank you must go to Quintin and his judging team for once again braving the elements to make sure these competitions are a success, Henley Air and Rocket HEMS for the support shown to Aerobatics in general.