By Alewyn Burger
So, we had a date for Western Cape Regionals but no venue yet. It was decided that Stellenbosch will again be the first choice and so the planning and necessary approvals requirements were set in motion. A special thanks to Dustin Hughes, Cliff Lotter and Quintin Hawthorne for patiently working with the SACAA to acquire the operational approval, even if we only received it the Tuesday before the competition! Phew! Div Diviliers Visser went and marked out the aerobatic box to the west of Stellenbosch airfield, T-shirts were at the printers, good weather was on order and we were ready to host a contest!
Ingmar Besuidenhout and Warren Eva in their Extra 200 together with friends in an RV6 made the trip all the way from Phalaborwa to attend and compete and arrived on Thursday after a long flight and in good spirits.
Friday morning the aerobatic box was opened at 0600Z sharp as per the CAMU clearance and Markku Torppa was first up to have a practice session in his newly acquired share in a Sbach XA42 ZS-XAA. Everyone got a chance to practice a couple of times and it was wonderful to see how even though we are competing against each other everyone was more than willing to assist in giving each other critique, advice and sharing experiences. Cape Town ATC was very accommodating and we made full use of the airspace clearance up to 4500ft until 1600Z. It was then time for a nice meal at the Flying Club watching a beautiful sunset before getting in a good night's rest.
We awoke to a beautiful but slightly windy day on Saturday. The wind was less than the official 23kt limit and so the competition was on!
Dustin Hughes as Competition Director gave us a run down on the day's proceedings followed by a Safety Briefing from Chief Judge Quintin Hawthorne.
First up was Alan Fergus in his RV8 flying a good clean sequence with none of the dreaded HZs (Hard Zero) for any figures. After Alan was Mike Brissenden in his RV8 and even though Mike does not have an inverted fuel system he made good work of the sequence working his RV as only he can to make sure he keeps feeding the Lycoming O-360 the blue stuff (AVGAS). When Div took to the sky in his RV8 ZU-SER it was very much evident that he had put in a lot of practice and it showed. It was beautiful to see how Div flew that RV sequence to near perfection.
Next up was Chris Leatt in his Christian Eagle bi-plane. So nice to see the iconic Pitts Special look-alike still holding its own in a world of high-performance monoplanes. This was Chris’ first competition, he kept the butterflies at bay and flew a solid performance in the Sportsman's class.
By now the wind was blowing nearly 20kts however the big group of intermediates were ready to battle it out! The competition was fierce and after round 1 it was so close we knew it could be anybody’s game!
Last but not least, Leigh took to the skies flying the Sbach in Advance and the rest of the competitors could only watch in awe at what the next level of aerobatics looked like! Leigh is no stranger and made it look easy even though we all knew the discipline, skill and fitness it actually takes to sustain the constant changing from positive to negative G’s while trying to stay inside the 1km square aerobatic box.
So with everyone having flown once, we had lunch. The five Intermediate pilots started debating and fiercely walking the unknown sequences trying to visualise how it was going to play out. This is where those that have practised more than just their known sequences should pay off. Naturally, Leigh did his thing walking the Advance unknown sequence in the background too.
The RV’s and the Eagle got round 2 in and they were happy with another relatively clean round each.
Warren Eva went up first and when Ingmar and I watched him fly we knew it was game on as Warren finished the Unknown sequence setting the bar high. Jury Steyn went up next in a Zlin 50LS which he does not usually fly, as his own Zlin 50 had an unfortunately cracked canopy but it looked like he was at ease with the sister-ship. Markku then flew beautifully in the Sbach but you could see he is still taming the beast as the performance is a big step up from the trusty Zlin 50LS he masterfully put through its paces for so many years prior.
Warren and Ingmar swopped seats and Ingmar showed that he is going to put up a fight and gave Warren a run for his money. Lastly was me and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself even when the wind was making it tough to stay in the box. I scored an HZ for a half-flick roll on a 45-degree up line which did not look quite look like a flick roll and that sealed my fate for a win. Those judges don’t miss a thing, they are just too good. You gotta make it look like it is supposed to be! What a pleasure and honour to mix it up with some of the highest skilled aviators and quality judges our country has to offer.
Leigh went up last and once again showed us that flying Advanced is exactly what it is, Advanced!
And so the aerobatic box was closed and another safe enjoyable competition was drawing to an end but not before a couple of cold beers, a tasty dinner and a very pleasant prize giving in the Stellenbosch Flying Club’s recently renovated Clubhouse.
Thank you to everyone, Judges, Scribes, Organisers, Pilots, SAC, SFC and private sponsors for hosting a magnificent event. One walks away from the Western Cape Regionals knowing that the sport of Competition Aerobatics is alive, well and in good hands!
Until next time I can borrow an aerobatic aircraft from someone, Western Cape Regionals, DONE!