Brakpan Airfield once again came to life after a six-month quiet spell due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the government imposed lock-down that left aviators in South Africa grounded. It came as no surprise that all the available spaces for this Air Navigation Rally were filled within hours of opening.
The weather once again threatened to derail plans as the ANR coincided with the arrival of a nasty cold front causing windy conditions when the competitors realised the 20 knot wind was straight down the runway a decision was made to go ahead.
As with the SAC Aerobatic Coaching Camp held the week before strict adherence to the submitted Covid-19 SOP was essential. A maximum of twenty aircraft were permitted to enter each with a crew of two the remaining ten people, to make up the allowed fifty, were made up of officials and media.
The morning got off to an early start with pilots and navigators arriving from as early as seven, all eager to get the show on the road after their long break. After signing the COVID register and recording temperatures a cup of steaming hot coffee went down very well, then it was time for the briefing. Frank Eckard explained the intricacies of ANR flying and explained that two routes would be flown, the first with a 0,5nm corridor and then a second with only 0,3nm corridor, the scores of both routes would be combined and added to the spot landing results to determine the overall winner.
Once the competitors received their papers it becomes a rush to plot their routes and get to the aircraft to make the designated take-off times. A speed of 80 knots was chosen for the competition, which could potentially prove very challenging for pilots flying an aircraft that was only capable of 100 knots due to winds aloft in excess of 30 knots.
The first aircraft got airborne at 10:15 to complete the first and it intermediately became deviant that the conditions were going to be extremely difficult. Jonty and his son Jonathan Esser were the first team to go, their take-off ground speed looked extremely slow but once they turned out of the wind the took off like a SpaceX rocket ship.
Unfortunately not all the teams that entered made it to the start line, some due to technical and MPI issues and a few withdrew due to the forecasted heavy wind, finally sixteen of the planned twenty teams took to the air. To make things slightly more challenging for the teams, as if it wasn’t already bad enough, the visibility wasn’t too great either. The long dry months caused very dusty conditions aggravated by the wind this made spotting turning points all the more difficult.
To keep within the corridor both pilot and navigator fly with eyes outside the cockpit, the pilot watches for landmarks on the left-hand boundary of the corridor and navigator on the right, and both report landmarks as they pass by. The maps were provided at a scale of 1:200 000, and here in SA the feature updates were last done in 2015, making some parts of the route difficult to recognize where urban development has occurred since then.
On returning from the route the competitors were required to perform a spot landing on a painted “Bingo” line in the centre of Brakpan’s more than ample 1650m runway. Safety and COVID compliance officer for the day, Nigel Musgrave, was joined by Derek Hopkins to judge the landings that proved to be extremely challenging due to the gusty conditions.
After a quick lunch, the teams were once again busy plotting for the second route and the first aircraft got airborne at 13:00. The conditions were just as challenging if not more so for the second round, this coupled with the very twisty course and the 0,3nm corridor made for some interesting results.
Once all the teams were safely on the ground it was time to get the scoring done Frank & Cally Eckard experienced a few software gremlins during the process and some of the competitor's tracks seemed to disappear, this made the wait for prize giving a bit longer than expected.
The results were separated into two classes, Sportsman class and Unlimited, the Unlimited teams are teams comprising one or both members that have earned national colours at some point.
Overall winners in the Sportsman Class were Apie & Frederik Kotzee in their Robinson R66 ZS-HRS in 2nd place Eugene van Staden & Munaf Mubarak in their Sling ZU-IBH and in 3rd place Hendrik and Jandre Loots in the sling ZU-IHK.
In the Unlimited class 1st place honours went to Jonty & Jonathan Esser in their C150 ZU-BLL in 2nd place Nigel Hopkins and Mary de Klerk in their RV8 ZU-NDH and in 3rd place Hans Schwebel & Ron Stirk in the C150 ZS-NBT.
For the landings both landings counted towards a score, landing before the line attracting more penalties than after the line.
In the Sportsman class in 1st place were Fanie Scholtz & Herman Haasbroek, in 2nd place Andrew lane & Angie Maroun and in 3rd place Apie & Frederik Kotzee. In the Unlimited class in 1st place were Nigel Hopkins and Mary de Klerk, in 2nd place Martin Meyer and Rob Jonkers and in 3rd place Mauritz du Plessis & Sandi Goddard.
SAPFA’s next planned event will be an ever-popular “Speed Rally” at Secunda which will also be the finale of shortened 2020 season. Thanks must go to Brakpan Airfield for allowing this event to take place at the airfield especially in these very uncertain times. Special thanks to Rob Jonkers and his team that have persistently been engaging with the SACAA to open up general Aviation.