By Garth Calitz
Helivate Helicopter Services have hosted a Heli Olympics for the last seven years and the pilots seem to love them as they always return for more. The concept was designed to take pilots out of their comfort zones and into an area where very few pilots actually get to operate in normal conditions. Haley and her team always try and make the tasks as fun as possible and this year was no exception.
The morning started off with a very serious threat of rain, the rain did eventually come but was very short-lived and by the scheduled start time the conditions were perfect, well as perfect as Krugersdorp Airfield could deliver, which means the customary wind was ever present. Student pilots were first to get airborne, which was a good thing as conditions were expected to deteriorate through the morning.
Three tasks were designed to test the pilot and navigators' communication skills as well as the pilot's flying skills. The first task was named “Grappling Sling” in this task four colour-coded buckets are filled with water and placed on a barrel. The navigator has to direct the pilot to the barrel, hook one of the buckets with a grappling hook on the end of a rope then direct the pilot through the corresponding coloured obstacle. Once the obstacle has been successfully negotiated the bucket has to be placed on another barrel without spilling the contents or allowing the bucket to touch the ground. This sounds relatively simple but one must remember the pilot can not see the bucket as the navigator is positioned on the opposite side of the helicopter. The task is repeated as many times as possible before the judges call the allotted time over then they have to drop what they doing and move to the next obstacle.
The second obstacle was named “Brick Bash”, the navigator is required to direct the pilot to a bucket placed on a barrel and then drop a brick, which is attached to a rope, into the bucket. Once the brick is in the bucket the pilot has to move backwards and perform a 180° hover arc without the bucket being pulled off the barrel or a weight on the rope touching the ground.
The final test is one that has been in every Heli Olympics since its inception. “Beer O'Clock” has become one of the main draw-cards for the Heli Olympics as the pilots keep coming back to test themselves. The idea is to open a beer bottle using only the skid of a helicopter in the shortest time possible. In this test the pilot is on his own as he has a clear line of sight to the opener taped to the skid of the helicopter all the nav can do is offer some moral support but with the times dropping to mere seconds they didn’t get much chance to support the pilot.
Fourteen teams entered this year's event, three of them in the student category and the rest taking part in the PPL category. Each team was encouraged to come up with a name for the team some of them were rather comical.
As I said before the students were first to take to the sky, just barely though as they never move more than a few feet above the ground throughout the competition. Flying this low puts the pilots in the 3-Dimensional area once more altitude is gained the ground becomes a 2-Dimensional surface and it makes the pilot's life a lot less stressful but that is irrelevant in this competition.
Once all the students had completed their assigned tasks it was time for the PPLs to give it a go, the quality of flying has increased notably since the first Heli Olympics. A live scoring screen was added for the first time this year and the jury is still out as to whether it was a good or bad thing, the pilots could follow each other's progress in almost real-time but it did take away from the announcement of the winners as that information was already out there.
The prize giving was held in the hangar after the last team landed the final scores were as follows.
In third place was Team “Blackhawk” made up of pilot Storm Haupt and navigator Eddie Soares managing a total of 22 points. Taking second place was “Squirrel B2”, Pilot Gary Klare and navigator Haydon Heres. Team “Rotorkop” made up of pilot Eddie Soares, who has now taken the record for the youngest pilot to ever have taken part in the Heli Olympics at only 15 years young, he was assisted by navigator Storm Haupt, who herself is only 17. All the students competed in the same Robinson R44
Private Pilots category:
Third place was taken by Team “Lama Lama Lama” in you guessed it in a Lama, for those of you who don’t know the Lama is basically an Alouette II with an Alouette III power plant. It was piloted by Rudi Marx assisted by his son Nathan in the navigator's seat. The “Gooseberries” took second by only four points with Gary Marais in the pilot's seat and his sons operating as spotter and navigator. The laurels however went to the pilot Genevieve King and navigator Luke Jacobs, they weren’t sure who was who in the team named “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum”.
Well done to all the competitors and of course well done to Heivate for staging yet another great competition, next year something will have to be done to make the “Beer O'Clock” more challenging as the record for the fastest completion has just got too low, Martin managed to pop the cap in only six seconds with Dieter not far behind at nine seconds.