By Rob Russell Photos By Rayno Snyman
After the forced cancellation of the eagerly awaited 2020 Stellenbosch Air Show and the on-going State of Disaster forcing the Air Show again being cancelled this year, the Stellenbosch Flying club decided to host an open day and landing competition, at the airfield.
The day dawned and the Sky Gods presented an almost perfect autumn’s day. It was marred only by the presence of the Cape Doctor, much to the dismay of many aircrew, that decided their pride and reputations were more important and decided not to enter! But when you have a venue like Stellenbosh airfield, which must rate as one of the most spectacular airfields, in the country, if not the world, one tends to forget a bit about the weather. That aside, 26 aircrews entered for what was a really great fun day. From newly qualified private pilots up to senior airline crews, they eagerly awaited the day and battle.
And in their true tradition, the Stellenbosh Flying Club rolled out the red carpet and spared no expense to ensure participants and visitors were well looked after. The event was under the organisation of Brent Warren and he and his committee certainly did not fail. They presented a well-organised event which both pilots and spectators could not fail to enjoy.
The morning started with a safety briefing, under the control of Rickus Erasmus. He welcomed all to the club and gave a short briefing of what was to happen. The emphasis was on safety and fun. In that spirit, the entrants took up the challenge.
There were three categories: LSA’s. Conventional Gear (nose-wheel types) and tail draggers. Crews were each allowed two landings, with the combined scores to count. They were marked according to where they landed. Those that landed short of the box, were penalised 20 points for each metre they landed short, and those that landed past the box were penalised with 10 points for each metre late they touched down.
The first few crews nervously taxied out and took to the air. The crosswind played a small role in the planning of their landings. But generally, most of the landings were pretty good. There were three types of landings, namely, good, not too good and earth-shattering. Luckily not many of the last type were seen and there were no incidents at all. The spectators could almost feel the concentration of the aircrews as they attempted to land, in the box.
The well-attended crowd were kept thoroughly entertained, both by the aircraft in the competition and also by the catering department of the Flying Club, under the management of Anton Theart. The food was of an excellent standard and I can only recommend, if you are in the area and looking for a great place, with stunning views and a reasonable menu, to eat you stop there. You will not be disappointed. It was great to see such an appreciative group of spectators, supporting the club, some of which emerged from behind their masks, to renew friendships with old acquaintances and friends and give their support to this event.
To keep the crowd entertained and to show them that helicopters can also do good landings, the two Leading Edge Aviation helicopters, based at the airfield for fire fighting duties, and under the ownership of Mark Jackson, took to the air and showed the fixed-wing pilots, judges and spectators, how to land exactly in the middle of the box, much to the amusement of all. For many people there, it was also the first time they were able to see the UH-60A Blackhawk in the air. And what an impressive machine it is. And the spectators were most appreciative of their flying.
When the activities had been completed, the judges sat down and after many adjudications, the winners were announced:
1. Mike Taylor ZU-IIY
2. Tyler Sawyer ZU-IMV (recently qualified and needing much mentoring and assistance from his instructress Michelle Boshoff)
3. Duncan Nel ZU-EKI
1. Thys van der Merwe ZS-AFP
2. Henk Oosthuizen ZS-IAF (who needed all the help from his son)
3. Charles Peck & Marius Steenkamp ZS-EZV
1. Martin Venn ZS-WIN
2. Hough van Wyk ZS-WIN
3. Phil Bristo ZS-ULK
And the winner of the lucky draw, sponsored by Pilot Insure, was Tosh Ross
The various marshals, judges and safety officials also need a word of thanks. These background people are often forgotten and they did a great job to ensure the event went smoothly and without incident.
Congratulations to the Club for a great day – one hopes they give serious thought to making this an annual event. With such an idyllic setting, it certainly has the potential to be a winner and a very popular annual event.