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The 20th Rand Airport Challenge

By Garth Calitz

The Rand Airport Challenge was originally started as an inter-flying school competition, the idea was for all the schools based at Rand to encourage their students to take part, sadly it never turned out that way. Over the years it has become one of the most prestigious navigation rallies but still very few students enter.

Frank and Cally Eckhardt have been at the helm of the Rand Airport Challenge since its inception and to commemorate the milestone they decided to use the exact route that was used 20 years ago. There were a few of the competitors this year that took part in the first Challenge but they admitted they could not remember anything about the route.

The competition was divided into two classes Class 1 (Advanced) the advanced, experienced pilots and navigators and Class 3 (Spotsman) were total novices with very little or no experience at all. The judging criteria differ vastly between the two classes although both fly exactly, identifying the photos and timing are much stricter in Class 1.

As per usual the weather threatened to upset everyone’s day with some nasty clouds moving in from the south, the bad weather didn’t arrive at Rand but did however force many of the competitors to either turn back or head straight home. Only two teams made it around the course, one from Class 3 and one from Class 1.

The weather seemed to intercept most of the competitors around Vereeniging and the Vaal Dam forcing them to abandon the route. Some of the teams that started later didn’t even make it to the start line and saw that the route would take them straight into some nasty weather and decided to rather back out and be safe.

Roger Bizzoli and Derek Myburg competing in Class 3 managed to get all the way around the course but with all the bad weather they somehow forgot to fill in the answer sheet where all the photos spotted are recorded, earning themselves some serious penalties.

The eventual winners of the coveted Rand Airport Challenge Trophy were serial winners Jonty Esser and Sandi Goddard with a remarkable score of 306 points. With this score in the worst possible weather, they would have come close to winning if not winning any of the past Rand Airport Challenges.

We have to thank Frank and Cally for all the hard work they have put in over the last 20 years to keep this great rally going year after year.

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