Jack Taylor airfield based just outside Krugersdorp is the operational base of Helivate Helicopter Services, established in 2011 in response to the ever-increasing helicopter charter, helicopter training market and helicopter hire market within South Africa and its neighbouring countries.
For the fourth year running Helivate have hosted the Helivate Olympics, a challenging yet fun way to hone the participating pilot’s skill in a relaxed competitive atmosphere. Safety is always a priority in these events so as always, the day started off with a safety briefing and an explanation of the challenges that can be expected.
The competition consists of three tasks, devised to test the flying skill of the pilot as well as the communication between pilot and navigator.
The first task is known as “Ring Sting” for this exercise a PVC pipe inserted in a polystyrene is mounted on a the skid of the helicopter, out of sight of the pilot, the pilot must then pick up a traffic cone, with a metal ring attached to the top of it, off the top of a 200l oil drum. As the pilot cannot see the mount the navigator has to direct them to successfully lift the cone. Once the cone is on the skid mount the pilot has to do a tree bash around the drum without loosing the cone.
After the successful drum bash the pilot has to return the cone to the top of the drum once again relying on the navigator’s direction. The competition is started off with 100 points in the bank and one point is subtracted for each time the cone is touched without lifting it, if the cone is successfully lifted twenty points are added. As with the lift one point will be subtracted for each time the drum is touched with the cone if it is not successfully placed and twenty points will be earned when the cone is successfully replaced on the drum. All of this has to be done in 5 minutes or a penalty of 100 points will be imposed.
Once the team have completed event one, they move on to the “Bucket Run” once again this is a test of flying skill as well as communication between pilot and navigator. The pilot takes off from the LZ and moves towards an inflatable pool filled with water, the navigator must the direct the pilot to hover directly above the pool so they can fill a bucket that is dangled from a rope.
Once the bucket is full, they have to negotiate a series of gates with the bucket hanging just above the ground. On completion of the gates the bucket must be placed on top of a drum. Five points are deducted for each timer the bucket touches the ground or a cone a further 5 points were deducted for each line visible on the bucket above the water lines, the pilot can choose to refill the bucket once the gates are complete. If that task is not completed in the allotted 100 points will be deducted if the course is completed ten points will be added to the team’s total.
The third and last event is “Bottle Top”, the pilot will start the task by hovering inside a marked box, time will start as soon as they are in the hover within the box. A bottle opener is mounted on the pilot side skid and with this bottle opener the pilot must try to open a beer bottle which is mounted on a pole in the corner of the box.
The pilot will be penalised twenty points for every time they move out of the frame, 100 points will be awarded if they manage to complete the task in the allotted three minutes, no penalties were awarded if the task wasn’t successfully completed in the time allowed.
Fortunately, the weather was perfect for this type of flying with almost no wind at all, attempting precision flying like this in windy conditions would prove to be extremely difficult. Fourteen teams took up the challenge competing in two categories, Student and Qualified pilots the majority of whom were based at Krugersdorp, except for Rudi Marx in The Alo II who's machine is based at Rand Airport and Anton Von Willigh whose Gazelle is based at Wonderboom Airport. It was great to see machines like a Bell 47, Huges 500 and a Schweizer 269C in the mix.
The difference between the students scores and the qualified pilots was remarkably small, highlighting the need for ongoing practise of precision flying by all helicopter pilots no matter the level of experience. The students had an instructor onboard as well as a navigator which would have made their task slightly more difficult as the aircraft were slightly heavier.
The final results were as follows:
1st place: Martin Meyer (Navigator, Gary Marais) - Points 226
2nd Place: Marie Reddy (Navigator, Eugen Couzyn) - Points 204
3rd Place: Gina Gerber (Navigator, George Gerber ) -Points 178
1st Place: Rudi Marx (Navigator, Animike Cloete) - Points - 284
2nd Place: Andrew Pratley (Navigator, Kim Pratley) - Points 277
3rd Place: George Gerber (Navigator, Gina Gerber) - Points 270
After the competition many of the competitors stayed for a braai and some socialising at the Helivate hangar, where some of those opened beers could finally be put to good use, they were even treated to a Navoin fly-by.
Helivate must be commended for promoting the development of all helicopter pilots with initiative’s like this they really test the helicopter pilot in ways the normal day to day flying don’t, and all of this is done in a very safe environment.
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