On the Skids - Helivate's HeliOlympics 2019

By Russell Dixon-Paver

Helivate Helicopter Services sponsored this event on Saturday 2019-10-12 for the fourth consecutive year and aims to continue to make it an annual event. As it happened, all the participating helicopters were of the skid undercarriage type! Alouette II's and Robinson 44's were the best represented, with Bell well represented and the field rounded off with a Hughes and a Gazelle. All teams agreed, the "ring sting" first event of the course was the toughest.

The aim of HeliOlympics is to challenge pilots to be the best they can be and develop the accuracy in their flying, all while having fun doing just that!

After the previous week's unstable and unpredictable weather, Saturday turned out a beautiful day, and especially so for the "fine motor skills" accuracy required in this event. Very light to no wind and sunshine all day.

Some fourteen teams entered and I think there was even one additional late entry. Some teams shared the same choppers and "hot changeovers" were done and this sped up the program flow.

There were two pilot categories: Student Pilot and Qualified Pilot, with the latter being a very broad base of experience, from newly qualified PPL to very experienced PPL all the way through to experienced CPL's. There were event time limits, but there was no timing for completing the course, so speed was not a factor. Scoring was both positive (generous for goal achievement) and negative (small penalties for "infringements") and credit was given for smoothness and accuracy of execution of each event.

The skids lent themselves well to attaching the bottle opener and "cone ring probe" with duct tape and cable ties, on the front of each skid.

The course consisted of three "events" - with a selection of photographs to illustrate each

Ring Sting - Cone with ring on top - pickup off drum, tree bash around the drum and replace cone on the drum. Sometimes the orientation on the ring atop the cone was adjusted to allow for the changes in direction of the little wind there was. The pilot was not able to see the "probe" to pick up the cone with the ring on top of it, so navigator patter and crew teamwork was vital.

Here Rudi Marx pilots the beautiful Aloette II, while Animike Cloete navigates and patters, just before lifting the cone away, and then as they complete the tree bash around the drum. Note the intense concentration!

Bucket Run - Navigator directs pilot so the bucket can be filled from the pool, and then take the bucket through the course of gates between cones, not spilling any water, and then place the bucket on top of the final drum. Again crew teamwork was paramount for this event. Some crews had an additional "bucket operator" crew member.

An R44 piloted by George with Gina Gerber navigating the cone gates and then the rope is dropped away as the bucket is successfully placed on the drum. Notice the 5th "cone gate" just below the R44's tail rotor.

Bottle Top - remove bottle top with opener taped to pilot-side skid. Here the opener is visible to the pilot, so he has to fly "outside the cockpit".

Charles and Andrew Pratley line up for opening the bottle, with Hayley holding onto her cap while evaluating their execution…

Hayley Cumming, the CEO of Helivate, and her team ran an exceptionally smooth event, which even finished ahead of schedule. Hayley flew as safety pilot for some teams and was also involved in some of the scoring. Animike Cloete, who looks after Helivate's Operations, was literally "running" the event operationally. Some of the judges/marshals also participated, and they swapped out roles seamlessly. The enthusiasm and energy of the Helivate team is infectious and came through in every aspect of the event, and especially evidenced in happy participants, and their "wall of fame" showing that many of the pilots who did so well, were relatively recently solo or qualified.

Student pilots did very well. Hayley as safety pilot, Gina George piloting and Steve George navigating.

Again Hayley as safety pilot, Marie Reddy piloting and Eugene Couzyn navigating.

Prize-giving and results - the awards table and Hayley explaining the rationale for the HeliOlympics.

Student Pilots:
1. Team "Robby 44", Martin Meyer with Gary Marais navigating with 226 points
2. Team "Against All Odds", Marie Reddy with Eugene Couzyn navigating with 204 points
3. Team "Double G's", Gina Gerber with George Gerber navigating with 178 points

Qualified Pilots:
1. Team "Dream Team", Rudi Marx with Animike Cloete navigating with 284 points
2. Team "Magnum Z", Andrew Pratley with Kim Pratley navigating with 277 points
3. Team "G squared", George Gerber with Gina Gerber navigating with 270 points
Photographs of the prize winners. The Pratleys were at a wedding were unable to stay for the prize giving. Teams Double G's and G Squared, were of course, the same team, with roles switched, so they completed in both categories.

There was an unexpected treat that delayed the prize-giving slightly, but no complaints were heard… The locally based Navion Riders were doing a flypast for a local school event and also gave the wedding the Pratleys were attending a flypast, so on their way to and from these events, they graciously treated participants and guests to "smoke on" flypasts - very impressive with three Navions in the afternoon light. Thanks to Steve, George and Ryno!

Thanks to the Helivate team for an excellent HeliOlympics 2019 and for promoting improving of pilots skills. We look forward to HeliOlympics 2020 in anticiplation for the fifth edition of this great event!

Events 2019

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