The SAPFA Landing Nationals - 7 November 2020

By Rob Jonkers. Photos by Jaco Pitout

SAPFA holds a Landing National Championships on a yearly basis and this year it was scheduled to take place at Stellenbosch, on this same day as part of the start of the World Rally Flying Championships. Sadly, as reported earlier in the year, this had to be postponed to 2021 in the same time frame. At least we have been able to redirect the original plan to hold the championships up here on the reef and Brakpan was chosen as the venue.

With the rain having passed earlier in the week, the weather turned to sweltering with 34 deg C as the high temperature for the day. With the airfield elevation at 5300 ft, this resulted in a density altitude of around 8500 ft, not the most ideal conditions for high altitude landing accuracy. The wind was at least relatively calm, although gusty at times.

There were 14 competitors for the day - 8 in the Unlimited class and 6 in the Sportsman's class. Many of the competitors were out practicing on Friday for a good part of the day to gain proficiency in their accuracy, as the previous week's training camp was 'winded out' with high cross-winds. From the results, it showed clearly that practice makes all the difference. One has to create an airfield mind map of markers, turning points and altitudes especially for glide approaches - to get a repeatable landing point.

The competition consists of carrying out two sessions of four landings, one a normal powered approach with any flap, the second a glide approach that starts 1000 ft abeam the landing line with any flap, the third is also a glide approach with no flap and the fourth is a powered approach over a 1.8 m barrier located 50 m from the landing line. The barrier proved to be the most challenging for most - even though the glideslope represents a normal landing state.

First up just after 10 am was the Unlimited Class, which were in 2 groups of 4 and thereafter Sportsman's Class in 2 groups of 3. The officials were also trying out video recording for the first time (high speed camera settings) as video recording will be the planned standard for World competitions, which is at least an improvement over the 'gatsometer' system previously used.

When session 1 was completed, lunch was served after session 2 commenced at 1PM, this being the highest density altitude conditions with turbulence thrown in. A C182 turning downwind to final on the glide at best glide speed saw more than 1000ft per minute rate of descent, which did not leave much space to do the final runway heading line-up and arrest the descent to stabilize for the flare - needless to say the accuracy was not easily achievable to hit the landing line.

Hans Schwebel

Fanie Scholz

Jonty Esser

After all the landings were completed, the officials debriefed the scores and reviewed the video footage to ensure the exact touchdown points were scored. In the Unlimited Class and in first place was multiple SA landing and world champion holder Hans Schwebel in a C150 ZS-NBT. Fanie Scholz in a Sling ZU-FZF bagged the runner up sport while Jonty Esser in a C150 ZU-BLL took the final step on the podium.

Andy Gouws

Hilton Wolff

Kevin Cloete

In the Sportsman's class, Andy Gouws in a C150 ZU-BLL took the honours with second place awarded to Hilton Wolff in a Muschak MFI-17 ZS-OKR and in third place Kevin Cloete in a C182 ZS-KDC.

Many thanks to the Brakpan Aero Club for hosting this signature event, the SAPFA team of Frank Eckard as the Competition Director, Nigel Musgrave as the Safety Officer, Mary de Klerk, Sandi Goddard, Lizelle Kruger as scoring marshals and who were ably assisted by Tarryn & Iaan Myburgh, Martin Meyer, Hendrik Loot as line judges and barrier holders.

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