Arriving at Ladysmith.
On Friday morning at 07.45, I met Andrew Blackwood - Murray for a flight in his Nashua sponsored Extra to the Sport Aerobatics Club Kwazulu Natal Regionals taking place at Ladysmith Airfield. The weather, when we departed Rand, was flyable but did not look promising.
The formation on its way.
However, by the time we got to Vereeniging it had improved somewhat but was still overcast with low clouds. This did not dampen our spirits. We were joined by five other Extras and flew in formation, with frequent changes, until ten or so miles out from our destination. I was in seventh heaven, photographing the other five members of our formation as we flew along.
Ladysmith Airfield with its inordinately long taxi way.
The sun was out when we landed at Ladysmith and we soon got rid of our warm clothes. The airport that's tar runway was opened on 20 May 1983 by the then minister of transport, A B Eksteen, is located on the outskirts of town just below Platrand at 28°34'48"S 29°45'10"E at an elevation of 3,548 feet (1,081 m) above mean sea level. It has one runway designated 11/29 with an asphalt surface measuring 1,200 by 15 metres (3,937 ft × 49 ft).
The Ecko Unltd photoshoot in progress.
Nigel doing his signature knife edge proudly displaying the Ecko Unltd logo.
Soon after our arrival, when everybody was refuelling, Roger Deare arrived in his Extra 200 from Durban and was accompanied by Stu Low in his VTail Bonny with Brian Spurr, our KZN correspondent, on board. Brian, who was flying to Battlefields on Saturday to report on the fly in for us, had used the opportunity to take air to air pics of Roger's Ecko Unltd branded Extra. Beside his own aircraft, Ecko now also partially sponsors Nigel's and partners 330SLC as well as Barry's 330SLC.
Tristan Eeles and dad Barrie. Barrie finished second in unlimited and Tristan first in intermediate.
Kayle Wooll took the honours in advanced.
Ecko Unlntd's Roger Deare finshed second in intermediate.
Barry and Tristian during Friday's practise.
There was just enough time for Stu to take Brian up again for a formation shoot of the three Ecko branded Extras' after which they departed for Durban. Then it was time for practise to start. Rain was forecasted for 15h00, so time was of the essence. All competitors that were then on the field got one session in. Most managed a second session before the rain started at 15h30. Fortunately, it did not last long and everybody managed to fly while being watched and critiqued by Barry, sometimes with son Tristian at his side.
The Judges hard at work. Mike Stark was the contest Director, John Gaillard the Chief Judgeand who was assisted by Quintin Hawthorne, Laszlo Liskay and Mike Stark. Natalie Stark did the scoring.
Offering an ATNS advisory service was Clerence Mngomezulu from Kruger International and Benji Phukubje from Lanseria international.
Andrew Blackwood-Murray flew his Nashua sponsored Extra in his first advanced class competition and finished in fourth place.
Andrew Fletcher finished fifth in advance.
Nigel Hopkins took the honours in the unlimited class.
The Judges, John Gaillard and Quintin Hawthorne came by road. Andrew Fletcher in his Zlin flew from Kitty Hawk, braving the weather. H at one stage nearly turned around and arrived just as the brief shower hit the field. Glenn Warden flew his Slick 240 in a couple of minutes later and the field was ready to go. Twelve originally entered:- eleven made it before the briefing at on Saturday morning.
Glen Warden in his Slick was placed second in the advanced class.
Jason Beamish finished third in the advanced class.
Gareth Gill going through his sequence before take-off. He finished first in the Sportsman class.
The runway at Ladysmith is almost a kilometre away from the apron and facilities, so getting photos of the take offs, landings and associated action involves quite a walk and after my encounter at Stellenbosch with a member of the reptile family, I was rather wary when walking through the grass at Ladysmith, which was fortunately cut nice and short. I decided to chance it and was rewarded with a relatively close up position from which to record and enjoy the skill with which the coopetitors flew their sequences.
Tristan Eeles in the 330SLC in action.
Quentin Taylor was placed second in the Sportsman Class.
With the known sequences completed, it was time for lunch and some chit chat. With the weather building, all rushed to complete the unknowns. Departures were soon underway as all made haste to get back to their local fields before sunset. Our formation of six just made it and was rewarded with a spectacular sunset as we broke over Tedderfield before going our separate ways.
Many thanks to the SAC for having me at the regionals. A huge thank you to Andrew Blackwood - Murray for the flight there and back and to the other pilots in our six ship Extra formation for an unforgettable flight. The next SAC event is the SA Nationals that are planned for June at Phalaborwa Airfield.
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