The PTAR, Celebrating its Centenary at Ermelo - 21-22.05.2021

By Willie Bodenstein. Photos by Willie Bodenstein and Rob Jonkers

Willie Bodenstein. Photos by Willie Bodenstein and Rob Jonkers

The field Saturday after the completion of the second and final leg.

The President's Trophy Air Race (PTAR), one of the most iconic air races in the world, this year celebrated its centenary at Ermelo in Mpumalanga. Originally known as the Governor General's Cup Air Race, it was first held in 1937 to coincide with the opening of Durban's new airport at Stamford Hill.

The winners were W H Hulett and R Coull flying a Hornet Moth who averaged 120.3 mph. With war clouds hanging ominously on the horizon, the 1939 race was again hosted in Durban and the winners, E U B (Usher) Biderley in Lord Wakefield's "Double Eagle" averaged 159,4 mph. WWII effectively put a stop to any further racing and it was only in 1954 that the Governor General's cup Race was held again. Fittingly, it was won by a young SAAF pilot, 2nd Lt BM Fletcher with an average speed of 194 mph in a SAAF Harvard.

In 1962, President Swart, the new head of state, presented the State President's Trophy to the Aero Club and the race became known as the President Trophy Air Race. Apart from a few breaks, the race has been held on an annual basis.

The format of the race has changed over the years. The format of this year's race is similar to that used at Saldanha Bay in 2019. The modern form of the race is an adapted and modified version of the extremely successful series of Speed Rallies.

The field at about 10.00 when we arrived.

Jaco Breytenbach and Johnny Bezuidenhout arriving from Bethlehem in his Cessna 210 Turbo, a real rocket ship. Jaco kindly took me up for air to ground photos.

Cobus Broodryk and Mario Febbraio arriving from Mosselbay.

Riaan Prinsloo who did not take part but assisted with the fuelling from a browser kindly loaned by Kisugu from Nelspruit.

Leon Joubert arrived from Kitty Hawk.

Eric and Antoinette Addison from Springs.

John Sayers and Jack Coetzer from Blue Mountain Valley.

Apie and son Frederik Kotzee arrived from Brakpan in their ex SAAF Bosbok.

Wash and shine for that elusive extra one knot.

More arrivals.

Fanie Scholtz, here with SAPFA's Mauritz du Plessis, was one of twenty-four competitors that had requested test flights. These flights started on Wednesday and were completed late Thursday.

Century Avionics arrived soon afterwards. Jaco Breytenbach and Johnny Bezuidenhout browsing.

Although actual racing was only to start on Friday, by Thursday the field was already busy with setting up and speed testing with flight test officers, Mauritz and Christiaan du Plessis and Sean Cronin for those competitors who had requested it. Throughout the day, there was a steady stream of arrivals. The high esteem in the aviation community for the PTAR drew teams from as far afield as Port Elizabeth and Mosselbay.

Brian Emmenis of Capital Sounds and his team, who has covered 25 PTAR events and who commentated at his first aviation event since lockdown was last March, made a welcome return to the iconic air race.

The ATNS Special Air Events Division, Ricardo Afonso, Eugene Hlungwani and Gladwin Sekobela kept the skies safe and incident free which was at times crowded with returning gaggles of aircraft.

PilotInsure and DJ Aviation

The CAA was there in force with two members of its Special Air Events Division and four of the Public Relations Section presents here posing with Brian Emmenis. From left to right Papie Maja, Brian Khumalo, Moses Mushovholwa, Pabalo Makgato, Mothiba Kangwane and Mahlatste Mphahlele.

Thursday's briefing.

Thursday was also the official registration day as well as the day on which the first official race meeting took place. By late afternoon, all the competitors had arrived and the first briefing of the race was held slightly later than scheduled because of a power failure which was quickly resolved when a stand by generator was started. One of the rules is that both the pilot and navigator must be present at all briefings. A roll call was held at each briefing. Miss the briefing and you miss the race! One could already feel the electricity in the air. This PTAR was going to be like none before. By then, it was confirmed that 60 teams, of which nine flew Beechcraft's iconic Bonanza's, had entered. The race numbers were issued and then it was time to relax. There would be little time for that come Fridayas competitors would have to be up early. They had to move their aircraft to designated parking bays before 08.00 and be at the days briefing at 08.45. Again, miss the briefing, you miss the race.

Friday dawned and it was cold with a icy wind that made the start day of the race rather unpleasant. The queue for warm coffee was long but it was worth the wait. Everybody scurried to the relative warmth of the marquee and the briefing.

Marshals checking to ensure that all aircraft were completely filled.

The all-ladies team of Marshall rushing from aircraft to aircraft to hand competitors their race envelopes.

Marshals inspecting aircraft for electronic and other devices that may be used as an advantage during the race and sealing such devices for safe keeping.

After the briefing and the group photo, racers went to their aircraft waiting for the scrutineers to finish their inspection, after which they were not allowed any contact with anybody except for the person who handed them their race envelope.

From then until the race started, the serious business of planning started. Working in the confines of the cockpit is mostly impossible and so teams were forced to make do with what they had. Those flying low wing machines were fortunate as the wings make for an almost ideal table.

Photos by Rob Jonkers.

At 09.00 the race was on. The first leg comprised a total distance of 251 nautical miles.

Dieter Bock and navigator Brendon Boraine in Dieter's Lancair 200, the fastest aircraft entered were the first to take off for race day one.

Robbie Myburg and Adrian Barry in the second fastest aircraft, leaving in their Beechcraft B58 for the start line………

…………followed by Coetzee van der Merwe Stefan van der Merwe in the Beech E55.

The next eight aircraft away were:

ZU LNC Lancair ES Leon Joubert / Jonty Esser…… ZS-KJO Beech V35B Eksteen Jacobs / Manie Potgieter.

ZU-OXZ Van's Aircraft RV-14A Adriaan and Elmie Kleyn…..
ZS-ACA Cirrus SR22 G5 Simon Abbot / Chris Shillaw.

ZS-TCG Cessna T210N David van der Linde / Nicolaas van der Linde….. ZU-IRX Van's Aircraft RV-7A Johannes Strydom / Marco Barnard.

At the sound of an approaching aircraft all eyes on the ground turned skyward as the intoxicating sound of aircraft engines announced the arrival of the first teams. In quick succession, gaggle upon gaggle of aircraft crossed the airfield. It was nail biting time as teams awaited first for the provisional results and then the final results of race one. Results were somewhat delayed as the scoring team had to deal with logger tracks that seemed to have had interference from the airfield based weather radar and had to first eliminate spurious signals to resolve a good track, which put some pressure on the team to get all the tracks solved.

First to land was Dieter Bock and navigator Brendon Boraine in Dieter's Lancair 200…..

……with Coetzee van der Merwe and Stefan van der Merwe ZS-SRG a Beech E55 second on the ground……….

…..followed by Robbie Myburgh and Adrian Barry in ZS-CHL a Beech 58 third…..

…..and Jaco Schoen and Hendrik Coetzee in ZS-MRK, a Beech 58, 4th to land.

On Friday evening the unmistakable sound of Harvards filled the air and a four-ship formation that could only be the Puma Energy Flying Lions was silhouetted against the awesome colours of the setting sun. Brian commentated and the music that accompanied their low-level flat show made for an unforgettable experience.

Saturday saw the start reversed with the slowest aircraft the first to take off. The weather had improved, but the wind had turned an almost 180 degrees and instead of 31 runway, 013 was used. Low clouds delayed the start by half an hour. The final race of the historical 2021 PTAR was on and was the day on which teams pulled out all the stops.

Saturday's briefing.

Deon van den Berg, Hans Schwebel and Ron Stirk, the starting marshals and SPFA Rally legends at the briefing.

After the morning's formalities had been completed aircraft, started to make their way to the start of the final race of the historical 2021 PTAR which was delayed by half an hour to wait for the weather to lift, with the finish time delayed to 13h30.

1st away was ZU-FZF Fanie Scholtz's (right) Sling 2 with Renier Moolman (left) navigator…..

… was ZU-FWS (left) Leon Bouttell's (pilot right) Evektor-Aerotechnik Harmony with Martin Meyer navigator (left)……

……third to leave was Apie and son Frederik Kotzee in their ex SAAF Bosbok…..

……. followed by ZS-MUE, a Piper PA-28-161 with Christa Greyvenstein and Theuns de Bruin…..

……….5th was ZS-PUP Aviat (Christen) A-1 Husky Kobus Jacobs pilot (left} and Mauritz du Plessis.

……6th was ZU-IBM, a Sling 4 with Mike Blackburn and Steve Briggs.

More aircraft were making the way to the start.

The next six to leave were:

ZS-MOL Cessna R172K II Giammario Mazzei and Jason Stavrou…… ZS-FIY Cessna 182L Hannes Human and Frik Human

ZS-EMB Piper PA-32-260 Quintin Warne and Mark Bristow…… ZS-IDX Cessna 182K Cobus Broodryk and Mario Febbraio

ZS-DZK Cessna 182H Conrad Botha and Bernard Botha…. ZS-CES Cessna 182K Cornelius Cloete and Barend Potgieter

All those on the field were on tenterhooks waiting with for the first aircraft to cross the finish line, which although an excellent pointer to the status of the team, does not necessarily mean that they will be announced the winners. The loggers firstly had to be downloaded to establish the track flown.

First to arrive was Leon Bouttel[ and Martin Meyer in the Evektor-Aerotechnik Harmony.

Second was Cobus Broodryk and Mario Febbraio in ZS-IDX a Cessna 182K.

Third was Cornelius Cloete and Barend Potgieter in ZS-CES a Cessna 182K.

4th was Apie and son Frederik Kotzee in their AM-3C Bosbok.

Eventually the sky was filled with aircraft as they crossed the field for the final turn to left for base and finals. Pilots were instructed to land as deep as was safe and to vacate as soon as possible to allow all to land without having to do a go around. The first ten aircraft home had to park in the designated winners circle area, not parking in the winner's circle would see them forfeit their place in the results.

Then the seemingly endless wait for the final results to be announced, with the scoring team still bedevilled by the weather radar interference. The provisional results were made public, but the finals were only to be announced at the dinner, a lavish banquet held at the Ermelo Inn.

The Gala Evening at the Ermelo Inn.

Brian Emmenis, MC, and the rest of the Capital Sounds Team at the Gala Evening.

Theodor Bosshoff, Chairman of the Ermelo Aeronautical Society.

Jan Hanekom paid a tribute to Chris Booysen, a former SAPFA Chairman who recently passed away.

Franz Smit of PilotInsure thanked the sponsors that included Wings and Things, DJA Aviation, Century Avionics, TWK, SANTAM, Bennie du Plessis, PilotInsure, Hansen & Genwest, PC'S Transport, Kwena and Kisugu.

Mary de Klerk did a presentation on the World Rally Championship that will take place in Stellenbosch in November and appealed to all to get involved.

Jonty Esser spoke about rallies and his role as Race Master.

Rob Jonkers, Aeroclub of SA and SAPFA Chairman then did a brief de-briefing on the PTAR.

And then, all protocols observed as the military is so fond of saying, at last, it was time for the results, but before we got to what everybody was waiting for, there were all the prizes to be handed out and the list and display of trophies was rather impressive.

It was close, but when the winners were announced, everybody was on their feet and the popular pair received prolonged applause.

Leon Boutell and Martin have reason to be proud, not only are they the winners of the 2021 PTAR, but also the winners of the Centenary Race.

The 2021 winners with past winners.

We have covered a fair amount of PTARs and can state that without a doubt, in our opinion, the Centenary Race was the best organized, most closely contested and most wonderful of them all. Congratulations to all involved. New Tempe at Bloemfontein who will be hosting the 2022 race and has got their work cut out.

Other trophy winners are featured in the gallery below

Trophy winners list

PTAR Final Results.

The PTAR final results as published at the gala dinner on 22 May 2021 contained errors emanating from the scoring system, which due to time constraints from the delayed start and logger interference difficulties resulted in hasty results preparation for the gala evening. Consequently the 1st position was in fact a tie between Race 23 & 24 using the Positional Results method of scoring. The results can be found on the website. To be noted is that the Positional Results method, as utilised in the speed rallies, is based on an average ranking of combined day 1 & 2 scores - which the committee decided on as the default scoring method in consultation with the Jury, while the Performance Results method considers ranking of day 1 & 2 in order of best handicap & shortest distance as the ranking method.

As this PTAR was the first PTAR in the new format with both days flown, the final combined scoring mechanism was not fully defined and tested. SAPFA apologises for the errors made, and these will be redressed for future events. There will also be a racer meeting to review their experience of the new format, with initial feedback has been that most enjoyed the course design as flown. Suggestions for improvements would be welcome input in planning for Tempe in 2022.

Rob Jonkers
Chairman SAPFA

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