Helivate HeliOlympics 2021-11-06

By Russell Dixon-Paver

Helivate Helicopter Services is based at Jack Taylor Airfield, Krugersdorp and have a helipad overlooking the emergency grass runway. Helivate was established in 2011 - 10 years ago! This was to respond to the growing demand for helicopter training, charter and hire in South Africa and neighboring countries. They offer many different packages to different market segments, with a young, dynamic team, backed by experienced instructors. Haley Cumming is the CEO and her dad, Paul, who qualified as a pilot after Haley, is also a director and actively involved in the business.

Animike Cloete manages the operational aspects and kindly provided scoring details. Helivate are also active in the Krugersdorp Flying Club and had made their Alouette III available providing flights for the Children's Flight at Orient Airfield the previous Friday.

HeliOlympics is Helivate's annual competition for their students and qualified pilots. Paul Cumming and George Gerber, with Hayley standing in for George while he navigated for one of the teams, were the judges. This was the 6th edition of HeliOlympics. The goal is to improve pilot skills in operating in limited spaces and improve communication skills with an observer/navigator, while enjoying their flying experiences. Primary focus is on safety and then accuracy of flying. Steady hovering and accurate flying make the navigator/observer work easier.

A new arrangement this year was the coffee trailer and cash-bar. The cappuccino from the coffee trailer was really good! This year had the biggest spectator turnout so far.

The first two events, which require the navigator observer to patter the pilot into position to complete the task, were different this year. The first ("Grappling Sling") required moving three out of four colour-coded buckets through corresponding-coloured obstacles from a starting drum to a destination drum. The second ("Scrambled Eggs") required hovering at three different colour-coded heights - marked on a rope that had to be aligned with the skid - to drop eggs into corresponding colour-coded buckets filled with water - for stability only. The final exercise ("Well Deserved Beer"), which really exercises the pilot in accurate flying, was the now-traditional opening of the bottle, with an opener taped onto the front of the skid of the helicopter. The bottle-cap is partially loosened, for safety and only a gentle upward pressure on the cap is enough to open the bottle. Two of the Helivate machines were mainly used by various pilots, with Dieter Bock and the Pratley's flying their own machines. Where Robinson R44's were used, there was an accompanying instructor/safety pilot provided by Hayley Cumming and Nicol Bell. The Pratley's Hughes 500 needed no safety pilot.

15 teams entered, of which 6 were in the Student Pilot category and the balance Private Pilot category. It great to see younger people getting involved and family-time shared.

After the safety briefing in front of the hangar, the teams and other participants had a group photograph in front of the Alouette III. Teams also had to choose names for their teams. In the spirit of enjoying the day and just for fun, we had everyone "hovering" and then leaping into the air.

The event course was arranged on the emergency grass runway and the second part of the briefing was a walk-through the 3 events, with all teams and an explanation of the scoring.

Simone Meyer piloting, and her Dad, Martin taking the bucket through the first orange gate and then successfully placing their second (yellow) of three buckets on the destination drum.

Animike gets an egg scrambled in contact with the weight-brick, while Gary Arnold pilots the R44 and Cullen drives, while Llandi guides the orange bucket through the angled obstacle.

Not many pilots chose the "green mamba" obstacle, with its ever-decreasing gaps between poles.

Dieter Bock piloting, while his daughter Jade puts an egg in the bucket.

The pink "L" obstacle gates were easily navigated by most teams.

Different view of the opener lining up of the bottle cap.

Pilot concentration on getting that opener lined up was very intense!

Charles, flying "left hand drive", unlike the Robbies and Christine Pratley, touch the bucket on the yellow "pile" and then score a direct egg-citing hit in the bucket.

Paul signals "complete" for the Scrambled Egg event with the buckets on the destination drum in the foreground as another team takes the orange bucket through the angled obstacle poles.
At about this point, there was a short pause for a gyro-copter to land on the grass runway as the strong and constant wind from the North-East all day was too strong for a safe landing on the main 08/26 runway.

After all the formal entrants had completed their events, the Helivate judges were challenged to show us how it was done using the Alo III, which they call "The Beast". The challenge was taken up with great success, but we think they must have practiced, expecting such a challenge! Paul, Haley's Dad was the pilot, with George handling the observer/navigator role and Haley as the safety pilot. George did use multiple eggs at a time to ensure scrambled-egg success! The bottle opening was adapted due to the Allo III not having a skid undercarriage… All great fun!

Hayley and Paul calculate the final scores, while the award table stands ready.

In the Student Pilot category:
First place: Simone Meyer - piloting and Martin Meyer - navigating for Team "Left Skid Low" achieved 205 points.

Second Place: Haydon Heres - piloting and Devlin Griggs - navigating for Team "The Subs" achieved 202 points.

Third Place: Gary Arnold - piloting and Animike Cloete - navigating for Team "Late Leader" achieved 198 points.

Hayley remarked on the good standard of student flying as evidenced by the small point margins between these top three teams.

The Private Pilot category:

First Place: Devlin Griggs - piloting and Haydon Heres - navigating for Team "The Subs" (with roles reversed!) achieved 319 points.

Second Place: Charles Pratley - piloting and Christine Pratley - navigating for Team "Little Loach" achieved 266 points.

Third Place: Jacques Joubert - piloting and Gary Marais - navigating for Team "Jac Crew" achieved 252 points.

Some of the participants left a little early to join the EAA Sun 'n Fun at Brits.

Hayley made the announcements and presentations of the awards and the prize winners in their group with the "wings" carrying the winners of the previous five HeliOlympics.

It was once again a pleasure for Pilots Post to report on the HeliOlympics and thanks are extended to Hayley Cumming and the Helivate Team for their hospitality.

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