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This Vaalie packed his RV with all the gear needed for a trip to the Eastern Cape. I had finally managed to clear my work week for the days needed, and planned a 12h00 getaway from Tedderfield to head down to Margate, hit the sea, turn right and fly the scenic route until I arrived at East London. At this point I would turn right again head a few miles inland and arrive at Wings Park ready for a fun and exciting week of competition.
This was in essence my second full competition, the first being held at Tempe in 2019 where because of weather we only managed two flights in the RV class.
As things turned out, my getting away from work meant I was departing a little later than planned and I needed to revise my planning to arrive before sundown, or overnight elsewhere (Margate was the alternate) and decision point was to be Mooi River from a timing perspective.
Now for those poor souls who do not have access to an RV and do not understand what a truly wonderful machine it is, (Gary Glasson discovered this for his trip to Wings Park and would not shut up the whole weekend about how wonderful his soon to be new toy was going to be) you better pay attention, I took off at about 14h30, and cruising along at a TAS of 160, 145 indicated and 192 over the ground found myself at Mooi River at about 15h30. This left one and a half hours to Wings Park to land before sunset. Decision made, dipped the wing, made the turn, pulled out one of my alternate plans and flew on.
All good, hung a bit of a right and settled down for the next leg. Well, I hustled along and the tailwind disappeared for a while, then returned and with a few bumps around Umthatha I arrived overhead Wings Park at 16h45. All of this burning about a little less than 35 litres per hour. I silently chuckled and congratulated myself and Andrew with whom I had built our fantastic flying machine on choosing the make and model. So over Bergville with sufficient time to hang a short right and fly via Kokstad, Umtata to land at Wings Park at 16h45.
Arriving at Wings Park, I was graciously offered hangarage by Wally along with his lime green RV7, ZU-WEG and sharing the space with Div Visser sporting a beautiful RV8 ZU-SER.
Wednesday started with a howling gale, up here in the reef, there would be no flying in that weather, but with the wind straight down the runway, what it meant was a short take off roll and a very short landing, albeit a little bumpy coming in.
My fixed pitch prop and very slippery RV meant I had to quickly learn to pull the throttle early on any down lines as the additional power at sea level made our normal trusty steed rather frisky and getting to higher than usual speeds on the down lines.
I had a huge amount of help from Andrew Blackwood-Murray, who taught me several tricks to deal with the wind and gave solid crit on my flying.
At lunch time we were served the best pies in the world, I had a pepper steak pie, it was packed full of delicious filling, crispy, flaky pastry and a truly great pie. If this was a taste of what was to come, we were in for a treat.
As you suggested Andrew, I have started a note book. The first note is to check the direction of entry into the box for your flight. My final flight I flew in the wrong direction, it was the unknown, and had a downwind entry, I flew it upwind and those bloody finnicky judges decided all I deserved was a ZERO. This is not the way to win a trophy, so I did try and explain to them left and right, but as I told the crowd over the PA when trying to call sequences of the other competitors, they are all blind old men, and the three young ladies are all too busy talking to each other about their hair and nails in the howling wind, so too do not pay sufficient attention.
I had a wonderful time, and really recommend that anyone with an aerobatic rating get down to the next Nationals or Regional competition as it is a truly wonderful experience.
So finally, I thought I would seek the opinions of other parties for their views on the competition, I called Megan from ATNS to thank them for their help and asked her for her view on the competition:
"This was my first aerobatics event, and it is very different from my normal work. The time taken by Ian and Dusty to explain what we were looking at made it far more interesting and understandable. I have a new found respect for aerobatic pilots, as the amount of work they put in is huge.
All in all, a great competition and an even greater venue, the Wings Park guys went above and beyond to make the event premises accommodating for everyone, and the whole event as well, the food, the evening entertainment and the non-stop talking aeroplanes."
Then Sam had this to say:
"I have never had so much fun and learned so much in a few days, this was my second aerobatic competition and it was far more enjoyable because I had gained an understanding of straight lines, round loops and what to look for. We even had a go at scoring a few sequences and when compared to the real boffins, we did alright.
Understanding what we were watching, particularly when Ian called the sequences made it so much more interesting from a spectator's perspective and this aspect should become a standard part of the operating procedure for the next competition.
Finally, I gained an understanding of energy management which I had never thought about before, in my normal day, guys climb because they are going somewhere, this experience put it all in a totally different perspective. Seeing why they started higher, and then converted altitude and speed back into altitude or speed along with the application of throttle was a revelation."
Lastly, I called Benji and he had these comments:
"I have attended a number of events and this one was different because of the location, pretty fine weather with a bit of a breeze and amazing hospitality - I doff my hat to the Wings Park guys (Mitch and his team) made the whole event a truly wonderful experience. The clubhouse, the music, the food and connecting with likeminded people was wonderful.
The calling of the sequences, the explanation of the scoring and so on really made the competition so much more interesting to watch, I really wish that we could have the same commentary at every event, because we can keep in touch with what was happening in the air, it made watching the flying far more interesting and entertaining than someone just tooling around in the sky.
A fantastic event and the interaction during and after the event were truly wonderful, we learned a lot from the pilots and that will make our jobs more meaningful."
ZU-FSG Short Finals Tedderfield. Thanks to all of you for a wonderful week.
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