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The Groblersdal 55th Anniversary Fly-in
by Willie Bodenstein
The Groblersdal Flying Club this year celebrated its 55th anniversary by hosting 2022's third speed rally combined with a fly-In. Almost thirty-five aircraft, including eighteen rally competitors, flew in for what was a coldish and at times windy Saturday.
The club was founded by Neels Pretorius, a retired SAAF pilot who not only flew Spitfires, but also flew one of the very first De Havilland Vampire's that were delivered to the SAAF in early 1951 to replace the much-loved Spitfire.
There was no airfield at Groblersdal at that time and one of the first things Neels did was to call a few guys together and told them that they must build an airfield and start a flying club.
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As the story goes, the next moment, out of the blue, Neels, with great fanfare announced, much to the surprise of the newly formed flying club the dates of a forthcoming airshow that he had advertised far and wide. As was to be expected, everybody, including the local municipality was up in arms because Groblersdal had no airfield.
However, as the saying goes "a Boer maak a plan. (a farmer makes a plan)." Jan Pretorius, a local farmer who owned land to the south-western side of the proposed locality for an airfield was approached and he promptly came on board. After getting the go-ahead from the municipality, Jan's tractors along with other farmers started with clearing the bush from the land where the airfield still is today. Lo and behold by the announced dates a landing strip were ready and the air show took place.
The airfield boasts a 914 metres long 20-metres-wide tarred runway (05 - 23) and the club has a lovely clubhouse with a number of hangars.
The registration table was staffed by two friendly ladies. Each registered visitor was given a cap compliments of the club.
I arrived on Saturday morning with Rob Jonkers in his Cessna 182 in company with Martin Meyer, a regular rally competitor. Rob, who is the Chairman of the Aeroclub of South Africa and for the last number of years, was also the driving force behind the Speed Rallies, the brainchild of Jonty Esser. Rob is now semi-retired from being actively involved from his administrative role in SAPFA, or so he says. He will from now on just be a competitor. On Saturday he flew with Leon Boutell and they finished in a creditable fifth.
The ladies that manned the club's coffee outlet.
This Victa Air Tourer used to be a regular at fly-ins. I last saw her a number of years ago at Parys Airfield.
It was the first time that I have seen these two Kis TR1's at a fly-in.
Some of the visiting aircraft.
The field was in superb condition and a fair number of businesses, mainly aimed at the agricultural sector, had display's that attracted a fair number of visitors. A large marquee provided shade and the club sold liquid refreshments to the visitors. One criticism was the fact that there was only one food outlet that could not really cope and ran out of stock quite early.
Frik and his team went out of their way to make the event a real success. The general feeling by all is that it should become a regular event on the aviation calendar.
The Holborn Assets Groblersdal Speed Navigation Rally
by Rob Jonkers
This is the 3rd Speed Rally in Season 4 for 2022, which after the weather challenges of the first three in this season turned out with pristine conditions on Saturday morning, albeit very windy later on, giving some good challenging flying conditions to contend with.
For this event the organisers looked at changing the format slightly, where instead of a Friday arrival with test flights and an evening briefing with dinner for an early start on Saturday changed to a Saturday & Sunday event with competitors arriving early Saturday and a mid-morning briefing. As many of the competitor aircraft have previous test flown handicaps or event history, the number of test flights would only be limited to new entrants which could be done in the early morning prior the briefing. The idea was that first take-off would take place around midday with a finish around 2 PM, where after results would be available in the late afternoon with a prize giving and dinner for the Saturday night. This would allow a good opportunity to network and engage with friends and the local club community.
The Groblersdal Club went to great lengths to make the event successful, and also combined the Speed Rally with a fly in, and prepared an excellent surface taxi-way in this last week to accommodate operation to both ends of the runway. Also, some more firsts for the Speed Rally series, previous Race Director Rob Jonkers passed the baton fully on to Iaan Myburgh to prepare and run the event together with David le Roux as the Race Master, and took the opportunity to fly a race type event for the very first time, prior to this either having been in the back office, route planning and directing since 2016. It was great to be taking a back seat and be on the other side of the fenceÖ.
And given this, can now report first hand the experience of flying at speed. SAPFA Chair Leon Bouttell offered to fly the event in his Sportstar as a late entry. After some discussion we decided that I should fly given my navigation skills being rustier. At papers time I collected the envelope and had to take a brisk walk to get to the aircraft parked some 200 m away, strap in while Leon started plotting, essentially, I got a map with the route highlighted and he went to prepare the 2nd map with minute markers to allow us to assess progress along the route.
This was concluded prior start-up and after taxi to the holding position, we still had some 5 minutes to go through the route and discuss altitudes to fly at. Barrelling down runway 05 we first had to pick up speed in ground effect and have positive rate of climb prior the first turn after the end of the runway which was a steep left at almost 180 degrees (the preferred take-off direction was actually Runway 23 but changed due to wind conditions favouring 05 and it being downhill).
Not having flown the Sportstar for some time had to get used to the very light controls (compared to a C182), so the first leg was a little skittish in heading and it took most of that leg to get oriented, which resulted in a turn-point miss on turn-point 1, which most competitors found difficult to find. After that we settled down and could get on with finding the next turn-points, checking track position relative to the far field and close in features.
Around half way we sighted the Ercoupe in front of us, and proceeded to haul them in, but not long after that the Cessna 150 with Ron & Von overtook us, just to see them almost miss turn-point 8 having to jinx left and then right to get around the turn-point, this brought them closer to us again before disappearing into the distance. For sure it remains important to not lose energy around turns. Thereafter we overtook first timers Benjamin & Clinton in their Bushcat coming into the home straight, and I started wondering where were the faster aircraft behind us, and then no less than 15 seconds from the finish line the Comanche ZS-NXG, the 235 ZS-FVV and the C210 ZS-CNY came zooming past as if we were standing still, at least it looked like we must have arrived overhead in 5th place.
The wind for sure had an effect on us all, with much turbulence, and even though staying between 3500 & 4000 ft, I let the aircraft drift up with thermal / wave lift where it happened, and bled off altitude to pick up speed taking advantage on the conditions. All in all, great to fly one of these, and for sure there are strategies to follow, navigation accuracy to be maintained, energy management around turn-points, altitude management, it is for sure not just a full throttle burn around a track, each element is an important ingredient in achieving leader board positions as seconds count, where an average of an hour's flight is involved.
After everybody was safe on the ground, Iaan and Tarryn got to work with scoring, and concluded this by 4 PM, and then awaited the prize-giving at 6PM hosted by David le Roux. A number of competitors were not able to stay over, thus prize giving had a number of winners not being present.
3rd place finishers Ron Stirk and Von Hamman flew the Cessna 150 150 ZS-NBT.
2nd place finishers Willem Kruger & Chris Moolman flew the Alouette II ZU-RAH.
For the Navigation Accuracy category, third place went to Ron Stirk and Von Hamman in their Cessna 150 ZS-NBT, in 2nd place Willem Kruger & Chris Moolman as first timers in their Alouette 2 ZU-RAH, and in 1st place Stefan Lombard & Martiens Marais in their Piper Comanche ZS-NXG.
For the Handicap/Speed category, third place went to Phil Wakeley & Mary de Klerk in their C210 ZS-CNY, in 2nd place Stefan Lombard & Martiens Marais in their Piper Comanche ZS-NXG, and in 1st place Quintin Kruger & Johan Whiteman in their Cherokee 235 ZS-FVV.
Phil Wakeley accepting the third-place trophy from Race Master David le Roux. Phil and Mary flew the C210 ZS-CNY. The other finishers all departed after the race.
Overall winners in third place went to Phil Wakeley & Mary de Klerk in their C210 ZS-CNY, in 2nd place Quintin Kruger & Johan Whiteman in their Cherokee 235 ZS-FVV, and in 1st place Stefan Lombard & Martiens Marais in their Piper Comanche ZS-NXG.
Many thanks to the Groblersdal Flying Club for hosting this fantastic event, supporting with logistics and great meals available throughout the day, Iaan Myburgh as Race Director, Nigel Musgrave as the Safety Officer, Shane with his team from Century Avionics for technical scrutineering, David le Roux as Race Master, and all the SAPFA and Groblersdal Club members who supported marshalling and administration.
Also, thanks to our headline sponsors Holborn Assets, Pilot Insure, Flying Eyes and our sponsored teams, Prompt Roofing, Beagle Tracking, Gem Air and Mnandi Signs.
Our next Speed Rally event will be at Springs on the 30th September 2022, which will be the Season 4 finale, with a gala dinner to round it off.
A nice and accurate track for Race 3 ZS-CNY
A bit of a wobbly track on the first leg Race 19 ZU-FBJ
Oops - overshot a few turn-points
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