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The 22nd World Rally Flying Championships has been a protracted postponed event after having planned to take place in 2020 in Stellenbosch with a 2nd attempt in 2021, and then eventually a third attempt in 2022 but this time in Brits in the height of the summer rainy season, and knowing full well that weather may be a factor here in the North-West area, however expected would normally have been afternoon thundershowers, and daily schedules were such that flying would be avoided in the afternoon.
In any event, with a third season of La-Nina affecting our weather, and for a third time in 2022 where SAPFA has held events on a weekend where “cut-off” low pressure cycles over the centre of SA were present, we had to deal with rain and more rain in the first week earmarked as validation & training week, where hired aircraft would arrive (14 of them) with each international crew needing a check ride, logbook endorsement, then a foreign operators certificate. Obtaining the 14 aircraft from 6 different operators was no small feat, planning for sourcing them had already started at the beginning of 2022, and between Ron Stirk and Martin Meyer we were eventually able to get contracts in place for all of them, and many thanks go out to Fly Adventure, Sky Time (C172 Diesels), Lanseria Flight Centre, Springbok, Vulcan, Don Lucas for the use of their aircraft.
Having started setting up on the weekend of the 5th November there were 2 good days, but as Monday came around 2 very bad weather days prevented aircraft being flown to Brits, with international crews waiting their arrival and good weather. Eventually, Wednesday and Thursday were good and all the aircraft arrived with check rides done, and some of the first teams were able to start flying their practice routes taking advantage of the 2 good weather days. Many thanks are extended to the CAA's PEL department headed by Johan Niemand, with Mikhal Rosenberg carrying out the validation certificates which had turnaround times of less than an hour, giving each international crew the ability to start flying very quickly after their check rides.
Friday saw the weather close in again, with some gaps to allow flights, most were able to practice their landings while the weather was dodgy further out. With Brits being around 3800 ft in altitude, everybody had to either fly higher powered C150's or C172s to deal with the high Density Altitude conditions, so the handling and power management being significantly different to the European competitions where most occur close to sea level areas - giving these teams the additional challenge of dealing with heavier and more sluggish response. By Saturday evening the end of the Practice week was declared and all teams had had the opportunity to hone their rally skills and familiarize with the landscape of the Brits area which is quite varied, from the northern bushveld to the scenic hills and valleys of the Magaliesberg.
Sunday saw the final preparations of the airfield, and with water still seeping through the ground from the adjacent hills, left much of the prepared parking and taxi-ways waterlogged, where alternative parking and taxi plans had to be put in place, which still saw feasibility of managing the movement after papers handout to be ok, albeit needing to use Runway 20 for take-off, but with a calm weather outlook for the week from Tuesday, would be operationally suitable.
For the morning of Sunday, two briefings were held, first the briefing for Officials which was given by both the Competition Director Rob Jonkers and the Chief Judge Ralf Grunwald (Germany), this to ensure we had sufficient resources and that everybody was briefed on their expected functions, thereafter at 11 am was the Official competitor briefing to explain the expected daily schedule and logistics of the event. After this the Opening Ceremony would occur, and at this point everybody saw their readiness as being complete to hold the championship. To be continued………
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