Dare to Excite-the SAPFA Rally at Rand Airport 2018

By Cally Eckard , Rob Jonkers, Cheryl Smit and Willie Bodenstein

Saturday was organiser Frank Eckard's 14th Rand Airport Challenge. Reminiscing that when he first starting organising these events only 14 years ago, Frank used to have to bring along his desktop computer with a 386 processor, and a cathode-ray monitor, and photos of turn-points and enroute were taken with an SLR camera with a roll of film, and each competitor received an envelope with actual photos inside. Needless to say, that was a costly exercise, and took a great deal of time to organise. Nowadays a laptop and Google Earth are his tools of trade.


The participants and organisers of the Rand Rally.


Competitors listening attentively to Frank during the briefing.

Rand Airport waived landing fees for all the aircraft that took part, and ATC made a safe, smooth and efficient start possible.




Some of the competing aircraft.

Twelve teams participated, in three categories - Fun, Advanced Fun, and Advanced. Besides the usual selection of Cessna's, there was also a Piper 28B, four Slings, and a Robinson 44, to provide variety. The helicopter incurred penalties when it moved backwards when it arrived too early for a turn point, something which one doesn't normally see when only fixed wing aircraft take part!


The only helicopter entry crewed by Marc Krauss and Taryn Pucjlowski.

Teams consisting of pilots and navigators who both have their colours flew in the Advanced Class,

Protea pilots Ron Stirk and Thys van der Merwe decided to give Pilots Post photographers Cheryl Smit and Willie Bodenstein a taste of rally by roping them in as navigators for their respective teams. They therefore made up the "Advanced Fun" Class. Cheryl pronounced that she is now "hooked" on the sport and now understands the attraction pilots feel towards it.


Cheryl's and Thys's zero penalty points logger route superimposed on the actual track.

"Arriving at Rand at SAPFA to photograph and report on the event, I never imagined I could have been roped in to navigate in the advanced fun section with the extremely experienced retired SAA captain Thys van der Merwe." Cheryl said. "Fifty one minutes in the air surrounded in the cockpit with maps and photographs identifying turning points and pre-photographed landmarks, the 51 minutes felt like five minutes in the air. Much respect to the rally pilots and navigators for their skill required during the rally. Thank you Thys for allowing me the opportunity to participate and although a flawless route flown with zero penalties we were penalised for failing to identify two of the leg photographs. But I will gladly accept second place in the class."


The course and path map navigated by Cheryl Smit and Willie Bodenstein in the Advanced Fun Class.

"When I was told that I was to crew as navigator for the legendary Ron Stirk, a previous world precision flying champion, I was apprehensive but at the same time excited. Having reported on rallies for the last eight years I have never had the opportunity to share the cockpit during a competition and I was amazed at the workload required to fly and navigate the course. Firstly one has to nominate a flying speed and plan the route on the map issued before the flight but one must make sure that one will be able to arrive at the various turn points on the time. To complicate things even more there are a number of photos of landmarks, sourced from Google maps, between turn points that must also be identified and marked on the maps at the exact position spotted. We found all the turn points and only missed one photo, all thanks to Ron's amazing skill as a pilot."


Pierre and Francois van der Merwe finished 4th in the Fun Rally Class.


Colin de Paiva and Sean Russel were placed 5th in the Fun Rally Class.


Fist timers Rhys Joseph and Andrew Segeren finished 6th place in the Fun Rally Class.


Caroline Koll and Milan Daniz were placed 7th in the Fun Rally Class.


An in-flight perspective by Rob Jonkers

This year's Rand Navigation Challenge was the first fixture where the new international standard FAI rules were tested for the experienced crews. Our own Frank Eckard was tasked by the FAI to redesign a common set of rules for world competitions, with three guinea pig teams to try it out on. Thus the advanced class had a totally different set of rules to fly than the fun teams, although the route was the same for both. In the advanced class we had 20 leg photos to identify along the route, provided in a jumbled order, and turning point photos that could be correct or incorrect, and orientated in any direction.


Martin Plotting the route.

The map provided was blank and coupled with a task sheet, the plot had to be done in the aircraft with a 40 minute time period prior take-off, and between Martin and myself we could complete 2 maps with the route information before getting airborne and prepare the cockpit with the photos, although did not have sufficient time to study the photos and their likely map locations.


The Cockpit prepared with the turning point and 1st set of 10 leg photos.

The start point was an easy interchange next to South gate, and the first turning point was the unmissable Orlando cooling towers, from there the route became tricky, with the first incorrect turning point photos becoming evident, then a real curved ball at turning point 4, which was an easy to follow leg along the R28 where the photo provided was in fact an intersection before the real turning point, where I wondered how did we arrive at this point so early, and was fooled into believing the photo was correct, where it in fact was not, and only realizing the mistake when nothing much lined up on the next leg, and of course got to the next turning point too late. Thus, a very simple mistake cost us dearly in the navigation points, and I guess we would have missed some leg photos too. At least after this we recovered well, but the leg photos remained elusive only finding 6 out of the 20 in the end; at least we identified the turning point photos correctly after realizing the TP4 mistake.


Somewhere along the route.


A lot of hard work in the cockpit for this format of rally, keeping heading and speed as well as trying to make out leg photo features, and as always a lot of fun.

Conspicuous by their absence were members and students of the large number of flying schools resident at Rand. In contrast, the annual fun rally hosted by Grand Central airport is well supported by especially one of the much smaller number of the flight schools based at the airport.

The placing's in the various classes are:


Leon Bouttel and Mary de Klerk won the Advanced Class.


Rob Jonkers and Martin Meyer finished in 2nd place.


Mauritz du Plessis and Andre Kluyts was placed 3rd.


Ron Stirk and Pilot's Posts Willie Bodenstein won the Advanced Fun Class.


Thys van der Merwe and Pilot's Posts Cheryl Smit finished 2nd in the Advanced Fun Class.


Shane Britz and Karen Stroude won the Fun Rally Class.


Tarryn Pucjlowski and Marc Krauss finished 2ne in the Fun Rally Class.


Husband and wife team Edzad and Cecile Verseput was placed 3rd in the Fun Rally Class.

If you haven't as yet entered a SAPFA rally you honestly should. Not only is it a lot of fun but you will also spend the day surrounded by people that are truly enthusiastic about flying and probably the friendliest people in aviation. Flying the rally will contribute immensely to improving your navigation and flying skills.


The next SAPFA Rally will be the held as part of the Rand Airport Easter Festival on 31 March 2018. For more information contact Rob at E-mail r.jonkers@aerosud.co.za



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