Including the 6th Season of the SAPFA Speed Rally

By Jaco Pitout

Conventional gear, or taildraggers, as they are affectionately known, conjures up images of the golden years of flying, when concepts such as barnstorming and wing-walking were born. Incidentally the beloved P51 Mustang, the iconic Spitfire and the larger-than-life Lancaster Bomber saw the light in the same age. It was also the age of the nearly supersonic taildragger in the interesting ME163 Komet (at 700mph). The Komet achieved its' eye watering speed by mixing an assortment of fantastically toxic chemicals and dumping them in a rocket motor mounted somewhere under the pilot's derriere giving bursts of frightening acceleration. Exciting days indeed!

Luckily, the annual Taildraggers Fly in at Bela-Bela is a much more relaxed encounter all together. I made my way to this lovely bushveld town to experience the wonderful hospitality of the Bela-Bela Falcons flying club. As I arrived at the airfield, things were already stirring and by that, I mean a lovely cappuccino from the on-site barista. It was less cold than last year, with no frost on the aircraft or the ground, I walked out to the edge of the runway, to meet Jason Beamish, who decided that there had been enough sleeping and that day had to start, as he flew a dawn patrol with the new Orion Cub. A lone Bosbok joined Jason in the circuit a little while later, making beautiful Lycoming sounds in the chilly bushveld air.

Kitplanes for Africa

It must be said that the Bela-Bela Falcons flying club had pulled out all the stops for the day, with a dedicated taxiway being chalked to the western side of the runway, and that visiting crew had an option to land on the tar runway or a perfectly prepared grass strip to the eastern side of the tar strip. The early morning light made for perfect conditions to capture some arrivals.

A field of 10 aircraft and crew had entered the first instalment of the Speed Rally season and David le Roux, from PilotInsure took charge of proceedings as the official Speed Rally MC and Iaan Myburg briefed competitors as the scoring official. The Speed Rally season has three races and venues this year, Warmbad being the first, followed by Louis Trichart on 29 July and the final at Groblersdal on 19 August. Speed Rallies are fun events that rely on the pilot and navigator working together in a multi crew navigation environment to fly to each of the required turning points and crossing these at a pre-determined altitude, each event present crews with exciting challenges and it is open to any pilot with any aircraft, the navigator does not even need to be a qualified pilot. With the crews introduced, it was off to their respective aircraft for preparations and to wait for “papers” time when competitors collect their maps, minute markers, and start their individual preparations.

2024 Speed Rally #1 Race Group

David le Roux & Iaan Myburgh

Derek Orford and daughter Taryn Myburgh - Race 11 & Dave Naude and Andre' Gruindeligh - Race 09

Piet Meyer and Adrienne Visser - Race 08 & Sylvester de Beer and Christo Smit - Race 05

Mike Blackburn and Steven Briggs - Race 04 & Servaas Kranhold and Martin Meyer (Absent) - Race 07

Heinrich Slabber from Holborn Assets also addressed the competitors and encouraged them to make use of the complimentary water and fruit station at the Holborn Assets gazebo. He also said that the Holborn Assets “Money Jar” competition would be held where should the value of the cash in the jar be guessed, the person who guessed the amount correctly would win the contents.

In a surprise visit, some of the airshow participants at the Polokwane airshow decided to land at Bela Bela due to low cloud and poor visibility at Polokwane.

Although most of them are state of the art aircraft they were fittingly all taildraggers.

All too soon it was the turn of the start crew to set off the excited competitors.

David le Roux, Clinton Beukes, Roger Bozolli

5…4…3…2…1… Goooooo!!

The departures made for spectacular photographs as the crews kept the aircraft in ground effect before setting off on the 120nm route.

With the speed rally competitors safely off, it was time to sample the breakfast that was presented by the Bela-Bela Falcons flying club, R120 bought you a fantastic buffet style breakfast with all the trimmings. As with the 2023 event there was great attention paid to event merchandise, with beautiful, embroidered hats and golf shirts being on sale. The shirts and caps sold like proverbial hotcakes.

Various exhibitors were also on hand to present their wares, Comet Aviation brought along a show example of the Rotax 916is engine, I stood and marvelled at the visual appeal of the engine, Rotax have not just made this engine extremely powerful but also beautiful to look at. I also met up with Peter How of PJ Aviation and had a look at the latest and greatest Kanardia avionic equipment that would be a compliment to any aircraft.

In a brief lack of concentration, I had left my cell phone at the breakfast table inside the hangar where the buffet was set up. A little while later, I realized that I had lost my cell phone. A brief and frantic search later, I met up with Richard Nicholson and I told him that I had left my cell phone at the breakfast area, he said that my phone had been found and that it was handed in for safekeeping. My heartfelt thanks here to Richard and the staff at the Bela Bela Falcons flying club for assisting me in my moment of need!

Alas, the speed rally competitors had started arriving back and many a war story was being shared in the marquee. From vultures to missed turnpoints, much fun was had! Iaan Myburg had his work cut out for him as he was responsible for tabulating the results.

Overall Winners - Fanie Scholtz and Herman Haasbroek Sling ZU - FZF

Second Place - Leon and Lukas Eksteen Cherokee Six ZS-NFA &
Third Place - Chris and Emma Baker Jabiru J430 ZU-FLF. This was also their first Speed Rally.

First Taildragger Home - Jaco and Kobus van Zyl C172 ZU-IUF &
Money Jar Winners - Shared by Peter Lea and Emma Baker

The rest of the afternoon was spent doing aeroplane watching while enjoying a cold cooldrink from the well-priced on-site refreshment stall.

A wonderful day spent in the winter sun at the home of the Bela-Bela Falcons Flying Club. Superb hospitality, excellent food, warm bonfires, and even warmer atmosphere. Thank you to the entire team at Bela-Bela Falcons Flying Club for yet another wonderful, safe fly in! We close with some of the friendly faces at the fly in.

An all-time Classic the 1929 Travel Air

Events 2024

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