SAPFA Rand Airport Challenge 30 Jan 2021

By Mary de Klerk



The 17th Rand Airport Challenge was scheduled to take place at Rand Airport on Saturday 30th Jan 2021. However, the weather gods were not playing ball this time, and with "Eloise" blanketing almost the entire country in clouds and rain, we had to revert to PLAN B.



With the 22nd World Rally Flying Championships postponed to November 2021, the pressure is on to train and select the best Air Rally Team to represent South Africa at this prestigious event. With most of the "old guard" still in place and planning to take part, the opportunity, however, exists to bring some new fresh blood into the South African Rally Flying Team.



The sport of Rally Flying is not an easy sport. It requires an exceptionally strong "2-man" team of both Pilot and Navigator. Unlike most of the other Air Sporting disciplines which are flyable at competition level, as long as one member of the team is well trained, in Rally Flying a strong pilot without a strong navigator and vice versa is as good as having no team at all.



For this reason, Jonty Esser, who himself is a well-seasoned Protea Rally Flying Pilot (as well as a local aerobatic pilot) has been selected to coach the 2021 South African Flying Team to victory, as soon as they have been selected which should be post the National Championships in April 2021. Now for the official team to be selected, this team has to be sufficiently trained in order to fly to the required standard criteria as laid down by the world organisation.

The past decade (plus) of Fun Rally Programs, introduced by Frank Eckard and Mary de Klerk, and the more recent program of Speed Rallies introduced by Jonty Esser and Rob Jonkers, has produced a remarkably high standard of potential Protea Pilots and Navigators that now need to be put through the Rally Flying Grinder Training modules.



There was no better opportunity to start the 2021 training program than the cancelled Rand Airport Challenge on Saturday 30th Jan 2021. No less than 25 exceptionally keen potential Team members arrived for the "On The Ground" training Modules. The Pilots were herded off into a separate venue and were taught some intricacies of rally flying in terms of fine tuning their approaches and timing over turn points etc by Jonty. The navigators were put through their paces by 30 year rally veteran, Mary, who spent the best part of a 4 hour period unpacking the plotting procedures, tools required and methodologies with the teams. She was adequately assisted by the other Protea Rally veterans, Frank & Cally Eckard, Hans Schwebel, Ron Stirk, Rob Jonkers, Martin Meyer, and Sandi Goddard. It is interesting to note that even though the "old guard" have between them, thousands of hours of local, national and international experience, they still managed to find time to drive through to Rand in the rain in order to sharpen their own skills and assist with all the newbies. Hats off to you guys!

Also in attendance was the Aviation Legend Chester Chandler who, in his eighties now, still dedicated his day to visit and monitor the training session with great interest. He also stayed for the SAPFA AGM which was held at 14h00 and chaired by none other than Rob Jonkers with his dedicated SAPFA Committee members. We all welcomed Ian and Taryn Myburgh as new members onto the committee.



Rally Flying is a well renowned international sport recognised by the FAI. To represent one's country at an international event is a supreme achievement. I applaud everyone who is taking the sport seriously in order to up weight their own personal skills and achieve what many others would only dream to achieve. However, nothing comes easy - it all requires many hours of hard work and input in order to succeed. Training training training ……

Watch this space to monitor all the upcoming training sessions and who the final SOUTH AFRICAN RALLY FLYING TEAM to represent our beloved country and the World Championships this year will consist of.

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