2010 President's Trophy Air Race

Isn’t amazing how the years fly by quicker than a turbo charged Lancair as we get older. Just finished the President’s Trophy Air Race 2009 in Bloemfontein and, as we were catching our breath, we found ourselves in Rustenburg getting ready for the PTAR 2010.

This one was special in its own way as has been the case for every PTAR from time immemorial. Albert de Witte compiled a Gant chart to manage the team and make sure it was all done on sched-ule. I am however glad that he could read the chart. The week leading up to the event was fraught with the potential for disaster. A few days before the event the parking areas were flooded by the exceptional rain and there was a very real threat of having too little fuel. There were panic calls asking “How far from the runway can you park an aircraft?” “How much taxi way it takes to park 100 aircraft?” With tempers frayed to the point where people were snapping at each other like rabies infested dogs, Albert coaxed his committee to greater and greater achievements than even they thought possible.

When the competitors arrived to an efficient registration process managed by Denise Spencer-Scarr they had no idea how much had gone on behind the scenes. Everything was running like clockwork.

The routine of the PTAR has now settled. Arrive and test fly on Thursday. Prompt to the point briefings held in a way only Robin Spencer Scarr can. Race on Friday. More briefings. Race on Saturday and then attend a magnificent Banquet in the evening. All this is interspersed with a great deal of banter, camaraderie and aviation talk.
The first route planned was great route but it went to many game farm strips, then we tried to find the owners and get permission. Onto route 2. By now the maps had been ordered so choice was limited. Then onto route 3 which was too long, version 4 had too many open cast mines...... Eventually all the route planners finalised the task on the 6th version. A lovely route which had a mountain range parallel to the track, so do you fly on the upwind side, and cross as late as possible. On the day however, the wind was not a factor and those who flew the straightest track had the best advantage.

Day 1 was a challenging course and good planning was rewarded. On the other hand bad planning saw a number of competitors penalised for flying too high over the Thabazimbi turning point. The results for the day showed how accurate the handicaps are becoming. Just less than fifty air-craft aircraft were within two minutes of their handicap.

Day 2 proved that you can believe the SAWS. The forecast wind showed that there was a unique weather condition that allowed competitors to fly the entire course without any head wind. Logger analysis has proved that the forecaster had it spot on. Those that did not follow his advice were disappointed. This condition obviously played right into the hands of the slower competitors. The course followed the usual bow tie configuration to give the spectators something to watch. As usual navigation was a bit easier as the crews could follow the “aluminium highway”

Eventual winners were Mary de Klerk and Barry de Groot followed closely by John Sayers and Jack Coetzee in second and Arne Badenhorst and Terri Meyer in third. The winning margin was 1 minute with less than a minute to third place.

It is with sympathy and regret that we record the deaths of Werner Blignaut and Cronje Erasmus, who died during this year’s President’s Trophy Air Race. These are the first fatalities we have had at a SAPFA event in its 73 year history, and hopefully the last.

Now on to President’s Trophy Air Race 2011 in Mafikeng.