The South African National Aerobatics Championship was held in Phalaborwa last week and provided spectators with some nerve-shattering displays as some of the best pilots in the country tore up the bushveld skies. The event kicked off on Wednesday afternoon, the 18th of August and ran its course until Saturday evening.

Bad weather on Saturday placed a damper on events and by lunchtime when it was deemed safe to take to the skies, the programme had already run behind schedule making it impossible for some of the classes to compete. Nevertheless, it was a great event which went off without a hitch.

Some 30 pilots from across the country participated in the championship with most being based at Hartebeespoort in Gauteng. Some of the noteworthy names in the game included veterans Glen Warden, Nigel Hopkins and Patrick Davidson. There were six classes on the day namely RV, Sportsman, Intermediate, Advanced, Unlimited and Freestyle with points determined on the skill level of the pilots, the class of plane they fly and their routines. The contest is conducted in a virtual 1 kilometre cube, or “box” in the sky some 2 600 feet above the airfield. Each pilot starts their routine with a perfect score of ten and the judges deduct points for each error they pick up during the routine.

Pilots start by flying a known program (routine) which is published at the start of the year, and they can practice as much as they like. The second flight is the Free programme, which pilots design themselves and again can practice in advance. Finally, they fly the Free Unknown flights. These sequences pilots must fly without practice and are generally trickier and where the most mistakes are made.

Martyn Redelinghuys took top honours in the RV Class with a total of 75.190% with Thys Khun and Dave Thomas in second and third spot 74.347% and 70.150% respectively. In the Sportman Class it was Quinten Taylor who took first on 82.496% in his Extra200 with Warren Eva in second, Dicky Maritz in third and local pilot Ingmar Bezuidenhout in fourth. The Intermediate Class saw Dustin Hughes in first spot with 77.746% and Tristan Eeles in second on 76.375% with Trevor Warner taking third on 75.656%. The Advanced Class was where the veterans showed their colours with Elton Bondi in first on 78.116%, Kayle Wooll in second spot on 73.770% and Pierre du Plooy in third on 71.783%.

The Unlimited Class was dominated by Patrick Davidson who finished first overall on 84.172% with Nigel Hopkins on 82.455% and Gary Glasson in third with 74.686%. Finally the showstopping Freestyle ended off the championship with Nigel Hopkins in first, Patrick Davidson in second and Barrie Eeles in third.