World’s best aerobats to compete in Malalane

Get ready to witness some amazing flying skills, when the world’s best aerobatic pilots compete in the Unlimited World Aerobatic Championships in Malelane from September 9 to 17.

This world-class event follows the successful National Aerobatics Championship held at the TSB Airfield in the first week of July.

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It is held every second year and features only the best of the best in the unlimited class.

The airfield near Malalane compares favourably to those in Europe, and the area’s low altitude is ideal for aerobatic competitions.

The Onderberg and Lowveld’s many attractions including the Kruger National Park are also a big draw for competitors and their supporters.

The opening ceremony will take place on September 9 with the competition flights from September 10 to 17. The closing ceremony will be held on the last day of the competition.

Spectators will once again be welcomed with a special viewing area to be set up between the airfield and the N4.

There will also be a variety of food and curios stalls to expose overseas visitors to local crafts and cuisine.

Annie Boone, manager of the South Africa Unlimited team and one of the event organisers, said they were hard at work preparing for the event.

The SA team consists of top pilots Nigel Hopkins, Patrick Davidson, Barrie Eeles, Mark Hensman, Neville Ferreira and Bertus du Preez.

Boone explained that a selection process takes place each year and the pilots have to participate in a number of contests as well as the national championships. They have to achieve a score of 70 per cent or higher to be considered for the team.

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It takes a lot of time and dedication to get to the unlimited level and even more to be selected to represent the country.

The SA team trains in their spare time and compete in as many local contests as they can.

“They also need to be mentally and physically prepared. It’s no use being an ace pilot, when your mind buckles under pressure and you make mistakes that can cost you a medal,” Boone explained.

Pilots will be required to fly four programmes. The first is a sequence of manoeuvres designed by the pilot, which adheres to certain rules and includes certain figures. Pilots can practise this for weeks or months beforehand. Their score here determines the flight order for the next programme.

The following three are unknown, where each country gets to pick a figure (usually one well-known and practised by the team and will be hard for others) to be included in a sequence.

Pilots only get this the night before and can only practise by “walking” the sequence on the ground.

The winning pilots and teams of three or more are then decided.

The Freestyle Competition, which is a separate event, takes place on the last day.

Any pilot that is deemed to fly too low or dangerously will be heavily penalised and possibly disqualified.

For more information on the event, visit www.wac2017.co.za.

  AUTHOR
Retha Nel

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