After a successful navigation rally held some weeks ago the groundwork was laid for the resumption of Speed Rally flying. The season has been completely disrupted by the COVID pandemic with the second and third races being cancelled. There was much excitement when it seemed that we could continue with two further events this year.
And such it was that Steve and I found ourselves heading east on Friday afternoon to Secunda. Getting out to Rand Airport is a lot less of a schlep on a Friday afternoon than Baragwanath and the hangar attendant had pulled IBM to the front of the hangar so we were good to go – traffic levels at the airport are quite high and we were number 3 or 4 to depart for the short 70nm trip to Secunda (FASC).
Of note as we were leaving my friend Roger was test flying ZS-TIB – a Cessna 310 that had languished for 12 years in a barn in Namibia before being the subject of a 2 year restoration project – this was her first post restoration flight. The short body Cessna twins have a real appeal about them. Sadly I didn’t get to the camera in time.
Flying in the late afternoon is actually quite pleasant (when flying East!) and we made good time getting in well before sundown.
After parking up it was time for a drink and the evening pre race briefing followed by an alarming amount of meat sold by the pack (we have these things called braai(barbecue) packs which in this case included a large rump steak, chicken kebab and boerwors) and then an early bed at a local hotel.
The fine weather forecast for Saturday was accurate for a change and Saturday was clear and calm. After a repeat of the salient points of the previous evening’s briefing (presumably for those who may have drunk enough to forget?) we were sent off to our aircraft to await our ‘papers’.
I took the opportunity to photograph some of the entrants moving their aircraft to the designated parking spots – we all line up according to speed but it’s done so that you taxi forward and turn right so as not to spray dust and debris onto the aircraft next to you.
As can be seen the field is varied and the handicaps are a subject of much discussion. Finally we received our papers and could get to plotting our route.
We’d decided to pay much more attention to the ground features on the map than the heading to be flown and were able to find points on the map where we’d be able to gauge our lateral position at numerous points along each leg.
All things considered we did really well. I found that flying at 450ft AGL gave the best compromise between accurate positioning and the ability to see ahead – too high and the turns become inaccurate, too low and you can’t see far enough ahead and run the risk of colliding with objects attached to the ground. The smaller field enforced by COVID regulations meant less bunching up toward the end of the race and by the time we crossed the finish line we’d overtaken almost all of the aircraft who departed ahead of us.
I feel that the most dangerous part of the entire event is the landing – all the aircraft end up on downwind more or less at the same time and we’re supposed to fly at 90kts maximum – when i turned onto long finals at 90kts I was asked to speed up by the C210 behind me which I was happy to do but ended up unstable at 250 ft AGL and decided to rather go around as I had gained significantly on the aircraft ahead. I practice go-arounds often because I know that. poorly flown, they are often the cause of accidents.
We were patting ourselves on the back for a well flown course and hoping for a podium finish but these hopes were dashed when it turned out we’d bust our handicap and got penalised 6minutes – putting us at the back of the field. There were a number of other aircraft also penalised so there was some unhappiness but rules are rules. This was the first time that the speed handicap rule had been applied… I need to increase the handicap speed as ours is 117.35kts and on average we have flown our rallies at 119,4kts – when the gate for infringement is 1.5% it’s important to have an accurate speed.
However, we’ll have that sorted out for the next outing in November which will be the final race of the season. Ultimately, it’s about having fun which we did have in abundance.
The flight back to Rand was notable only for the fairly severe turbulence which is inescapable due to the shelf of controlled airspace limiting climb so we rode it out – well, Steve rode it out – he is very keen on starting his PPL so he did the stick work for most of the way back and didn’t do terribly at all! This was a great weekend’s flying – we’re starting to feel almost normal again…..