South Island AkroFest 2017

During the third week of November, aerobatic pilots around the country descended on Omaka Aerodrome to compete at the 3rd edition of the South Island Akro Fest. The NZ Aerobatic Club runs a National Championship at Hood Aerodrome, Masterton, during February. So establishing a South Island based competition during the spring, seemed like the logical way to

We were hosted by the enthusiastic team at the Marlborough Aeroclub at their clubrooms and hired the Aeroclub Flat as base of ops for the week as well as accommodation for a group of us. The competition was run down by the Aviation Heritage Centre, with the aircraft parked along the fence line right outside the museum. It was a bit of extra activity for visitors of the museum to view and with the sun on everyone’s backs for viewing the competition flying, there really isn’t a better place to run this competition.

We had a large contingent again from the Canterbury Aero Club this year, lead by experienced B Cat, Richard Collett. The results speak for themselves but the tradition of our club Aerobatic trainer, ZK-RBN being flown by capable young pilots has continued both at the Akro Fest, and at the Flying NZ Alpine Rally, recently held at Motueka.

From further north, we had a number of pilots from Auckland, North Shore and Tauranga. A smattering of RVs, Pitts, Robin, Tiger Moth, One Design and a Yak 52 among others. My aim with establishing this event, was to encourage more grassroots aerobatic competition and we have begun to succeed in this area with a dozen pilots in these two classes. We had also initially fielded a large contingent in the intermediate category but this was whittled down from 6 to 2, due to aircraft serviceability, it was left to myself and Mo to compete in his beautifully presented Pitts, ZK-FRJ, which he completed a ground-up restoration of in 2010.

We rounded off a busy practice day as everyone grabbed as much time in the ‘box’ as they could, with dinner in town. The Aero Club put on a BBQ and some cold drinks following the first day of competition on Thursday. Following the last day of competition on Friday, we were catered by Roast on the Run and it was a great meal, would highly recommend this company to anyone. By the time prize giving began in the evening, we were all pretty parched and exhausted after a busy week of flying our own signatures in the sky in a very competitive competition that, will help to promote our Nationals Competition to be held in February.

Standouts during the competition were the way Steve Geard went from his standard mount, a Yak 55M, to a Yak 52, a type which he hadn’t ever competed in and did so with the usual exuberance and theatre that only he can deliver in a Yak. Grant Benns, our club president, was as consistant as usual in the aeroplane at his disposal, in this case David Cranna’s RV7, which David also competed in, when he could get Grant out of it. Ryan Southam was incredibly steady with his scores in Simon and Roger’s beautiful One Design, Intermediate category at the Nationals Ryan?

Jerry Chisum returned this year to give Recreational another crack and did so with much success. It must be time to compete at Sportsman level in February, Jerry? Then we have Wayne Tantrum, flying his Citabria and Wayne Edwards in his Tiger Moth ZK-BEC, were first time competitors, and from the beginning of the week, when critiquing kicked off, to the end of the event, one simply wouldn’t have recognised them as being the same pilot such was the improvement of the sequences they were flying. In fact picking best new comer was nearly impossible, this year.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and that, is the essence of any event which involves the NZ Aerobatic Club. We have a wide variety in members, competitors and aircraft, all with the same thing in common, their obsession with tipping aircraft upside down for fun.

A huge thanks to Raylene, Marty, John and everyone at the Marlborough Aero Club, for being such incredibly good hosts and allowing us to enjoy your airfield again this year. No other place quite like it. Also a big thank you to Graham and Jane Orphan for being supportive of the event and allowing us to more or less take over their flight operations area outside the museum for the duration of the event.

Next one the calendar, the National Championships, at Hood Aerodrome, Masterton. February 21st-24th 2018.

Andrew Love

Vice President, NZ Aerobatic Club


Recreational Overall (Omaka Cup)

1st Jerry Chisum – RV3    2nd Austin Jones – 2160  3rd Alex Philpot – 2160                            

Recreational Unknown

1st Jerry Chisum – RV3    2nd Wayne Edwards – Tiger Moth     3rd Alex Philpot                    

Sportsman Overall (Marlborough Aero Club Cup)             

1st Ryan Southam – DR107  2nd Grant Benns – RV7   3rd Richard Collett – 2160                  

Intermediate Overall (Pam Collings Trophy)        

1st Morris Tull – Pitts S1S               2nd Andrew Love – Pitts S1S                                            

160hp Challenge (Recreational class only)

1st Austin Jones – 2160                   2nd Alex Philpot - 2160                    3rd Jason Smith - 2160

Best New Comer              Wayne Edwards – Tiger Moth                                                                                                 

Most Improved Pilot      Jason Smith – 2160                                                                                                                          

Paul Marshall Award      Cathleen Heslan (most helpful person)       

Rangitata Island Trophy (Highest scoring biplane)

Morris Tull – Pitts S1S