2019 Aerobatic Nationals

The 2019 edition of the New Zealand Aerobatic Club’s National Aerobatics Championships is done and dusted.  Whilst the field was decimated somewhat by aircraft serviceability, etc., 15 entrants across 4 categories competed in the skies above Hood Aerodrome in Masterton last week.

Competitors, judges, and supporters travelled from near (Wellington) and far (Dubai) to compete in the NZ Aerobatic Club’s annual National Aerobatic Championships and whilst the competition officially started on Wednesday 27th Feb many arrived early for two other huge events… the Wings Over Wairarapa Airshow and our President Des’ marrage to Simone in Carterton. Whilst poor weather (again!) forced the cancellation of the airshow on Sunday, the wedding went off without a hitch on Saturday evening – congratulations Mr & Mrs Barry!

Poor weather (strong wind and rain showers) meant no-one was keen for any unofficial practice on Monday, Tuesday also was reserved mainly for setup – checking box markers and laying out the marker material – searing hot

Wednesday dawned a bit cloudy but the main challenge for the first day of competition proved to be the building wind - 30-40kts at 2000ft blowing competitors away from the judges.  The morning included practice flights for those in attendance with the competition proper kicking off in the afternoon.  Grant's first competition flight in Advanced appeared to include an inverted cross country to reposition back in sight of the judging line!  Only Intermediate and Advanced Known flights were completed by the voluntary curfew of 6pm.

Thursday morning had a slightly delayed start due to weather but improved as the day progressed - at least the wind was a little move manageable.  Known flights were completed for Sports and Recreational whilst the Intermediate and Advanced competitors attacked their Free Known sequences.  Unfortunately Fred's beautiful wee Laser had had enough of his rolling circle and suffered a wee (!) oil leak that necessitated an expeditious return to the ground.  I can't recall the last time we had a serious mechanical event at the Nationals in the past 17 or 18 years!  Luckily we had the services of Wairarapa Aeroclub's barman Mark (who moonlights as a LAME) assisted by Morris (also mechanically qualified) who had the prop off and the repair underway without delay.  Thursday night saw the Aeroclub provide a BBQ dinner before the NZAC AGM.  Both Des and Mike had signalled their intention to step down as President and Contest Director respectively, which they did, but Mike didn't get away scott free as he was duly elected President!  Minutes to follow.

Friday... a big day!  7am briefing with the intention of completing the formal competition.  Many scheduling "challenges" today as Trish ferried Fred across to Feilding to grab parts for the ailing Laser, and then fitting the Laser test flights into the flying programme.  Added to that was the ever present shared aircraft that require the Contest director to attempt to space them throughout the Order of Flight.  Grant had jumped ship from the Laser to the Zlin (David had kindly allowed Mike to fly ZK-ZSO dut to NUT's ongoing "issues") and David's other aircraft was also being flown by himself, Ian and Grant.  Regardless, all (barring Fred's) remaining flights Unknown and Free Unknown flights were completed just leaving the 4 Minute Free flights to be flown on Saturday.

Yet again, Saturday dawned with less than perfect conditions (CLD SCT023 BKN030 -SHRA) which combined with sequence card issues put paid to Fred's catchup flights but it improved to allow Murray Rogers (CT4), Des Barry (RV7), Morris Tull (Pitts S1), and Steve Geard (Yak 55m) to wow us with their smoke and noise.  Prizegiving that night was a finished off the event well (results are published elsewhere).

There are many thank you that should follow such an event (and I'm bound to forget some - apologies!).  Thanks:- first to the Wairarapa Aeroclub and Hood Aerodrome for providing the location and facilities that allow us to endulge our past-time; to Des and Andrew for their assistance in organising the event and for MC'ing the prizegiving; to the Ray and his judges (Martyn, Russell, Terry, Pam), scribes and spotters particularly Darryl (another victim of aircraft serviceability)... thanks for enduring cold, wind, sun, heat, ham-fisted flying; to our starters Ian and Cathy, thanks for the "big brother is watching" experience, getting us in our aircraft and into the air efficiently; thanks to Mel for her assistance to the Contest Director this event AND for stepping up to take on the whole role next year; to both Kelly and Simone who kept us fed and watered; and finally to the competitors and attendees who made this event so enjoyable.  THANK YOU ALL!

Mike Slack 

PS.  I must make a personal special thank you to David Cranna for allowing me to fly the Zlin - I know only too well how frustrating it is to attend the Nationals without an aircraft to fly!