Fibreglass ‘feathered friends’ take to the skies

A pilot landing his light aircraft on the white line with precision. Photo: Kondor Photographic

To be among the birds has been the dream of the modern world since the first airplane was built, and now many years later, local community members were privileged to soar among them in light aircraft.

They even made a sport of it.

A pilot lands his light aircraft precisely on the white line.
Photo: Kondor Photographic

Recently, pilots took to the skies once again during the South African Flyer and Shell Aviation spot landing competition which was held at the Jack Taylor Airfield.

The competition tests the skills of a pilot to land his/ her aircraft on a white line (approximately 40cm wide) painted across, from left to right, on the runway.

On each side of the line, there are 17 thin lines, one metre apart.

A pilot landing his light aircraft on the white line with precision.
Photo: Kondor Photographic

Aviation judges, in all their experience and precision, take note of which line the aircraft’s wheels touch first. The pilot is scored according to that spot. The centre line is the target. If the pilot lands exactly on the centre line, he scores zero. The further the plane’s wheels land from the centre line, the higher the pilot will score. The pilot with the lowest score out of three runs, wins.

Although birds will, by nature, easily beat every single pilot, it’s good to remember this is not an easy feat for a pilot. It’s difficult to manoeuvre a plane with tyres about 20cm in width onto a line you can barely see when the plane is right above it. And this all at a speed of 60km/h.

Nevertheless, pilots took on this challenge, and one after the other, they took off and landed their iron birds as close to the line as possible.

But, with the skies growing dark, it soon became clear that these pilots had a long way to go before perfecting the art.

A spot-on landing – again!
Photo: Kondor Photographic

Only 16 pilots took to the open sky, as rain prevented many of the cutting-edge planes from being as free as the birds. The rest of the competition had to be cancelled and many pilots did not have a chance to compete for the prizes which ranged from R2 500 to R6 000.

The competition has been scheduled for a re-run on Saturday, 19 August to improve the chances of having a sunny day, and more than 30 pilots are looking forward to having a fair chance to win in at least one of the categories, which include the overall winning club-member, the best female pilot, the best visiting pilot, the best student pilot and the greaser (the pilot who lands on the touchdown line more than once). The winners will also receive trophies to mark their achievements.

This is an open event, with free entry for pilots as well as visitors. An onsite restaurant will provide food and cold drinks the whole day long.

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Bianca Pindral

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