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The 2010 New Zealand National Aerobatic Championship

This was my second visit to the New Zealand National Aerobatic Championship, which took place March 18-21 this year. Last year, the French 2160a that I flew all of my aerobatic training in years ago wasn’t available due to some snags during its 100-hour. This time I was invited to fly an Extra 300L, which I couldn’t possibly refuse! I’ve spent the last three years doing commercial joyrides and type conversion training in Pitts Specials, but the Extra made a big impression and was everything I expected! I was several light-years behind it, mind you. It was my first time at the Nationals, in a totally unfamiliar aircraft, but I had a great time and enjoyed the social side of the event.

For this year, our single-seat Pitts project has moved ahead steadily and should be ready for next year, so I opted to have another go at a Sport plane in the form of the 2160a. I had put in some time practicing in the aircraft this time around.

Line up
The parking line of competition aircraft at the New Zealand nationals.

New Zealand is split into two main islands, the Nationals held about a third of the way up the North Island. I live in the deep south; a lot of local interest has reemerged for competition aerobatics with a group of about a dozen of us. We’ve established a good uncontrolled aerodrome for practice which is central to all of our locations, with a suitable aerobatic box that can be used. Our group flies various types, including Yak-55s, a Yak-52, Tiger Moth, Robin, and Pitts.

The southern entrants for the 2010 Nationals were comprised of six pilots flying a Midget Mustang, 2160a, two Yak-55s, and a Tiger Moth. We had another half dozen that couldn’t make it for one reason or another. We arrived on Tuesday evening, and the only northern pilot who arrived was our club president, Paul, in his S2S – his two comrades and co-owners weren’t able to attend (poor airline schedules).

Grant Benns
Grant Benns in the Extra 300L

The weather was poor Wednesday morning with low clouds and rain. So, on the corner of the airfield at the motel, a cooked breakfast and a lazy morning were in order! Flying conditions improved later in the day, albeit with a howling southwesterly wind, so all the southern pilots grabbed a chance to do some final unofficial practice. The remaining competitors all opted to fly up Thursday morning; there’s nothing like a good crosswind landing to stay awake, I reckon!

Thursday morning came ‘round, and the weather turned out to be perfect. The remaining competitors landed by mid-morning, and official practice kicked off in the afternoon. By 4:30 p.m., all flying was completed for the day, so it was time to open the bar at the aero club. A few of us ducked into the town of Waipukurau for dinner. The Nationals have been held at this town in the central Hawkes Bay region since the very first Nationals event in 1986.

Before we knew it, Friday was upon us and it was time for the known program to begin. Overall, some very tight initial results were seen with less than five percent between the Intermediate competitors and four percent in the Sports category. The free programs were flown Friday afternoon, and apart from one pilot getting three zeros in his Yak, it was all fun and games!

Darryl Brown
Darryl Brown’s Pitts S1S

Richard Hood has won the Nationals on more than a few occasions in an S1S. With his current mount, a Giles 202, his performance was polished as usual. However, it was Paul Marshall who managed to do enough to steal the Advanced trophy this year, putting in a very impressive performance, particularly in the unknown program. The Intermediate class had five pilots entered, four of which were South Islanders. The class was won by Nick Pilbrow in his Yak-55M. He was Mr. Consistent all week and managed to keep Darryl Brown at bay in his S1S (Richard’s old machine). Darryl was left thinking what could have been. With the final few maneuvers of his unknown flight coming unstuck, he did take the trophy for most improved pilot, which was just a consolation prize. The other Yak pilots weren’t far behind. Steve Geard was leading easily after the first program, but dropped to last after mistakes made in his free. He then did a great job in the unknown to grab third overall.

In Primary, Ryan Southam, chief pilot for Croydon Aircraft Company Ltd. (a company responsible for many beautifully restored Tiger Moths and other related fabric-covered biplanes throughout Australasia), turned up in a Tiger Moth to have a go. He also put on an impressive performance with an unofficial 4-minute free display, beginning with a falling leaf. Ryan finished second at the World Tiger Moth Aerobatics Championship five years ago and knows how to make something with minimal power and performance look good in front of the eagle-eyed judges!

Wayne and Ryan
Wayne and Ryan talk open cockpits and flying wires.

All in all, we had a great time. Such a wide variety of aircraft were present, and pilots from all over the country attended. There were lots of laughs and entertainment in and out of the cockpits. There were a number of experienced regulars missing, due to the sad loss of a member of a large Pitts Syndicate and the loss of the machine as well.

There was a good spread of numbers throughout the categories. For next year, this well-known Auckland-based syndicate are looking to reemerge with an all-new competition aeroplane. In conjunction with the completion of two single-seat Pitts in the South Island and ever more interest from members of the Canterbury Aero Club (owner of the 2160a), the 2011 Nationals will keep all the organizers and volunteers busy with possibly the largest field of pilots yet seen. We’re all looking forward to it.

The official tally of results is as follows:

Simon Fitzgerald – G-202 64.09%
Ryan Southam – DH82 63.36%

Ivan Krippner – Midget Mustang 71.66%
Andrew Love – 2160a 66.90%
Murray Rodgers – C152A 62.67%

Nick Pilbrow – Yak-55M 65.56%
Darrell Brown – S1S 63.88%
Steve Geard – Yak-55M 63.05%
Kevin Langford – Yak-55 59.22%
Gavin Henderson – G-202 58.12%
Richard Hood – G-202 69.91%
Paul Marshall – S2S 69.70%
Grant Benns – EA-300L 67.05%
Wayne Ormrod – EA-300L 51.60%

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