High winds test pilots' skill, nerve

Pilots often joke that the propellers on their planes are only there to keep them cool.

And when the engine on Sid McAuley's Cessna C172 shut off for the forced landing competition in Saturday's "shocking" weather conditions, the sweat on his brow clearly proved it.

Mr McAuley, of the South Canterbury Aero Club, was one of 22 pilots from as far afield as Timaru and Invercargill competing in the Lakes Area Flying Championship at the Otago Aero Club near Mosgiel on Saturday.

High winds on the Taieri meant the start of the competition was delayed by nearly two hours, and when it did get under way, those magnificent men and their flying machines went up and down and got buffeted around.

Royal New Zealand Aero Club vice-president and championship judge Wayne Matheson, of Queenstown, said most pilots agreed the weather added another level of difficulty to the competition.

"It's the most difficult and challenging conditions I've flown in for many years. I've been a pilot for 20 years."

Otago Aero Club captain Ray Bremer said he was expecting about 35 pilots to enter, but high winds of up to 100kmh had turned many away.

The event consisted of nine categories - navigation, precision circuits, precision flying, non-instrument circuits, junior and senior landing competitions, low flying, aerobatics and mock bombing raids.

The winners of each category qualified for the national finals, to be held in Taumarunui from March 5 to 7 next year, and the overall national winner would represent New Zealand against Australia in the TransTasman Wings Trophy.

Results: G. M. Spence Trophy for forced landings, Andrew Reidie, Southland Aero Club; Ivon Warmington Trophy for liferaft dropping, Peter McCaskill and Desiree McCaskill, South Canterbury Aero Club; Jean Batten Trophy for precision circuits, landing and preflight, Tammy Choie, North Otago Aero Club; Airwork Cup for low flying (PPL), Shane Todd, Southland Aero Club; New Zealand Herald Challenge Trophy for navigation (over 75 hours' total flying time), Tony Page, South Canterbury Aero Club; Newman Cup for precision circuits and landings (women), Jacqui Coatsworth, Southland Aero Club; Rotorua Trophy for bombing, Bob Greer, South Canterbury Aero Club; Sir Francis Boys Cup for precision circuits and landings, John Henderson, Southland Aero Club; Graham Davidson Formation Pairs, Tony Page and Bob Greer, South Canterbury Aero Club; Wanganui Trophy for low flying (CPL), Sharn Davies, South Canterbury Aero Club.

Wigram Challenge Cup: non-instrument circuits, Jaimee Harper, Southland Aero Club; instrument flying, Bob Greer, South Canterbury Aero Club; senior landing, Jacqui Coatsworth, Southland Aero Club; junior landing, Paul Hogenesch, South Canterbury Aero Club.

Overall winner, Wigram Challenge Cup: first place, South Canterbury Aero Club, second place, Southland Aero Club.


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