The Jabiru (ZU-CNG Race Number 8) and The President's Trophy Air Race

Well I cannot believe that a year has passed since I last wrote this report. This year this one of a kind Race was hosted in the Limpopo Province (Northern Province) from the Polokwane Civil Airfield and it was indeed a tough one. Being a handicap race with anything from Jabirus to Cessna 402's participating it can be very exciting. It was held over two days and two different routes. The idea is that the aircraft gaining most on time over the two days, provided that one has passed all turning points, is the winner.

My aircraft is ZU-CNG is a Jabiru SP2200 and besides a GT-Propeller it is stock standard. Our handicap speed for this year was calculated at 107.78 Kts. My Navigator is Hugo Stark, a good friend and also my navigator for Rally Flying. This year also saw another SP2200 (ZU-SES) and a J450 (ZS-LAJ) as well as a 3300 powered Zenair Zodiac (ZU-ZOI) at the Race. The number of entries this year was 70 AC.

Jabiru ZU-SES (Race 22) caused us lots of laughter. The pilot is about 6 ft 4" and weighs 277 Lbs (126Kg) !! The navigator is about half the pilot's size. They called themselves "Flight level" and "Low level". Then remember they had to fill the 85L tank to maximum in order to complete the route. Only a Jabiru can do this!!

Day one took us from Polokwane Civil to Giyani, then to Messina, then to Alldays, then to Potgietersrus and finally back to Polokwane. The official route distance was 323.10NM. On day one the fast aircraft takes off first and the slowest last at 30 second intervals. So you hardly ever see another aircraft for the whole route. Remember that navigation is strictly by means of your compass and map!! No other aids like GPS allowed. The route took us over some magnificent countryside normally not seen if you fly from A to B. We did quite well with an overall speed of 108.58 Kts and a time gain of 1 minute and 20 seconds. Overall time was 2 hrs 59 minutes and 52 seconds. This placed us number 27 for day one.

Day two took us from Polokwane to Tzaneen, then to Lydenburg, then to Warmbaths and back to Polokwane with a route distance of 326.40NM. The route took us over huge mountains and seeing that one has to pas the checkpoints at between 200 and 400ft AGL, it meant climbs of up to 7600ft AMSL just to descent again to 2500ft AMSL at the checkpoints in order not to be disqualified! No this meant that fuel planning became critical for some of the slower AC. On day two one basically start off with the time gained or lost on day one as it is a two-day Race. The fastest aircraft first and the slowest last in order to have all aircraft coming across the finish line simultaneously. This makes for some very interesting take-off slots with some time as little as 3 seconds between departing AC. We took off with the Jabiru powered Zodiac 18 seconds before us and the other SP2200 Jabiru about 10 seconds behind us. Approaching the first point Tzaneen the three of us were still changing position. With the checkpoint approaching fast ( one minute out ) and still not visible it got quite tense. Sharp spotting and an even sharper turn at the checkpoint left these two behind and now we had to face the mountains.

Bear in mind that we ran the Jabiru at max RPM (3200) all the way, only reducing it when forced to due so due to turbulence and with the ASI indicating 110 - 115 Kts most of the time. All went well and at about two thirds of the distance we were getting tense as this is normally where the front runners will start passing you. The first one that came past us were two good friends Harry Antel and Barry de Groot flying their Grumman Tiger. They have also managed to be the overall winners this year. After passing the last checkpoint and on the final run of about 87NM only about six AC had passed us, including the J450 ( ZS-LAJ ). Then the drama started. First a Mayday call from Race 43 ( C185 ) now about 5 minutes ahead of us - engine out and a successful forced landing in a ploughed field. Then minutes later Race 36 (motor glider) - engine out and gliding safely to a nearby airfield. I believe both cases were due to fuel exhaustion. Then a C172 running the tanks almost dry and landing at a nearby field to refuel. Another Grumman landed straight in without going through the finish gate - low on fuel. It was quite hectic over the finish line with Ac all around us. We joined the circuit number six and just after landing and clear of the runway we looked back to see up to eight AC on final approach at times. Below is our track for Day 2 (red line). The slight deviations off track is where we had to divert to get past some high mountain peaks.

Finally we ended in the 20th position overall and I am looking forward already to next year's Race. The Jab performed faultlessly through the whole flight. Oil temperature, pressure, CHT's and EGT's stayed absolutely constant - in fact I think the motor is running slightly too cold running it like that, due to the better airflow at these speeds. Fuel flow showed between 21 and 22.7 liters per hour.

Harry Antel and Barry de Groot flying their Grumman Tiger, the overall winners.

What an amazing little aircraft and what an amazing Race!!!!!!!!

Jan Hanekom and Hugo Stark.

South Africa.