The Aerobatics Trans Tasman has been going since the late 60’s. Stalwarts like Paul Lagan, Don Putt, Bert Street, Gerry Bolton and Alf Leong feature on the trophy from the early days. Australia won the first ever TT in 1969. The kiwis won it the following year in Fielding. This was back in the day of screaming 60 size models doing centre manoeuvres. The trophy shows it was all Australia for the next 20+ years !!! Things have changed a lot since then. The models are now massive in fuselage volume so they fly slower, 2m x 2m is the max size, 5Kg the max weight. In the last 10 years there has been a big move to electric, and some guys are running contra setups.
My first ever TT was in Canberra, way back in 1996. The ozzies won the team event, but I created a stir by placing second individual. Two years later in Tokoroa, the Kiwis won for the first time since 1970. It’s flipped back and forth, and we won it again in 2002 at Awatoto. The last TT held in NZ was at Waharoa back in 2006. With the rising popularity of the biannual CAOCC / AOC F3A event, the interest in running a TT has since tapered off. Finding 5 guys keen on travelling across the ditch to fly in it is the problem. But, Hamish Galloway at a recent Australian Masters events, managed to get a bunch of ozzies keen for the trip to NZ. Let’s do a TT in the Hawkes Bay he said !!! It’ll be great.
So the scene was set. Awatoto was booked for the venue, it’s pretty central, and has great weather. Plus plenty to see and do for the Tourists. The date was set for early in April 2017. The ozzies were sending 4 F3A pilots, and hopefully also some Advanced guys too. As we now fly the international Advanced schedule, it was possible to include this class in the TT. It means we can entice guys to come and Judge F3A for us, plus they get to fly Advanced at the same event. Prior to this, finding dedicated Judges has always been difficult.
Leading up to the comp, it was looking like we might not get the required Notam in time. Awatoto is within a restricted zone being within 10km of the Napier Airport, and the lead time on the Notam is something like 3 months. Back up location was set for Norsewood, an hours drive south, on the Galloway farm. Next stumbling block, who on earth are these Dixie Chicks ? Yeah, well I’d never heard of them either, but as we drew closer to the event, we soon find out that they are having a massive concert in the Hawkes Bay, plus there is a Hockey Tournament on too, all on the same weekend. All available accommodation is totally booked out. Along with other essentials like Portaloo’s. Hmmm … things were getting complicated. Bugger. We can’t move the dates, the ozzies have already booked and paid for flights. Hamish and I talk about moving it to Norsewood, and finding accom down there. After a few committee meetings, we decided to stick with Plan A, and figure out some billeting options for the visitors. I’ve come to learn the Plan A usually works out best in the end.
On the week of the event, a cyclone that had just hit Queensland pretty hard, was making its way down the Tasman. Nice. Just what we need after months of planning. It was going to bring a ton of wet weather during the week, but it looked like it was going to clear in time for the event. The problem is, Awatoto is right near the sea, and it’s a flood plain. It has flooded before, bigtime, and then been closed for several weeks while the silt clears. With all this rain in the hills, it was likely to happen again. Sure enough on the Wednesday morning, the Awatoto webcam showed the field was about a metre underwater !!! Clubs guys went and had a look at midday, and reported back that it was perfect for the Trans Tasman … well the boat race part that is. Bit of a scramble that day, plan B in Norsewood it is then. The Galloways have a great strip on their farm, and Hamish was busy sorting out a marquee, a generator, a portaloo etc. But luck was on our side. That night back up in Awatoto, all that water went out with the tide. The webcam on Thursday morning showed the field dry, no silt was left behind, and the club pres after taking a look for us that morning, gave us the green light. So it was back to Plan A. What a drama.
By now the ozzies have already started to arrive. Earlier in the week Simon Atkinson, Peter Pennisi, and their families had landed in Auckland, rented a couple of big campervans, and headed to Northland, up past Whangarei. The parked up at Tutukaka. Their plan was to make it a two week holiday, and see as much of the North Island as they could, with the flying event in the middle. But the cyclone had followed them from Queensland, and they only managed to see a bit of blue sky before the rain started. Just as well the Campers had unlimited Wifi !!
Brian “Hooley Dooley” and his partner Sharon flew to Wellington, and hit the wineries in the Martinborough area. They managed a couple of “dry ish” days during the week cycling about the place, indulging in fine food and wine, before the weather packed in.
On the Thursday, the remaining two Ozzies flew into Wellington, namely Scott Kay from Tasmania, and Jason Arnold from Sydney. Here is where things got interesting. When they waited in the baggage claim, after an hour or two, Scott’s model box was nowhere to be seen. After some waiting around, and more waiting around, it was found … in Auckland. Don’t worry sir, we’ll fly it down to Palmerston North and you can collect it from there tomorrow morning. After lots of chasing, it was delivered to the Galloway farm in Norsewood on a courier, at 1am in the morning, the night before the contest.
Friday – The contest was due to start at midday, but with all the weather drama, and the chopping / changing of venues, chasing down lost model boxes, it was more a case of let’s all just get to Awatoto, get the field setup, and do some practice flying. We can start the comp on Saturday. Jarrod and I drive down Friday morning. We arrive to find Andrew and Suetonia from Christchurch already there, along with the touring ozzies who found their way down from the far north, via Hobbiton, and they are managing some practice flights in the sunshine. James Danby, John and Shelly Knox, Paul Tomlinson and Paul Stairmand soon arrive, plus we meet a keen man, Joe Costa, who has come over to help out as a Judge. As its going dark, Hamish and all the rest of the guys who landed in Wellington arrive too. It’s a bit like a big family reunion for the guys who have been doing this for a long time, plus we also meet some new faces too. Right … we were all off to the Thai Restaurant in Clive for Dinner !!!
Saturday – Its warm and sunny, hardly any wind. Perfect conditions for an Aerobatics Contest. 10 Pilots in F3A flew 3 rounds of the P prelim schedule, and 6 Pilots in Advanced flew the 3 rounds of A16. During the day we were treated to some fantastic Burgers cooked up by volunteers from the local club. We flew until it went dark, and after 3 rounds Team NZ had a commanding lead on the team results. Off to the River Bar in Clive for Dinner !!! This time everyone was able to attend, and we had a great meal, and of course plenty of “liquid” was needed after such a long day flying in the sun.
Sunday morning, we needed to finish off a 4th round for both classes, to finalise the team result. Simon Atkinson won the Advanced class, ahead of the two kiwi’s Pauls Tomlinson and Stairmand. In F3A, for the finals, the plan was to fly some of the F17 finals schedule. The top 5 would make it through, each carrying over their avg score from the Prelim rounds. This left us with 5 F3A pilots who were able to Judge it. Jarrod Briggs who was sitting in 5th had a “voltage” problem in his last prelim round, causing him to drop down to 6th. This meant Peter Pennisi who was looking forward to sitting back, watching and judging the F, would now have to fly it !!! The look on his face was priceless when he saw the results. This is the first time in a long time that an F3A Finals schedule has been flown and judged at a contest in NZ, and it certainly provided some entertainment. Rolling circles, Rolling Loops, it’s a big step up from the P schedule. 2 quick rounds later, and it was all over. What a weekend. Stunning weather in the end.
Team NZ won the Team event.
Advanced was won by Simon Atkinson, 2nd Paul Tomlinson, 3rd Paul Stairmand.
F3A individual results 1st Frazer Briggs, 2nd Hamish Galloway, 3rd Andrew Palmer.
A big thanks to all those involved who helped run a successful contest. Thanks also to the Awatoto club for allowing us the use of their field, and keeping us fed and watered all weekend. It was a pretty big task to put the TT on, but everyone had a great weekend, and the Ozzies all went away smiling. We were bloody lucky with the weather though. Only a few days after the contest was over, a second cyclone hit the country, and it was as wet as an otters pocket for the rest of the week.