Sky Grand Prix of Aerobatics gets the thumbs up from local pilots

The Sky Grand Prix of Aerobatics, to be held at the inaugural Durban Land, Sea and Air Festival on the Durban Beachfront from the 21st to 22nd March, will put South African aerobatics on the map while showcasing the country’s best pilots.

Barrie Eales, 47, hails from Johannesburg and has been flying for 30 years. He has 1 100 flying hours under his belt and has competed in 30 airshows. His accomplishments include representing South Africa three times at the World Championships and also winning Advanced National Champ in 2012. His favourite planes are a Zlin 50, Extra 300, Sbach and MX2. About the participating in the event, he said, “This is a great concept. The Sky Grand Prix of Aerobatics will be an exciting place to watch our best aerobatic pilots in action. This is competition at its best!”

Bertus du Preez, 45, is an SAA pilot and comes from Pretoria. He has 25 years of flying experience and boasts more than 18 000 hours of flying time. He has been competiing in aerobatics competitions for 15 years. His accomplishments include SA Aerobatic Champ in the Sportsman, Intermediate and Advanced classes and he represented South Africa twice at the World Championships. His favourite planes are an Extra 330SC, MX, Edge 540, Sukhoi 26/31, Pitts and Slick. He describes the Sky Grand Prix of Aerobatics as a brilliant concept that will hopefully put South Africa on the map.

Johnie Smith, 50, is a cropsprayer from Franfort in the Free State. He has 26 years flying experience with 10 000 hours under his belt. He has competed in eight aerobatics competitions and flown in 50 airshows. He won the Advanced Champ title in 2011 and was runner up in 2012 and 2013. His favourite planes are 2 Cessna 188s, 2 Turbine Air Tractors and the Sbach. He feels the Sky Grand Prix of Aerobatics will grow local aerobatics by giving the sport a platform for exposure.

At 31, Patrick Davidson is one of the youngest pilots to participate in the Sky Grand Prix of Aerobatics. His accomplishments include first place in the South African Unlimited Aerobatic competition in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. He also achieved first place in Ace of Base 2011 and 8th place in AWAC Hungary in 2012. “The Sky Grand Prix of Aerobatics is an awesome idea and way to bring the public close to the action. The names attending this event are simply the best in the business. I think this will be one heck of a spectacle.

The national pilots will be competing against each other as well as five top international pilots from Russia, the Czech Republic, France, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Aircrafts and pilots will be flying across Durban’s beachfront at speeds in excess of 400km/h while being subjected to plus 10 and minus five times the force of gravity. International Aerobatic Judges will be on hand to adjudicate the competitors on the accuracy of angles and overall aircraft performance on specific aerobatic figures that these daredevils will be undertaking.

Besides the Sky Grand Prix of Aerobatics, the Durban Land, Sea and Air Festival will also feature displays from the South African Navy and Air Force.

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