Dear SAC member,
We are all still reeling from the tragic accident that took one of our more experienced aerobatic colleagues from us recently. As you can imagine, it has been a trying time and made us revisit what we do at contests, and reflect on what we could possibly do to avoid another similar situation from ever happening again. Our sport is a high risk activity and it goes without saying that it requires thorough preparation. The committee has debated many ideas and canvased opinions to make our sport safer. I’d like to share with you all some of the actions we will implement immediately to mitigate any safety risks;
1. Sequence checking. While we already require all competitors to have their sequences checked by a senior judge or pilot, it has clearly not been happening. This is in place to check the legality of the sequence only, however, the spinoff is that it offers another set of eyes that could possibly pick up a potential safety problem.
2. Buddy system. This is a process practised by many other aerobatic organisations across the globe. This ensures that any competitor is ready and prepared for his flight. Prior to a competition flight, pilots force their ‘buddy’ to walk their sequence on the ground; they check their card; ensure a proper pre flight is conducted; confirm the official wind direction; confirm frequencies; where a break is to be taken and if a weather break is permitted, etc. In a club environment, no competitor should be left to deal with this kind of preparation on his own. A checklist is being prepared for this purpose. We want the buddies to be identified at the briefing.
3. Indicating a break on sequences. Competitors will from now on be required to indicate the point in their sequence where they will take a break, for either a weather break or a compromised altitude situation. Our rules do allow a competitor to take a weather break at any point in the sequence, at their own discretion and not exactly where they’ve indicated it on the sequence sheet. Marking this point on their sequence sheet however forces a competitor to be consciously aware of the lowest point in their sequence and hopefully encourages heightened spatial awareness during their flight.
4. Density altitude. SAC contests held on the Highveld have always implemented a free break to compensate for density altitude, in the Advanced and Unlimited categories. The CIVA regulations now permit this for Intermediate class too and we will follow this regulation. It goes without saying though that any contests held a lower altitudes / sea level will consider any density altitude implications.
5. Sample Known sequences. A set of prepared known sequences for each category will be published for each year and any competitor is free to fly this sequence, however, we do encourage members to design their own sequences and of course, have someone knowledgeable check it out.
6. Assessing mental preparedness. It is a fact that we practice a high-risk sporting activity so it goes without saying that every competitor must be mentally prepared to compete. We should all recognise where a fellow competitor is distracted by personal or business matters and suggest to the competitor that he should consider stepping aside until the distraction is no longer a factor. Late arrivals at a contest should only be possible under special circumstances, and sufficient time allocated to the competitor to properly prepare for his competition flight (at least an hour). Sir Walter Raleigh said “ If one finds oneself too distracted to get to an important meeting on time, then one does not belong at that meeting!”
The above items are merely some of the options that we consider as being appropriate to further improve safety at contests. As a club, the SAC has been fortunate to have had many years of safely run contests and we will certainly strive to continue this.