On 2 March 2008, the second Highveld Thermal League was flown at the Groen Goud ("Green Gold") Glider Club, a grass (turf) farm located just west of Centurion, Pretoria. Temperatures of mid 30 degrees, with a light N-NE were predicted, light cloud building to possible rain later. I arrived very early to maiden an aircraft & also to layout the field for the 150m winch launched to F3J rules event. The field in the early morning simply looked perfect - smooth & soft green grass as far as the eye could see, clear skies with a light breeze approaching from the N-NE. The pilots who fly at the GGGC field are indeed privileged & this must surely be the premium gliding field in South Africa.
The field was laid out with the flight line perpendicular to the prevailing & predicted wind direction & parallel with one of the access paths - which allowed people to drive up to their lanes & drop off winches, planes, etc. All very civilised. The relaxed pilots briefing began around 09h15 with special attention paid to safety & operational ceiling issues. Unfortunately, the CAA has officially restricted the max. operating ceiling of model aircraft to 1,000 feet AGL - a height which most F3B launches exceed. It was agreed with SAMAA, the governing body, that future TD events would not be cancelled during the interim & undefined period, that additional altitude of 1,000 metres AGL was obtained from the CAA. In the mean time, the RC pilots will have to give way to full size - & a full slot re flight called. Also, due to issues experienced with frequency interference, it was decreed that anyone found interfering outside of their slot, would loose 2 rounds score & have to pay for any & all damages.
The usual catering of Martie's Diner was quickly in full swing & a delicious breakfast was soon polished off to make way for the first slot - roughly around 09h30. The wind was still very gentle & blowing constantly from the N-NE & the first 3 slots of Round 1 were dominated by maxed flight times & good landing scores. Then slot 4 arrived. The wind swung almost 180 degrees, increased considerably in velocity, & any thermals that had been drifting above or around the field, were instantly replaced with Boeing sized sink. And, that was the pattern for the rest of the day - a few excellent conditions, interspersed with very challenging weather as the temperatures increased to the mid/upper 30's (Celsius)! During the second round, the 5 minute preparation time between 10 minutes working times were reduced to 3 minutes to speed up the competition. After 3 full rounds, lunch was called & we enjoyed a relaxed 30 minutes, before re-starting. During the 3 slot of Round 5, a massive Highveld thunderstorm rolled in & huge lightning flashes & rumbling thunder saw us halt after slot 4 (the slot scores all attest to minimal maxes). Most people decided to call it a day after slot 4 & it was agreed that all 5 flown rounds would count.
Peter Joffe, the only casualty for the day, snapped the nose off his model (ala Concorde) during the first slot. He elected to fly in the RES100 with his spare model - a locally designed & manufactured Tsotsi.
The next HTL event is scheduled for 6 April 2008 although the location is still to be decided, but will likely be either BERG & SGC, as the advertised MMS field may still have frequency blanking issues caused by arcing across the insulators of poorly maintained power lines even though ICASA have twice measured the EMS without detecting interference. The cause for our distrust is simple: Eskom, as the sole power futility in SA, is the responsible party for maintaining the distribution lines. Secondly ICASA are the same government body who since 1989 have allocated a portion of the 35 Mhz spectrum to two-way radio communications. Clearly, no sane individual is willing to stake their hard-earned money or models against the word of these "dis-organisations" & hence we have sadly elected to move away from the MMS field indefinitely.