Those magnificent men in their flying machines from the Tauranga Aero Club have qualified to defend their title as the top competitive aero club in the country after winning the Wigram Cup again at the Central Regional Rally in Tokoroa last weekend.
Tauranga beat out flying clubs from Waikato, Tokoroa, Hawera, Waitomo and Taumarunui to win the regional championship and the chance to compete for the North Shore Trophy at the National Championships in February next year.
"It was a great result for the club and particularly pleasing to see young competitors from past years come through and participate as air judges," said the club's chief flying instructor, James Churchward.
Air judges are fully qualified instructors who accompany the competitors in the air and mark the precision of their flights.
The four pilots in the Wigram Cup winning team this year were Dale Radford, Daniel Campbell, Ike Stephens and Kevin Duckworth. The only newcomer this season is Duckworth who replaces Isaac O'Kell from last season's champion team.
Club captain and flight instructor Ben Rochford is "very pleased to see the club have the chance to become back-to-back national champions".
"It's especially pleasing for Kevin Duckworth to be doing so well in his first year in the team."
Tauranga pilots dominated the rally in Tokoroa and the club were clear winners ahead of Hawera and Waikato, with plenty of individual success in the Wigram Cup events.
Daniel Campbell won the Senior Landing, where flyers compete in a precision "touch and go" competition on a grid. Kevin Duckworth was second in the Junior Landing.
Ike Stephens won the Instrument Flying while Dale Radford was second in the Non-Instrument Circuits competition.
There was a double success in the target events. Radford and David Campbell, father of Daniel, teamed up to win the Ivon Warmington Trophy for Liferaft Dropping. Radford was the pilot and Campbell the dispatcher in the contest which simulates a sea rescue and tests the accuracy of the liferaft drop.
Radford was victorious too in the Rotorua Trophy for Target Bombing.
Duckworth had a successful day with second places in the Flight Manoeuvres and Rejoin then in the Pre-flight Precision Circuits and Landings.
Daniel Campbell took out the Precision Circuits and Landings while David Campbell won the Forced Landing.
In the Navigation competitions, James Hunter won the Bledisloe Trophy for those with under 150 hours of flying time, while David Campbell took out the NZ Herald Trophy for experienced pilots with over 150 hours in the air.
Outside of the Wigram Cup team, Tauranga Aero Club members had other success at the rally.
Trish Stephens won the recreational aerobatics and Murray Rogers the sportsman aerobatics.
The National Championships will be, fittingly, at the North Shore Airport from February 13 to 16. Tauranga's competition will come from the host club North Shore - who won the northern region - Wellington representing the Cook Strait region, Mid-Canterbury from the NZ Alpine region and South Canterbury from the Lakes.
Tauranga won both the North Shore Trophy, for the club scoring the highest number of points at the nationals, and the Wigram Cup at this year's national event in Timaru. It was the first time Tauranga had won both trophies in the same year.