Formation flying champions

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WINNERS: Mid Canterbury Aero Club president Graham Closey was among the Ashburton contingent to bring home a national title during the 2024 National Flying Championships at Ashburton Airport.
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Mid Canterbury pilots Graham Closey, Darryn Franklin, Anja Liemburg and Grant Hopewell have won national formation titles in the 2024 Flying New Zealand National Championships.

All four are members of Mid Canterbury Aero Club, which hosted the championships at Ashburton Airport last week.

Closey, who is club president, said the formation teams did ‘‘very well’’ winning the three-ship, and two-ship formation flying events.

Liemburg, Franklin and Hopewell (substituting in for Ian Begbie) won the three-ship formation, and Closey and Hopewell won the two-ship formation.

‘‘We are very good at formation flying in Ashburton,’’ he said.

Competitions during the five-day event included formation flying, aerobatics, spot landings, and in a range of skill levels. From junior to senior levels of fly-in.

Mid Canterbury Aero Club members Anja Liemburg, Darryn Frankling and Grant Hopewell flying in three ship formation during the 2024 Flying New Zealand National Championships.

Mid Canterbury club members also placed in other flying categories.

Edana Sparks got second in the women’s circuit competition and third in the forced landing without power competition.

She and Closey placed third in life-raft dropping, and Travis Butler, the club’s flying instructor, placed third in low flying for commercial pilots.

‘‘Everyone seemed happy. We did change the schedule a bit (due to a bad weather forecast for Friday) but it worked out really well,’’ Closey said.

‘‘We got everything done that we wanted to do.’’

The championships had drawn a large a number of people. There were about 50 pilots and about 25 planes, typically Cherokee and Cessna aircraft, competing in one of 30 flying competitions.

‘‘I was just stoked with the turnout,’’ Closey said.

The presentation dinner in the Ashburton Aviation Museum, which saw 170 attend, was one of the biggest for nationals in a few years.

‘‘It was probably one of the bigger nationals that we’ve had in while, with Covid everything took a bit of a downturn,’’ he said.

Club members were now preparing to host the annual rally of the New Zealand Association of Women in Aviation over King’s Birthday weekend in June.