Moments and Milestones: A Day at the Races
- By John Miller
- Air & Space magazine, March 2010
(Page 2 of 2)
On race day, the 737 departed Lanseria Airport, traveling the 38 miles to Rustenburg in minutes, and lined up with the runway, where Nel and van den Berg swept through the start gate to begin the timed course.
Many on the ground assumed Nel and van den Berg would be hunched over the Boeing’s controls, closely monitoring the flight’s progress and squeezing every knot out of the jet to return to the finish line as quickly as possible. Not so.
“We leveled off at flight level 105, and engaged the autopilot,” Nel says. “Then we asked the cabin crew to bring us a cup of coffee, juice, and a sandwich. We let the autopilot and [flight management system] take us round the course whilst Menno called out landmarks he could see from the cockpit windows. With the turn points programmed into the system, the Boeing flew itself around Bloemhof Dam and Leeudoring and settled nicely onto the return track whilst our cabin crew enjoyed the flight in the business-class cabin.”
Although the Hawker Hunter started the course later, it finished first, completing its run in 37 minutes, 38 seconds. The 737 came in second, crossing the line at 51 minutes, 14 seconds. The Aermacchi MB326 came in third.
After crossing the finish line at low level and completing a pass down the runway, Nel and the crew returned to Lanseria—wrapping up a not-so-routine day at the office.