Day 3 started early. We made our way to the pratice field. This first shot, thanks to GPS, took us a little less than 2 and a half hours but it was worth it. The U.S. team had the field all to itself. I went to work with Mark and Kevin setting up and painting the flight box for practice, which was in the same orientation as the World Championships site. The wind was stiff, so it was difficult for the pilots to get a real feel for the changes in the airplane responsiveness due to the high altitude. Joseph was quick to respond that he felt no significant differences, but snaps were very easy (fast and easy to enter an exit). It was kind of like a high density altitude day (hot summer day) but the air was cold and wind was like an early March day on the east coast of the U.S. The dust- the dust was everywhere. It was a fine dust blown by the wind. That's about the best way to describe it. The only pilot that seemed to have NO adjusting was Andrew. He flew as if he did not miss a beat since his last practice session in Utah. Once affectionatly called the Pattern Animal, his consistency between flights was absolutely stunning. This is a tribute to the hundreds of flights and extensive preparation he made for the world championships over the past year. I think I counted 3 errors total (not per maneuver, but per flight!). Later in the week, I privately confided in Tim Jesky that I was very impressed with Andrews flying and that I thought he would be well positioned to win. Much more on this later..I'm getting ahead of myself.
We all finally got the hang of driving. By the end of the third day, Dave Stoddard was giving me "10"s... Here is a video clip showing our drive to the practice site... http://youtu.be/FV4WsYh4ZXo
We passed many villages which were in the process of being converted into much nicer housing solutions. The government has housing programs that convert shanty type structures to small brick (one room) houses with solar panel and small water storage container (solar heated). People seemed happy there. This reminded me of my cultural relativism class back at college. There were fires everywhere- grass fires, trash burning fires- the smell of burning brush was with us most of the time we were there. We are told they do this just prior to Spring- the rains next month that bring green to the countrly. South Africa is a pretty country and all the people I saw there are very good spirited.
It took me a while to get oriented to the sun. Since its just prior to Spring there, the field faces South, but the sun rises and sets in the northern portion (respect to east and west). This was very dis-orienting at first, but made for good flying days (since the sun was out of the pilot's field of vision the whole day). I don't think we saw our first cloud for a week. We used lots of sun block but since the sun was so low most of the day (and behind us), sunburn was not a huge issue.