Private aircraft owners gather at Rangitata Island in support of Brent Thompson and his efforts to represent New Zealand in this month’s trans-Tasman Wings International Trophy competition.
"The sweet spot is a place where a combination of factors results in a maximum response for a given amount of effort. In tennis, squash, racquetball, baseball, or cricket, a given swing will result in a more powerful hit if the ball strikes the racquet or bat on the latter’s sweet spot."
ropellers have a sweet spot, technically speaking the centre of pressure. Propeller design is a black art that combines a number of factors — type of wood, diameter, number of blades, glue type, pitch, chord, angle of attack, rpm, match to the engine and cowling used, hub, type of spinner, flex, balance and finish, to name a few.
A handful of people have got the knack to make sweet propellers. I think one of the most aptly named is the Sweetapple, named after its Australian designer, Richard Sweetapple.
In Christchurch we have a few craftsmen who have produced handmade works of art — the Belworthys, Ian Henry, Roger Ward — and of course Brent Thompson.
I had heard of Brent long before I met him, such was his reputation. I made his personal acquaintance when he bought a copy of one of the children’s books I have written. He was so complimentary and, yes, sweet.
The conversation was all going swimmingly until he said he’d bought it for his daughter Isabelle but she was too young yet. He hoped he’d have time to read it to her.
Strange statement, I thought, until I later learned that Brent has motor neurone disease.
The next time I saw Brent he was at that honey pot of a place for aviation, Rangitata Island. He was practising for the regional aerobatics competitions. Whoa, talk about facing life head on and making the most of it!
Brent, rather than be beaten by his disease, has entered into a race against time to achieve what he can before he can’t. His good friend Andrew Love has been assisting with coaching and as safety pilot.
As readers may know, Brent made it through the Flying NZ regional competitions to the nationals and was destined to fly for New Zealand in the team at Tauranga (see page 20 this edition). Due to inclement weather on competition day the competitions have now been shifted to Australia.
Brent, Jessica and Isabelle are due to fly over on 7 April.
If you have a Brent Thompson propeller you’ll appreciate the fact that its sweet running keeps you in the air. If you fly aerobatics you’ll appreciate the challenge Brent has set himself. If you just fly and know the freedom it offers you’ll understand his motivation.
Or if you’d just like to see the Aussies get beaten, a fundraising campaign to help Brent is underway. Contact Lynda and Russell Brodie, email@example.com, phone 03 693 8675.
I am sure every bit will help.
-Report and photograph by Bernice Hintz.
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