Smoke On Go

Mary de Klerk – Ambassador of rally and precision flying

In the South African aviation world of rally and precision flying, Mary de Klerk stands out as a true disciple, having again just won the Brits Nationals over the weekend of June 16th -18th with Nigel Hopkins.

Mary has represented South Africa around 30 times in World Rally and Precision Flying Championships. With SAPFA (South African Power Flying Ass.) she has been involved extensively in the development of competition flying through her involvement in the organisation of fun rally events, and was a Committee member of SAPFA in 2000 and 2009-2010.

Mary started her flying in 1989 at the well-known Natal Flight Centre at Virginia Airport, Durban.

Under the instruction of Dennis Stewart, she soloed within 21days. Her goal was to become an SAA pilot, and obtained her Commercial Licence and Instructors rating in 1991. However life gives us challenges, and due to her limited Afrikaans skills at the time, SAA evaded her.

Mary enjoyed flying in various club competitions, and started her competition flying in 1990.

She has two older daughters, although none have pursued their mother’s love of flying.

When Stellenbosch had the honour of hosting the World champs in 1991, Mary de Klerk acted as the competition director.  

In 1995 she received her Protea colours when she was a member of the team representing SA in Denmark. Due to her very successful business in marketing and promotions, she moved to Johannesburg from Durban in 2006.

Mary won the State Presidents Air Race (known as the PTAR today) in 2010 and also won the Race of Champions in 2007 flying with Barry de Groot. She received her Gold Wings Award from SAPFA in 2017.

Presently, Mary still holds the record of 14 years for the SA National Rally Championships, and proudly displays the trophy at her home. Through the years, she has partnered with many respected national pilots like Adrian Pillings, Phil Wakely and Nigel Hopkins.

During races, Mary enjoys navigating as her primary skill, and it is with this knowledge that she has taught and guided many pilots and navigators the skills required in navigation, rallying and precision flying.

Before taking off Mary always says to herself, “Pray that I will land.”

Even though she now lives in Gauteng, she faithfully still flies for Durban Wings Club in her competitions. Her goal when she retires is to continue flying and teaching pilots and navigators the skills in racing.

The current South African Flying Team is always in attendance at every Fun Rally, ready to share their knowledge and skills with enthusiastic “wanna-be” rally pilots and navigators. Those who show their willingness to learn more and wish to try out their skills in the Intermediate or Open categories are given individual training, and often have the opportunity of flying with one of the South African Team members such as Mary de Klerk.

SAPFA has won the bid to host the 22nd FAI World Rally Flying Championship. So if you attend a Rally or Precision flying event, keep a lookout for a very vibrant tall blonde, usually with a big smile… that’s Mary de Klerk.




Subscribe to our newsletter for new blog posts, tips and news