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article imageS. African Air Force mixes training with fun in ‘Training Day’ Special

By Christopher Szabo     Apr 10, 2010 in Lifestyle
Pretoria - The South African Air Force (SAAF) base at Swartkop, Pretoria, has combined pilot training with crowd pleasing by creating a “training day.” The SAAF says this way they can give pilots training flights as well as raise much-needed funds.
The SAAF is heavily under-funded and instead of training during the week, the pilots can take up paying passengers as well as join the Air Force Museum on the base to organise a low key air show. There is no entrance fee, but visitors are given free magazines (donated by the South African Army and African Pilot magazine) and are asked for a donation.
The atmosphere was laid back and friendly, with everything from high-end camera-carrying photographers to car club members all the way through the spectrum to those who just wanted pictures of their kids in front of “the big aeroplanes” and the “army tanks.” (A captured Soviet BRDM, actually.)
Food and drink are on offer during the SAAF s Training Day. In the background  an English Electric C...
Food and drink are on offer during the SAAF's Training Day. In the background, an English Electric Canberra bomber.
Food and drink were close to hand and although I didn’t visit the pilot’s bar, I have in the past and beer was no doubt consumed in quantity.
The Flying Lion in fine fettle.
The Flying Lion in fine fettle.
Air Force personnel were also on hand to describe and discuss the aircraft and their history, this being the 90th anniversary year of the SAAF, which lays claim to being the “second oldest air force in the world,” after Britain’s Royal Air Force.
The Harvard Club is also on the base and this classic decades-old radial-engined trainer remains a firm favourite both at Swartkop and main air shows nationwide. The Flying Lions use four Harvards in their shows.
The Flying Lions aerobatic team.
The Flying Lions aerobatic team.
David Mondey in his book, The Concise Guide to American Aircraft of WWII says the Harvard (also called the Texan) was: “Almost certainly the most universally used military training aircraft of all time.”
The prototype flew in 1935 and yet the SAAF used them until 1995, a tribute to both the aircraft and the SAAF mechanics! Many of the aircraft were bought by aerobatic teams, like the Flying Lions and others are kept flying by the Harvard Club or the Museum. The planes are registered as part of the national heritage.
A Harvard in its old SAAF livery taxies to the holding point.
A Harvard in its old SAAF livery taxies to the holding point.
One last thing. There is something special about the throaty roar of radial engines and there’s not much to compare to the sound as four of them fly over in tight formation.
This WWII Lockheed Ventura at the Museum could use a little work!
This WWII Lockheed Ventura at the Museum could use a little work!
Long may they fly!
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