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article image2010 a year of anniversaries for the South African Air Force Special

By Christopher Szabo     Aug 15, 2010 in World
Pretoria - The South African Air Force (SAAF) turns 90 this year and its air show 90 Years on Golden Wings celebrated this event. Digital Journal spoke to SAAF spokesman Colonel Bill de Pinho and asked what it meant to have such a long heritage as an air force.
De Pinho said it was source of pride and showed how far the SAAF had come as an air force. He said:
We are known for our expertise over the years and our fighting ability and fighting capabilities, especially during World War Two, during the Korean War as well. Internally our capability is what is highlighted. I don’t say it’s 90 years old, I say it’s 90 years young in that sense, because we’ve got a long way to go yet. We’ve gone through a lot of changes and I think especially with the acquisition of new aircraft it has helped the Air Force to develop in a very positive manner.
I asked De Pinho how the change from Apartheid to the New South Africa had changed the Air Force. He said:
We’ve had to change our ways of doing things. This also means we’ve had to adapt to certain situations. If I can elaborate on that a little bit. It’s got a lot to do with the fact that we now have female crew – aircrew and ground crew – and technicians etc, in those so-called “core musterings.” I think that’s one of the big adaptions that we’ve had. Also culturally, we’ve had to adapt to a way of doing things as well as the fact that we’ve got the new systems in place and the way of operating with the new systems it’s a lot more in line with the youngsters because they’re a computer generation and a lot of these new systems are very technically advanced which helps a tremendous amount, especially in the development of the youngsters themselves.
The three historic helicopters of the General Flight  called that because the pilots are generals!
The three historic helicopters of the General Flight, called that because the pilots are generals!
The SAAF, like most air forces, is always trying to recruit and keep personnel. De Pinho said the Air Force faced a challenge in encouraging young people to join the service, as well as keeping existing personnel:
We have to really fight to try and get individuals enthusiastic and to ensure that they have the passion to serve and to want to fly or to support the flying aspects of the Air Force. There is a recruitment within (the Reserve Force) to maybe get some of the previous pilots, as an example, into the system to be able to not only help us in the flying, but also to give their expertise, that they’ve got, because the majority are instructor qualified. So that can assist us, because unfortunately the exodus of pilots and other aircrew and technicians etc. has given us a dilemma in that particular area.
Sticking with anniversaries, I continued by asking De Pinho what the 75-year-old C-47 type, the “Dakota,” meant to him:
Well, I’ve been in the Air Force now for 30 years; a lot of flights I’ve taken in the so-called “Dakota” was up in the bush area, as it was known in those days, and it got you from A to B safely, one never thought that this thing could fly, but here it is, it’s still around 75 years later. It also did a lot of supply drops for us on the ground and it was always good to hear it, when it came over, you knew you had maybe some fresh “rats” (rations) as well, so that was always a good thing from that perspective.
The C-47 Dakota of the SAAF Museum.
The C-47 Dakota of the SAAF Museum.
On the subject of the Dakota, I asked whether the upgraded C-47TP wasn’t getting a bit long in the tooth for operational flying:
With the upgrade onto the turboprop, it gave it a new lease of life. Obviously, the life expectancy is restricted, so therefore one has to now consider the fact that there will be a new approach, especially to the maritime role, where the C-47 Turboprop is now being used, mainly, and I think that in future we’ll have to look at a new aircraft to fulfil this role, but it still works well and the “old lady of the skies” is a good workhorse, that’s for sure.
I wanted to know if the Air Force saw 2010 as a year of anniversaries?
Initially, when we looked at the year planning, because of the 90th year of the Air Force, that was the focus. And then we realised that there’s a lot of these anniversary events taking place. As we’ve alluded to already with the 75 years of the Dakota, 60 years of the (De Havilland) Vampire, 50 years of the Allo (Alouette helicopter) and then obviously, certain events. You’re looking at 70 years of the Battle of Britain, 60 (ago) when Korea started and there’s obviously there are one or two others as well, but the round figure ones are always nice ones to celebrate. The fact that the Mirage III is coming up to 45 years – in the Air Force, by the way, it’s the only flying version in the world at this stage and it’s good to see it flying. It is a Museum aircraft, because they were phased out in the late ‘80s.
The world s only flying Mirage III.
The world's only flying Mirage III.
The French-designed fighter in question is a Mirage III CZ, which was an air superiority fighter in its day.
The SAAF faces funding and acquisition challenges, considering its role as protector of South Africa’s skies, also its sea lanes and additionally the peacekeeping role has added more responsibility to the Air Force. The 90 Years anniversary air show was a real hit with the large crowd and attracted television, radio and other media coverage nationwide.
Vintage Harvard planes perform an aerobatic  break  manoeuvre.
Vintage Harvard planes perform an aerobatic "break" manoeuvre.
More about South Africa, Saaf, Anniversary, 2010
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