An overall attendance rate for the day at around the 35,000 mark has done more than put a smile on the face of SA Air Force (SAAF) Museum boss, Lieutenant Colonel Mike O’Connor. He knows there is money in the kitty to further preserve South Africa’s proud military aviation history for another year.
The 35,000 is at present an unofficial estimate of total overall attendance for the Museum’s airshow at AFB Zwartkop last Saturday, rated by many seasoned airshow attendees as up there with the best ever in South Africa, if not the best.
The effort put in by O’Connor and his team of largely Reserve Force members every year for the airshow is a must. Without it the country’s military aviation history would simply slide into neglect and eventually disappear because there is no money for the Museum in the defence budget. All it receives is payment for Reserve mandays and even these sometimes disappear due to financial constraints. There are other, minor, accounts which are settled by the SAAF but, by and large, it has to be self-funded or close its doors.
The input of SAAF Reserve Force members is complemented by the volunteer work done by the Friends of the SAAF Museum.
At the end of the day without these people, the ones wearing the uniform part-time and those whose love of military aviation history goes as far as getting their hands dirty, there would be no SAAF museum at AFB Zwartkop, South Africa’s oldest air force base, or satellites at AFBs Port Elizabeth and Ysterplaat.
Comments on Saturday’s airshow include “one of the best ever as far as the variety of displays is concerned”, “integration between civilian, museum and SAAF operational aircraft was outstanding”, and “a fantastic show with solid event organisation and significantly ended by the dusk display of 2 Squadron commander, Lieutenant Colonel ‘Midnite’ Mbhokota, in the Gripen”.
Another airshow attendee asked if it was not time for AFB Zwartkop to become “a site of international importance”? This because of its age and it being the home of one of the world’s oldest air forces.
Looking back on the event and all the preparation O’Connor said: “There was no doubt it was worth it. We are all about preserving South Africa’s military aviation heritage. Without successful airshows we wouldn’t be able to do it”.