New members have been inaugurated into the South African Air Force’s (SAAF’s) Mach Plus club, which comprises an elite band of aviators who have all broken the sound barrier while in SAAF service.
The Mach Plus club was established in 1978 with the aim of encouraging social interaction and relations between former fighter pilots and serving SA Air Force aviators.
A Hawk performed an aerobatic display at Air Force Base Swartkop when it opened last month’s Mach Plus function, hosted by the Chief of Air Force, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo, on Friday 10 June.
“It is important to keep the Mach Plus tradition alive as it fosters camaraderie amongst members of yesteryear and serving counterparts. By remembering our heritage and acknowledging great achievements, it provides a cornerstone for planning future endeavours,” Mbambo said.
New members to join the club are Major Jabulani Mabona, Major Klude Naidoo, Lieutenant Hambelani Makhado and Lieutenant Isaac Nkadimeng, reports Lance Corporal Mamogobo Mamabolo for the SAAF. Mbambo congratulated the four newly inaugurated members on their achievement and for becoming members of the elite group.
Amongst the attendees were the former Chiefs of Air Force, Lieutenant General (Retired) Willem Hechter and Lieutenant General (Retired) Fabian Msimang, members of the Air Force Command Council, captains of industry as well as Mach Plus members.
“It is a privilege to attend an event of this kind and to witness that the SA Air Force has not forgotten about its former fighter crew. I served the SA Air Force for 16 years and it is such an honour to be attending an event of this nature,” said retired Major Pieter Ackerna.
“This continuous relationship gives meaning and richness to our work and to our lives, let alone the opportunity to make new friends and aviator acquaintances,” Naidoo said.
The first time a SAAF pilot hit transonic speed was way back in September 1956 when an unauthorised Sabre flight at the then home of the SAAF’s jet squadrons – AFB Waterkloof – with now retired Colonel John Inglesby at the controls broke the sound barrier above the largely agricultural landscape that is now Centurion.
His achievement became part of SAAF history when the Mach Plus club was formed in 1978. This after the airborne arm of the then SA Defence Force was operating supersonic French Mirages jets.
In 2011 the Gripen and its pilots were added to the club, which at that point had 550 members.