Des Barker leaves the CSIR but will keep on flying


At first glance it was just another move but the missive “note this email address will no longer be active from March 27” and the attached signature signalled the end of an era.

The signature was that of retried SA Air Force (SAAF) major general, Des Barker, who for the past nine years has been contract research and development manager at the CSIR’s defence, peace, safety and security (DPSS) division.

Before he moved to the CSIR campus on the eastern side of Pretoria, Barker’s haunts had largely been on the western side of the city, at SAAF HQ and the metro’s two air forces bases – Waterkloof and Zwartkop – as well as other bases around South Africa.

He left the SAAF with 40 years of service to his name, many of them as a test pilot. During his time in uniform Barker built up an impressive number of hours, more than seven thousand, and has the most types – 50 – of any South African air force pilot in his logbooks.

When asked what he would be doing, Barker told defenceWeb he would continue doing “civvy test flying, might open a small flight test business”.

He plans to finish three books he is currently writing and intends to take “my six logbooks and write on some of the stuff we did in flight testing in the SAAF”. A possible title is “Recollections from a Test Pilot’s Logbook”.

Apart from that the plan is to “play a bit of golf, drink some beer and have no PowerPoint presentations”.

Barker’s career in the SAAF started in 1968 when, according to the official SAAF publication Ad Astra, he qualified as a fighter pilot, with a passion for aviation over a broad spectrum – an asset visible in his interest in flying safety and broad knowledge of aircraft and aviation related topics.

Highlights of his air force career include being a qualified fixed wing experimental test pilot, Officer Commanding of the Test Flight and Development Centre and Air Advisor to the South African High Commission in London. He was also Officer Commanding AFB Makhado, the SAAF’s “fighter town” and finally Chief Director: Fore Preparation at Air Command. He retired at the end of May 2008 ending “a military career that spanned 40 years of dedication ad unselfish service toward a cause he firmly believed in”.

He was a member of the silver Falcons and a display and demonstration rated pilot on Aermacchi 326 Impala, Canberra, Mirage F1 and Cheetah.

He wrote what many consider to be the “bible” on display flying – “Zero Error Margin – Display Flying Analysed” – and has contributed extensively to publications worldwide on aviation safety, air power and flight testing.

Barker is the third generation of the family in the SAAF with his grandfather being the 20th member of the airborne arm of what is today the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).