First public ground run in over three years for Ysterplaat Shackleton

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Not even the current bout of cold, wet, wintry weather in Western Cape could dampen the enthusiasm of military aviation enthusiasts who turned up at Air Force Base (AFB) Ysterplaat for the first public Shackleton ground run in over three years.

Although it is highly unlikely the four-engined specialist maritime patrol aircraft will ever fly again, occasional ground runs of the Rolls Royce Griffon piston engines serve as a nostalgic reminder of its former glory.

Organised by John Wilson of the Friends of SAAF (South African Air Force) Museum Ysterplaat with approval from museum and base management, the Saturday (24 June) start-up was the first open one since COVID-19 and its associated restrictions severely curbed South Africans’ movements. Wilson said a run – “more accurately a test run” – took place last November, adding the public were not allowed entry to the base for that occasion.

Capetonian and military aviation enthusiast extraordinaire Dean Wingrin said of the event: “After a way too long time, the sounds of Rolls Royce Griffon Mk 57A piston engines again reverberated around AFB Ysterplaat when the SAAF Museum held a ground run of its resident Shackleton (1722)”.

Another visitor – “fortunate” to be in Cape Town – said the failure of the number two engine to start did not “diminish from a huge thrill to witness”.

Asked about the probability of 1722 ever flying again, Wingrin was not optimistic.

“Very doubtful. She was grounded some time ago due to concerns regarding the high risk. There are no aircrew current on her, the original guys who kept her airworthy and flew her passed on or are too old – even for Reserve duty. Now it’s reliant on younger SAAF volunteers willing to give up their spare time for ground run certification.”