Hawks not grounded


A landing incident involving a Hawk jet trainer at AFB Makhado late last month did not lead to the SA Air Force’s (SAAF) entire Hawk fleet being grounded.

“The fleet was subjected to a precautionary stop-fly in accordance with the SAAF aviation safety policy on the grounding of/or restrictions placed on flying aircraft,” Chie of the Air Force Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang said in response to a defenceWeb enquiry.

He also confirmed the aircraft involved had suffered minor damage during the incident which saw the nosewheel damaged, but was “repairable”.

Unconfirmed reports from AFB Makhado, where 85 Combat Flying School operates the Hawk Mk 120 Lead-In Fighter Trainer, said the aircraft was on final approach to land when it apparently experienced a trim problem.

A defenceWeb correspondent was told by a source on the Limpopo base the “trim jammed (the) aircraft into (a) downward attitude right before touch down and there was no time to correct”.

The aircraft, the tail number of which has not been made public, hit the runway “very hard” and bounced back into the air. The subsequent landing damaged the landing gear, causing a portion of it to break off. The aircraft then slid along the run before stopping.

With a damaged aircraft on the runway, other aircraft in the air were forced to land on the taxiway. This presented no problem as the base’s taxiway was designed to be a secondary runway in the event of the main runway being either blocked or damaged when it was built in the 1980s.

Msimang said the board of inquiry into the incident, standard operating procedure when there is an aircraft accident, is “making good progress” and expectations are the Hawks will “resume flying in time to honour the SAAF’s commitment to participate at upcoming events and operations”.

The fighter trainer is scheduled to be part of the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF’s) participation at the Rand Easter Show starting on April 18. It is due to fly above the Nasrec exhibition grounds as part of an air capability display.

Indications are it will also be deployed as part of the SANDF’s and National Joint Operations’ election security plan ahead of voting day on May 7.

The Hawk replaced the Impala as the SAAF’s jet trainer as part of the 1999 Strategic Defence Procurement Package (SDPP). Twenty-four aircraft were acquired at a cost in excess of R7 billion with deliveries starting in 2006. The final Hawks were taken into the SAAF inventory in 2008.