President Cyril Ramaphosa had to wait 10 months before he could make use of the South African Air Force’s presidential aircraft for the first time.
The aircraft, a Boeing 737-7ED bizjet), has been grounded for about two years. The grounding was variously attributed to technical maintenance contracts not being renewed and a shortage of qualified personnel. This came to a head in March when Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula indicated an order would be placed with SAA Technical to perform a C-check inspection.
Inkwazi, the name given to the twin-engined jet, was last week twice spotted doing test flights out of Air Force Base Waterkloof and on Monday it departed the 21 Squadron home base using the callsign “LMG1”. This is standard SA Air Force (SAAF) operating procedure when the president is aboard a military or civilian aircraft. Indications are the acronym comes from the Afrikaans translation of air force with the number one indicating South Africa’s first citizen is aboard.
This is borne out by military aviation enthusiast Dean Wingrin who pointed out that when Ramaphosa attended the G8 meeting in Toronto, Canada, in June he made use of an SAA Airbus A340 (ZS-SNA) which used the “LMG1” callsign.
Military analyst Darren Olivier said his information was that the C-check was completed with the assistance of SAA Technical. “A D-check is not yet required and it has not yet been decided whether it will be done in South Africa with SAA Tech or whether will fly to Basel in Switzerland for it.”
He added there was “not a problem” with aircrews as “two or three are qualified and regained currency over the past few months with at least two cross-qualified on at least one of the 21 Squadron Falcons”.