The new Chief of the South African Air Force (SAAF), Lieutenant General Fabian “Zakes” Msimang, officiated at his first wings Parade on Wednesday when he awarded ten young men and women with their coveted Air Rorce Wings at a parade at Air Force Base Langebaanweg.
Pilot Wing Course 117 comprised one white female, three white males, two black males and four coloureds. Immediately after having their Wings pinned to their chest, the Candidate Officers were promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant.
The pupil pilots had spent three years training, first at Zwartkop airbase near Pretoria and then at the Central flying School on the Cape West Coast, before being awarded their Wings. In addition, they also attended the Military Academy at Saldanha.
Other recipients of aircrew brevet included two flight engineers, two loadmasters, one Radio Operator, one air photographer and one electronic warfare operator.
In his address, Msimang stressed the need for safety, which was an inseparable part of the many fields in the aviation industry.
“It is also of utmost importance to the Air Force which cannot afford to lose aircrew who have been trained at great cost, or to replace aircraft and replace expensive equipment, or to have to utilise the precious man-hours of its limited number of technical experts to repair damage which never should have occurred”, Msimang warned.
This was all the more poignant given that a SAAF C-47TP Dakota that crashed in the eastern Drakensberg mountains two days ago. Just a month before, a SAAF Dakota left the runway on landing at Mthatha airport and suffered minor damage.
In his first public address since taking command of the SAAF, Msimang said that the future of the SAAF will be underpinned by discipline. “We are going back to basics,” he said, “Members must take ownership and will be empowered to fulfil their duties”.
Referring to the budgetary crisis facing the SAAF, Msimang noted that the SAAF will be faced with even more financial constraints in the 2012/13 financial year. Recruitment and retention of experienced skilled members will also remain a challenge.
The Air Command floating trophy, awarded to the student who obtained the highest percentage during the theoretical phase of the Pilots Wings Course, was awarded to 2nd Lt N Boshoff. She was also awarded the SAAF Association floating trophy for the student who showed the greatest overall improvement.
2nd Lt MJ Petersen was awarded the Air Force Board floating trophy for the student who obtained the highest overall percentage during the flying phase of the Course.
The Inkwazi Floating Trophy, awarded to the student who obtained the highest overall percentage on the Pilot’s Wings Course, was awarded to 2nd Lt CI Bell.