Proud pilots receive their Wings


Twenty young men and women of the South African Air Force have been awarded their coveted Wings at a parade at AFB Langebaanweg.

Despite the strong wind blowing across the West Coast airfield, nothing could detract from the achievements of the thirteen members of Student Pilots Course 115/11. Accompanying them on parade yesterday were the recipients of six Flight Engineers and one Radio Operator brevets.

After three years of training at the Central flying School, Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano, Chief of the South African Air Force, awarded the successful pupil pilots their Wings. Immediately after having their Wings pinned to their chest, the Candidate Officers were promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant.

Amongst those receiving their SAAF Wings was JJ Mabona, a member of the first group to complete the Babcock flight training course. He was selected in 2010 to participate in the United States Aviation Leadership Programme, which entailed undertaking the full 2010 US Air Force Wings course. This included ground training and 164 flying hours on the T-6A turboprop trainer. Returning to South Africa, Mabona converted to the SAAF PC-7 Mk II and qualified for his SAAF flying badge.

In his speech, Gagiano acknowledged the support the student pilots received, not only from their families, but also from the teams that extend beyond the cockpit, such as ATC, storemen and chefs who prepared their food.

Referring to what pilots love to do, Gagiano observed, “aircrews have always been a rather special breed. To them flying is not a job, it is a calling to which they can give nothing but their best.”

Gagiano noted that the Wings parade symbolised only the first of many hurdles in order to become proficient in their respective service lines, with further lengthy periods of sustained effort ahead. “As professional people they must always aim for perfection and they must always strive to execute the task just that little bit better each time,” Gagiano continued.

Going further, Gagiano noted the importance of safety and that the airforce could not afford to loose aircrew, replace aircraft or utilise precious man-hours to repair damage which never should have occurred.
“Aviation safety, and flying safety in particular, must become part of the Air Force culture,” and those who were awarded their Wings “must become leaders in the process.”

Addressing the new pilots, Gagiano said that, “you don’t become a success when you get your Wings, you become a success when you decided to join the Air Force, when you get your Wings you get the rewards of success.”

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 MJ Vermeulen. Vermeulen was also awarded the Air Force Board floating trophy for the student who obtained the highest overall percentage during the flying phase of the Course. It therefore came as no surprise that a Vermeulen was also awarded the Inkwazi Floating Trophy. This trophy is awarded to the student who obtained the highest overall percentage on the Pilot’s Wings Course.

The SAAF Association floating trophy for the student who showed the greatest overall improvement was awarded to 2nd Lt FP Canosci. Cpl AR Theron was awarded the Jaco Steynberg Floating Trophy for his efforts on the Flight Engineers course.