RIP Lt Col Duven


The SA Air Force (SAAF) last month bid farewell to a 21-year veteran who holds the distinction of being the first woman in Africa to pilot a C-130 military transport aircraft.

Lieutenant Colonel Caro Duven, widely known locally and continentally by her call sign “Chucky”, died soon after moving to air force headquarters from 28 Squadron at AFB Waterkloof last month.

She joined the SAAF in January 2000 and on completion of officer’s formative training in 2001, Duven attended ground school at the Military Academy in Saldanha before moving to nearby AFB Langebaanweg’s Central Flying School for pupil pilot training in 2003. She received her wings from then SAAF chief, Roelf Beukes, in December the same year and found herself at AFB Waterkloof in Centurion a month later as a pilot at 41 Squadron, flying Cessna C-208s as operational commander. She also spent time at the stick of the sole Pilatus PC-12 in the SAAF inventory before moving to another Waterkloof squadron – 44 – in 2007. Here she logged many hours on the CASA 212 before moving two hangars north to 28 Squadron, the SAAF “heavy lifters” with C-130BZs in their hangars.

She notched up a first woman to command a C-130 in Africa flying the venerable four-engined workhorses 28 uses for missions ranging from delivery of troops and material to evacuation of diplomats and assistance in times of natural disasters.

Duven was at 28 until September when a transfer saw her move to SAAF headquarters on the western side of the Pretoria CBD in the air transport and maritime services directorate.

Her logbook shows 3 566.1 military flying hours, with 2017.8 on the C-130BZ. She was an A-category operational commander, qualified in all roles on the C-130BZ and operated in countries including Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda, Burundi, Mozambique, Cuba and Zambia. While at 28 Squadron she did time as a flight safety officer and operations co-ordinator in addition to flight duties. The SA Air Force (SAAF) last month bid farewell to and a 21-year veteran and the first woman to pilot its C130-BZ Hercules transporters.

In 2019 Duven represented South Africa in an open debate at UN headquarters in New York on the role of women in peace and security. She spoke extensively of her experiences as a female aviator flying in hot spot areas.

This writer was fortunate to have flown with Chucky at the controls of the single-engined C-208, the CASA 212 and her beloved Herky bird. Fly high and safe on silver wings!