SAAF firefighting to the fore in Simon’s Town

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The potentially life and property threatening fire which raged across the mountains around SA Navy (SAN) fleet headquarters at Simon’s Town this week was, in part, contained by a 22 Squadron Oryx medium transport helicopter from the SA Air Force.

Over a hundred Cape Town metro firefighters and 15 fire engines with aerial support from Working on Fire and one of its contractors, Mbombela-based Leading Edge Aviation, and the SA Air Force (SAAF) took more than two days to control the blaze.

With a lone Oryx serviceable for the greater Cape Town and surrounding area, air and ground crews of 22 Squadron at Air Force Base (AFB) Ysterplaat did not hesitate to assist their naval colleagues over the hill, as it were.

defenceWeb’s correspondent in Cape Town, Dean Wingrin, reports four civilian rotorcraft and a fixed wing spotter aircraft were in the air over Simon’s Town along with the lone 22 Squadron Oryx.  The military helicopter’s focus, once issues with its Bambi bucket were sorted, was to ensure the fire did not reach any SAN magazines.

“The Ysterplaat guys worked hard given there is currently only one Oryx available in Western Cape and, to make matters more difficult, it is due for service having flown often recently. Among its sorties was a training one with NSRI (National Sea Rescue Institute) Station 18 at Melkbosstrand. Scheduled service and maintenance were done overnight and the Oryx was flight ready for Wednesday,” he said, pointing out the Ysterplaat-based squadron is achieving good serviceability rates notwithstanding the “deficient SAAF budget and lack of current support/maintenance contracts” with original equipment manufacturer (OEM), Denel”.

He ended with a pat on the back for the lone SAAF helicopter squadron in the Western Cape province – “it may be year-end but that’s not stopping air and ground crews giving their all to assist local communities”.