Military aviation enthusiasts and photographers can again access their monthly fix in the form of SA Air Force (SAAF) Museum flying training days on the first Saturday of every month.
The relaxation of lockdown regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to what Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma terms “adjusted level one” means the Valhalla home of historic military aviation will again open its gates to allow enthusiasts to see aircraft in flight.
“If the lockdown restrictions remain as they are at present, Museum flying training will take place on 5 February,” Major Ntokozo Ntshangase told defenceWeb on Friday, 14 January.
“As always with flying training, aviation enthusiasts and photographers are welcome.”
The Swartkop museum, along with satellites at Air Force Station (AFS) Port Elizabeth and Air Force Base (AFB) Ysterplaat, are open Monday to Friday from 08h00 to 15h00. No groups are allowed currently as a further preventative measure against the spread of COVID-19.
While the once-a-month fix of seeing vintage military aircraft in flight and close up on the ground is – as of now – confirmed, the same cannot yet be said of the Museum’s annual air show.
The show, usually staged in May, is a major contributor to SAAF Museum funds and attracts around twenty thousand people.
COVID-19 and its associated, sometimes draconian regulations, put paid to the Swartkop air force base hosting the Museum air show last year and in 2020. Ntshangase said: “At this stage, September is a possibility, but ‘possibility’ has to be stressed”.
SAAF Museum aircraft could be out in force for the SAAF’s upcoming Prestige Day, with a notice to airmen warning of SAAF Prestige Day flying activity between 31 January and 4 February. The day is held on the Friday closest to 1 February – the SAAF was officially founded on 1 February 1920.
A contributor to a South African aviation forum is of the opinion the country “is probably a few years away” from air shows regaining their previous popularity.
“Planning big events for the next 12 months will be a risky proposition. On the other hand I think we are all suffering pandemic fatigue and enough people just don’t care about COVID-19 any more so an air show will still have moderate attendance. I think any air shows this year will have enough attendance to count as a success but won’t break records,” is his observation.