The hulks of eight Aerospatiale C160Z Transall medium transports that have been weathering alongside the runway of Air Force Base Waterkloof in Pretoria for 15 years will shortly be cut up for scrap.
Chief of the South African Air Force Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano says a buyer stripped the aircraft of all valuable components and then abandoned the fuselages.
“He took all the valuable components then refused to pay for the rest. Then there were lawsuits and all kinds of things…
“We are at a stage now, where very soon, we are going to cut them up.
“It is because of this character we dealt with that we have this problem,” an upset Gagiano said.
The SAAF operated nine C160s from 1969 to 1993. After they were withdrawn from service eight were put up for sale and one assigned to the SAAF Museum, where it remains on static display.
France and Germany were both said to be interested in buying the aircraft to use as a source of spares for their own fleets, but no sale was ever concluded. A private party eventually acquired the aircraft.
At the turn of the Millennium reports circulated in the media that the type would be returned to active service. Counter-reports indicated that returning them to flying status would be too expensive and that there was, in any case, no funds for such an ambitious project.
Brigadier General Dick Lord (Retired) writes in his latest book, From Fledgling to Eagle, the SAAF during the Border War, that the C160 was the SAAF`s most expensive aircraft to operate while in service, which would also detract from any plans there might have been to fly the Transall again.
Meanwhile, plans to dispose of five retired Boeing B707-320C transports have been presented to defence minister Charles Nqakula. Used in the electronic warfare, transport and aerial refueling role, the SAAF flew the type from 1987 to 2006.
The SAAF has meanwhile also confirmed the retiring of the Cessna C185 A, D & E Skywagon, acquired for the SA Army in 1962, where it was used for light transport, liaison and artillery fall-of-shot spotting. 42 Squadron, known as “Thompson`s flying taxi service”, after its first commander, Major Peter Thompson, transferred to the SAAF in 1971. Among its pilots was the later SAAF Brigadier General Winston “Thack” Thackwray.
42 Squadron`s Citizen Force equivalent, 41 Squadron, transitioned from Army to Air Force in 1968. 41 Squadron is currently a regular light transport squadron. 42 Squadron has been disbanded.
The Skywagons have been grounded since November 2006. The SAAF says the C185 has become too antiquated to fly safely or maintain efficiently. Parts for its piston engines are scarce and expensive and the cockpit is, by current standards, rudimentary.