SAAF unveils C-47TP in Silver Falcons colour scheme


The South African Air Force yesterday unveiled a C-47TP painted in Silver Falcons Aerobatic Team colours, as the aircraft was launched as an official support element to the team. The aircraft will take part in the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition, which begins tomorrow.

A large number of technical personnel and equipment is required to keep a formation aerobatic team in the air and must be available at every venue at which the team is performing. Therefore, a logistical support aircraft is an essential part of the team. The South African Air Force’s (SAAF’s) 35 Squadron, operating the C-47TP, have been performing this role superbly over the last couple of years.

It was thus decided at Air Force Headquarters level that one of 35 Squadron’s C-47TP’s be painted in the same livery as the rest of the Silver Falcon aircraft and be featured more prominently in the teams presence at a particular event. The South African Air Force celebrated the unveiling of the C-47TP at Swartkop Airfield yesterday.

C-47TP aircraft 6840 is a transport version of the 35 Squadron C-47TP fleet. The aircraft was painted in the same colour scheme as currently displayed by the SA Air Force Silver Falcons PC-7 MkII aircraft. The initiative to change the colour scheme came from Chief Director Force Preparation, Maj Genl Tsoku Khumalo, in 2011. The idea came from international display teams, such as the US F/A-18 Blue Angels team. Their C130 support aircraft named “Fat Albert” are painted in the same colour scheme as that of the Blue Angels display aircraft.

The C-47TP transport aircraft are the preferred method of transport of the Silver Falcon support team and ground support equipment to various air shows around the country. This is mainly due to the low operating cost of the aircraft.

The design of the colour scheme was completed in 2011 by Lt Col Gerhard Nel, an Air Traffic Controller at AFB Ysterplaat and an aircraft enthusiast. The aircraft was in servicing at 35 Squadron until the end of June 2012. The painting of the aircraft was completed by the 2 ASU (Det), AFB Ysterplaat, painting workshop during August 2012.

C-47TP 6840 was manufactured by the McDonald Douglas Aircraft Company, as a C-47 Dakota, in the United States in 1944. It was delivered to the United States Air Force on 10 July 1944. Consequently, due to the ongoing Second World War, the aircraft was transferred to the Royal Air Force on 18 July 1944. Due to the participation of the SA Air Force in WWII, the aircraft was transferred to the SAAF on 11 August 1944, and was used for operations in Italy and North Africa.

The aircraft was operated by 25 Squadron, AFB Ysterplaat between 1972 and 1993. The aircraft flew its last flight as a C-47 in May 1992 and first flight as a C47TP (turboprop) in April 1994. After the conversion, the aircraft was transferred to 35 Squadron, AFB Ysterplaat. The aircraft total airframe hours is 17 710.

The aircraft is mainly used for transport operations, which includes transportation of passengers and freight, para-trooping and cargo supply dropping. The aircraft is also configured to do drogue towing during naval gunnery exercises.

The former DC3 Dakotas was known as the “Gooney Birds”. It was therefore deemed appropriate to name the old lady “Gooney Bird”. Gooney Bird will also make her first public appearance in the Silver Falcon colour scheme at an AAD event, being the Opening Ceremony of AAD 2012 on 19 September 2012.