The South African Air Force will graduate its latest batch of pilots tomorrow. Fourteen young South Africans who attested in 2009 will receive their brevets at a “wings parade” at the Central Flying School at Air Force Base Langebaanweg.
“The Department of Defence is proud to present fourteen young graduates who have endured vigorous training in order to deal with the challenge of losing skilled personnel in specialist fields such as, pilots, navigators, engineers to mention but a few,” the military says in a statement, adding all 14 are male and four are white, nine are black and one is Coloured.
The SAAF graduated 25 basic pilots, including eleven white men, twelve black men, one Coloured woman and one Indian woman last year May and a further 19 in September 2009.
Chief of the South African Air Force Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano in January expressed concern about the continuing poaching of pilots from the defence force by local and foreign aviation industries. The recession had helped however, with just 15 pilots resigning last year compared to 48 in 2008. The number of technicians leaving went down from 297 to 94 over the same period, Gagiano said ahead of the Air Force’s annual birthday parade.
Defence and Military Veterans minister Lindiwe Sisulu in November 2009 stated the SAAF had 60 posts for combat pilots, of which 34 were filled at the time and 26 were vacant. There were 167 posts for helicopter pilots in the Air Force, of which 58 are vacant, while for transport pilots 48 of 156 posts were unfilled. Far worse is the situation for technical support crew, where there are more vacancies than filled posts, with 1630 posts on offer and only 763 filled. There was also a dire shortage of engineers, in late 2009 with 70 of 122 posts vacant.
Pic: Pupil pilots of an earlier course pictured in 2009.