SAAF wins bid to train Omani pilots


The South African Air Force (SAAF) has won a bid to train pilots for the Royal Airforce of Oman (RAFO) at its Central Flying School in the Western Cape.

Nine students and an instructor from the RAFO arrived at AFB Langebaanweg, home to the SAAF’s Central Flying School, in September to commence a 16 month pilot’s course. The RAFO signed the agreement with the SAAF after evaluating numerous bids from airforces around the world.

The Royal Air Force of Oman operates 12 Pilatus PC-9M turboprop training aircraft delivered from 1999 to March 2000. However, due to corrosion and other problems, the aircraft are undergoing major overhaul and refurbishment by the Pilatus factory in Stans, Switzerland.

As they will take about a year to fix, the RAFO could not afford to lose out on training during this time and therefore outsourced the training to other countries that operated similar types. The PC-9M trainer is a more powerful variant of the PC-7 MK II trainer used by the SAAF.

Speaking at the recent Wings Parade ceremony in early December at which nine new SAAF pilots received their Wings insignia, Chief of the Air Force, Lt Gen “Zakes” Fabian Msimang, included Captain Hamood of the RAFO in his welcome address, publicly noting that the SAAF had started a relationship with the air force of Oman.

Brigadier General Marthie Visser of the SAAF told defenceWeb that the RAFO wanted to build closer ties with South Africa by sending its personnel for training. The training was discussed and implemented via a Memorandum of Understanding and the Air Force Implementation Arrangement.

Prior to arrival in South Africa, the Omani students had already undertaken a limited number of hours on the PAC MFI-17 Super Mushshak basic training side by side aircraft.

The students will be taught by SAAF instructors and as this is an interim measure to assist the RAFO, there is no plan to send SAAF students to Oman. Future RAFO wings courses will once again be undertaken in Oman once their own PC-9M is back in service.

Having been chosen by the RAFO over many other air forces, the SAAF can be proud that their professional military pilot training regime has been recognised. As Msimang noted, “this is an achievement which we need to celebrate.”

This is not the first time that South Africans have been associated with the Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces, with many ex-SAAF pilots having flown for the Sultanate as fighter pilots and instructors over the past few decades.