This year marks the 50th anniversary of the SA Air Force’s (SAAF) aerobatic team – the Silver Falcons – and it will be marked by a reunion of former and current members of the team at AFB Langebaanweg on November 24 – the exact date of the first display 50 years ago.
The event is, according to SAAF director: corporate staff services, Brigadier General Hilton Smith, a closed one but the airborne arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has not forgotten the massive public interest generated by the Silver Falcons over the years.
“Langebaanweg is planning an airshow in December and the Silver Falcons will use it to publicly mark and celebrate the 50th anniversary,” he said. According to him the airshow is still in the planning stages and no firm date has yet been set, but defenceWeb is informed December 8 is the most likely date.
In its 50 years of existence the Silver Falcons have had 79 different teams with some legendary local military aviation names who have been part of the Falcon experience.
A name that readily springs to mind is Commandant Chris Prins, number one in team one that did its first display at the opening of the then Atlas Aircraft Corporation on November 24, 1967. The Falcons or as they have affectionately become known in Afrikaans “Die Valkies” flew all silver Aermacchi MB-326 Impala Mk1s.
Before the Falcons there was the Bumbling Bees, founded in 1953 to represent and promote the SAAF flying formation aerobatics in the De Havilland Vampire. This team was disbanded in 1958 and reinstated in 1966 flying the “Imp”, at that time the SAAF’s jet trainer.
This was to be the ride for the Falcons until 1999 when the team moved into the cockpits of the PC-7 Mk11 it still flies.
defenceWeb has gone through the no-longer updated Silver Falcons website, which used to be part of the official SAAF website, and come across names representing some of the best to have worn the blue uniform. A good number of them went on to higher office in the air force and many have also been contributors of note to the benefit of military aviation and safety in South Africa.
Some of them are (ranks given are those at the time of Silver Falcons membership) Major Rodney King, Captain Roelf Beukes, Lieutenant Peter Cooke, Lieutenant Bill Einkamerer, Captain Rynier Keet, Captain Mike Weingartz, Colonel Ollie Holmes, Captain John Inggs, Commandant Johan Rankin, Commandant (later Lieutenant Colonel) Dave Knoesen, Commandant Pierre du Plessis, Captain Neil Thomas, Commandant John Bayne, Major Rudi Mes, Lieutenant Roy Sproul, Lieutenant Colonel Rodney King, Captain Scott Ternent, Captain Hybrecht van Niekerk (the first female Silver Falcon), Major Beau Skarda, Major Werner Vermaak and number one of the current team, Major Mark Gentles.
This list is by no means exhaustive and is based on defenceWeb’s personal knowledge of the SAAF and its aerobatic team. Readers are urged to make use of the comments section below to add their personal recollection of the silver Falcons.