Scrap merchants have ended the lives of the South African Air Force’s former Transall C160Z transport fleet, breaking up the airframes and taking the aviation-grade aluminum away for recycling.
The bulldozers moved in on Friday and commenced the scrapping and destruction of the eight remaining airframes (331, 332, 333, 334, 335, 336, 338 and 339).
The sale and disposal of the aircraft has been hit by controversy since they were retired as a result of budget restrictions in 1993. Since then, the aircraft have been repeatedly been offered for sale.
The SAAF purchased nine Transall aircraft in 1969, but with one aircraft on display at the SAAF Museum at Swartkop Airfield, the balance were put up for disposal by Armscor, the government defence acquisition and disposal agency.
Since their withdrawal from SAAF service, the eight aircraft have been standing in the open at Waterkloof AFB, in an increasing state of neglect.
After several plans were formulated and dropped to return them to SAAF service, it was hoped to overhaul the aircraft before being flown to their new owners.
Then Heli-Lift Ltd of the UK was awarded a tender in 2000 for the marketing and sales distribution rights for the eight aircraft, together with spares and other related equipment.
In January 2001 it was reported that two US businessmen were looking at instituting legal action over a failed deal to purchase the eight redundant Transalls.
It was reported in September 2004 the Transalls were sold for spares to an overseas based company. The intention was they would never fly again but aircraft spares were the prime reason for purchase. It is not known when that sale took place.
Armscor began legal proceedings in June 2005 against Heli-Lift to recover R11 million ($1.65 million) still outstanding from the original purchase deal.
The July 2005 issue of UK-based AirForces Monthly magazine reported that as the aircraft were acquired during the arms embargo period, no ‘traceability’ for any of the C160Zs components could officially be established, making them unsellable. As the aircraft remained the property of South Africa until fully paid for by Heli-Lift, Armscor could resell the aircraft.
The magazine continued that the German government wanted to acquire the aircraft’s engines from Heli-Lift, but only wished to pursue the deal on a government-to-government basis. They approached Armscor to act as middleman and a successful deal was brokered. The lack of provenance for the aircraft components is not an issue with a government-to-government deal hence the contract was concluded without difficulty.
Armscor once again called for tenders in November 2007 to purchase and remove the eight aircraft. Chief of the South African Air Force Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano, confirmed in 2008 that a buyer had stripped the aircraft of all valuable components and then abandoned the fuselages.
The scrap merchants have won the battle and the Transalls will no longer be a familiar sight to motorists driving past the Waterkloof base.