Industry targeting careers at SAAF Museum air show


The fear that South Africa’s pipeline of young engineers for the aerospace and aviation sectors is “drying up” is one of the reasons why major local defence industry company, Paramount Group, is supporting the SA Air Force (SAAF) Museum and its annual airshow.

“Not only is the museum a valuable national asset, it is also a wonderful platform to make young people interested in and aware of aerospace as a career,” Paramount Group executive Victor Zazeraj said.

This view has seen Paramount come aboard as a partner for this year’s air show with a “substantial contribution,” Museum Officer Commanding Lieutenant Colonel Mike O’Connor said.

The Group is also directly involved in the day’s flying by making fuel available for flying displays. Government-owned defence industry conglomerate, Denel, is also part of the airshow and will have a Cheetah in the air as one of the display aircraft.

Explaining the rationale for Paramount’s commitment to the Museum for “at least the next three years” Zazeraj said it was an “excellent avenue” to make young people aware of all that is involved in aviation.
“We’re not talking only pilots. We are looking to encourage young people to follow engineering disciplines that are aviation and aerospace related.
“South Africa is moving toward becoming a de-industrialised economy and aerospace as a large player in the industrial side of the economy cannot let this happen.
“We want a scenario where the pipeline of young engineers flows strongly again. It has to or aerospace locally faces the prospect of dying out.
“Sadly, the way education functions at present; what young people know and what they need to know is a bridge too far in terms of engineering specialties. We see exposure to aviation, through the Museum and its activities, as a way of getting the right knowledge through to those thinking in terms of aerospace and aviation engineering futures,” he said.

The Museum has long been an integral part of SAAF endeavours to attract the right type of person to the airborne arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). In addition to hosting events and tours arranged by the Siyandiza initiative, it also hosts Young Falcons aviation awareness camps and regularly has school group visits.
“There are some weeks when up to three different schools visit the Museum and not a week goes by that we don’t have at least one school visit,” O’Connor said.

While the SAAF appears to have put pilot and navigator recruitment initiatives on hold for the year, national low-cost carrier Mango is looking to boost its potential pool of pilots. This Saturday’s airshow at the Museum is day two of the airline’s career day initiative launched in Athlone, Western Cape, earlier this year.

Apart from its own career exhibition at Zwartkop, Mango has brought more than 30 aviation oriented companies along with it to be part of supplying the right information to young people.

Among those who will be touting their employment potential are SAA, SAA Technical, Sa Express as well as cabin crew, pilot and specialist engineering skills and at least nine flying schools.
“Indications are up to 14 000 scholars will come to Zwartkop specifically for the career part of the airshow,” said Mango’s Hein Kaiser.

This year’s air show, to be held on Saturday May 11, promises a wide lineup, with proceedings kicking off with a massive 40 helicopter formation flypast.

The annual airshow at AFB Zwartkop is the museum’s single largest fundraiser of the year and draws upwards of 50 000 aviation enthusiasts to the base on the Old Johannesburg Road in Centurion.

Other attractions include the Silver Falcons aerobatic team, various warbirds (such as the Cheetah, Impala, L-29, Hawker Hunter, Vampire and P-51 Mustang) and classics like Tiger Moths, Pitts Specials and Harvards.

Privately-owned DC-3 and 4s will be complemented by Mango‘s Boeing 737-800, which will display to music accompanied by a troupe of ballerinas on the ground.