The latest Department of Defence (DoD) annual report has it the SA Air Force (SAAF) logged 496.3 hours flying government VVIPs and VIPs.
Not stated in the report but supplied in response to questions posed to a parliamentary oversight committee is none of these hours was logged by 21 Squadron, the official SAAF VIP carrier.
Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais asked the DoD via the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) about SAAF “challenges” as regards under-utilisation of flying hours.
The annual report states the SAAF achieved 81% of its targeted five thousand flying hours with by far the majority – 3 629 – logged in support of joint force requirements. The balance of 496.3 are VVIP hours.
The majority of these hours would normally be logged by 21 Squadron aircraft, including the Presidential Boeing 737-7ED bizjet Inkwazi and the pair of Falcons – a 50 and 900B.
No according to the written response supplied to Marais.
“Under-performance in relation to VVIPs flown was mainly due to the unavailability of fixed wing VVIP platforms. In the absence of these, air transport for the Presidency was achieved through chartering and as reported, it is far from ideal.
“Therefore the hours flown (496.3) during the 2017/18 financial year were achieved through the usage of helicopter (VVIP) platforms,” the response states in part.
“It’s incredible so many VVIP flying hours can be logged using only helicopters,” the DA MP said.
“It poses questions like who is using helicopters to such an extent. Is it the former president and how on earth can a VVIP fleet of at least four jets be justified when so many hours are logged on helicopters?”
Much of the VIP fixed wing fleet has been grounded, although efforts have been made this year to return some, including Inkwazi, to airworthy status.