Military airspace violated at AFB Waterkloof


Indications are the pilot of a privately owned Cessna 172 who violated military airspace performed a precautionary landing at AFB Waterkloof on Wednesday night.

The pilot, an as yet unnamed Austrian citizen, was apparently doing night flying training between Grand Central and Lanseria airports and became disoriented after four circuits of the Midrand airport, according to SA National Defence Force head of communications, Siphiwe Dlamini.
“He realised his transponder was unserviceable when Lanseria tower radioed him that he could not be traced on radar.”

The pilot and two passengers were met by military police at the Centurion air force base and taken to nearby Lyttelton Police Station for what Dlamini said was “further questioning and safekeeping”.
“While not everything is yet known about the incident, Waterkloof can be used as a divert airfield by civilian aircraft but pilots have to have permission before touching down,” local aviation expert, Linden Birns of Plane Talking, said from Cape Town.

He also asked whether the pilot and his passengers had in fact been arrested or were they taken to the police station to provide statements.
“Right now nothing can be said with any certainty until more facts are available.”

Dlamini said he hoped to make more information available on the incident later today.

The initial investigation established that the Cessna 172 belongs to Flight Training Services, one of five flying schools listed at Grand Central, and is on the South African aircraft register.

While investigations continue, the incident, which comes just over two months after the unauthorised landing of an Airbus A330 chartered by the Zuma-connected Gupta family, has attracted comment on local aviation chatrooms.

Questions have been asked as to why a student pilot was carrying passengers and whether the pilot contacted Waterkloof tower and obtain permission to land.

One explanation offered is that he is a qualified private pilot working towards a commercial rating. “As a foreign national he is classified as a student although strictly not factual,” one respondent posted.

Another put it down to “total over-reaction. Since Guptagate everybody is on heightened alert to prevent ‘egg-on-face'”.