The South African Air Force (SAAF) has added new aircraft maintenance technicians to its ranks, with 65 artisans being reclassified during a passing out parade this morning.
During a ceremony at Air Force Base Zwartkop West, Major General P N More oversaw the reclassification of the 65 personnel who had passed through 68 Air School and become qualified artisans.
More, representing deputy chief of the Air Force Major General Innocent Buthelezi, said the reclassification as artisans comes after an intensive three-year training programme that started with basic military training and moved on to 18 month apprenticeships at 68 Air School. Some students were subsequently transferred around the South African Air Force to get practical experience on different aircraft.
The majority of new personnel were ‘aircraft mechanical artisans’, with 20 qualified. Eight aircraft electrical, five aircraft radio, two aircraft reconnaissance, three aircraft survival, three aircraft instrument, four aircraft weapons, two aircraft welder, four electronics communication, two fitter, two general electrical, two ground electro mechanical, three motor mechanical and two aircraft structure artisans were reclassified along with one photographic, one turner, and one electronic radar artisan.
More also awarded accolades to those who distinguished themselves in various technical skills during.
The SAAF said that 68 Air School is the foundation of technical training in the South African Air Force and is mandated to ensure that every learner progressing through their functional and developmental courses is equipped with the necessary knowledge that will deem them competent in their areas of specialisation.
The passing out parade comes after SA Air Force Chief, Lieutenant General Fabian “Zakes” Msimang in November last year said plans were in place and work was being done to ensure the SAAF had sufficient trained personnel to keep the service’s aircraft airworthy, particularly those of the VIP squadron.
“The only maintenance the SAAF will not be able to do itself is deep maintenance and this will be outsourced,” he said.
In mid-2017 an artisan reclassification passing out parade at 68 Air School in Lyttelton, Centurion, added 50 technical staff to the SAAF ranks. The parade honoured those who completed studies and practical training on aircraft mechanics, aircraft structure, aircraft reconnaissance, electrical communication and aircraft welding, among others.
The training is part of an overall SAAF drive to improve in-house maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities, lost when the Aero Manpower Group (AMG) contract with Denel was ended. Until 2013 it was responsible for regular maintenance of the majority of aircraft in the SAAF inventory. This came to an abrupt end when it was found AMG was doing work as part of an irregularly entered-into contract in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). This saw over 500 technical staff withdrawn from SAAF bases.
In January this year defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula reported in a parliamentary question reply that maintenance contracts had not been advertised for Cessna Citation, Beechcraft King Air, Cessna Caravan, Boeing Business jet and the Dassault Falcon 50 and Falcon 100 but maintenance contracts are in place for 12 aircraft types. The SAAF has 17 types in service.