SAAF Museum 2013 airshow to be bigger and better than ever


The South African Air Force (SAAF) Museum’s annual airshow promises to be better than ever before, with two major drivers encouraging Museum personnel to make the 2013 edition a special one.

In the first place the museum at Air Force Base (AFB) Swartkop in Centurion will be pulling out all the stops in an effort to win the best airshow in South Africa award for the third year in succession.

The second is that this year marks the 40th year of existence of the curator of the country’s military aviation history. “Museum personnel will be pulling out all the stops to ensure May 11 is a memorable day,” Museum ops officer Lieutenant Colonel Clive Shepherd said.

Last year’s museum airshow had a warbirds theme and expectations are this year’s show will be themed around the museum’s 40th anniversary as well as marking the 50th anniversary of the venerable Alouette II helicopter.

The museum headquarters, with its satellites at AFB Ysterplaat in Cape Town and AFB Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, is not seen as a SAAF operational unit and raises the majority of its own operating budget. This was noted in the 2012 Airshow of the Year award presented by African Pilot.

Apart from being the major Gauteng airshow with a true military flavour, the thousands who attend the May event every year make a substantial contribution to keeping the centre of South African military aviation history functional.

Officer Commanding Lieutenant Colonel Mike O’Connor, like his predecessors Willie Nel, Neil Thomas and Dave Knoesen, spends much of his time juggling operational duties with meeting sponsors and donors.

In this regard he is ably supported by the museum’s honorary colonel, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale.

The minister has a passion for aviation in general and military aviation in particular and is setting up an adopt-an-aircraft scheme.

This will see the corporate world “buy in” to one of the many aircraft at the museum and be responsible for keeping it in display condition.

Sexwale is also investigating how to more involve schools in the museum.

The Friends of the SAAF Museum Association is the major contributor, apart from fulltime and Reserve Force personnel, ensuring the museum’s static displays, airworthy aircraft and its valuable library are all properly maintained.

While there is only one airshow a year, the museum has a monthly flying training day on the first Saturday of every month.

Aviation enthusiasts from all over South Africa, as well as overseas enthusiasts, flock to the base, just off the Old Johannesburg Road near Valhalla, to enjoy training displays by, among others, the Vampire, Bosbok, Kudu and Alouette II and III helicopters.