South African Air Force cancels new pilot courses


The South African Air Force (SAAF) has cancelled all new recruitment initiatives for the year, including that for pilots and navigators.

The SAAF traditionally administers two recruitment programmes a year, attracting over 5 000 applications for all musterings. Of these applicants, only 200 are chosen, including 50 places for the hotly contested positions of pupil pilots and navigators.

However, the SAAF Recruitment office has confirmed that all recruitment processes have been cancelled for the year. No reason has been provided, other than it is a result of “internal problems” and that the selections may only recommence next year.

A number of school pupils and students, aspiring to be Air Force pilots, have commented on an online forum dealing with the SAAF as to how disappointed they are that they cannot attend pilot selections and fulfil their dreams of flying for the SAAF.

The SAAF has recently experienced a decrease in the number of flying hours flown per year. The total annual hours flown from the 2006/07 to the 2010/11 financial years has decreased by 9.5%, to 33 930 hours. The number of hours flown for the 2011/12 financial year was omitted from the most recent Department of Defence Annual Report, but general opinion is that the number of hours currently flown by jet and helicopters crews is less than that of previous years, with just the general transport and VIP passenger crews maintaining their flight hours.

The reduction in flight hours, coupled with the retirement and resignations of senior pilots, has resulted in a large number of junior pilots at the various squadrons who are not flying enough hours to increase their flying experience and qualifications.

An Air Force member who does not wish to be named said that the reduced flying hours cannot provide all of the pilots with sufficient training to progress to the next level. He confirmed that the more junior pilots get sent to the squadrons, the worse the situation will get, developing a bottleneck.

There are currently two pilot’s courses in progress at the Central Flying School, located at AFB Langebaanweg on the Cape west coast. The senior course consists of ten pupil pilots who have already commenced the flying portion of their training. The junior course, with slightly more pupils, has completed their phase at the Military Academy in Saldanha and is scheduled to commence flying training in July. Not all of the junior course members may commence flying training, as some may transfer to another course or even be excluded.

There are other pupil pilot courses already in the system, such as those undergoing Basic Military Training, Officer Forming or at the Academy, so the effect of this decision will not be immediately felt at Langebaanweg. Nevertheless, the next Instructors Course due to start in July has already been cancelled.

The SANDF has yet to respond to numerous requests for clarification.