Statement: SAAF VVIP flights


The South African Air Force wishes to release state the following to clarify and give more perspective to the issue debated in the media over the past few days with regards to the conducting of VVIP flights:

Date: Sunday 22 January 2012 [received Wednesday, January 25]

Subject: Conducting of VVIP Flights

Embargo: None

The mandate of the South African Air Force is to transport the President, Deputy President and other Principals in a manner which guarantees their safety as well as ensuring their on time arrivals for appointments at various destinations, internationally and domestically.

Providing an efficient and safe flight service to the President and other Principals is the most critical core output objective of the South African Air Force. Planning processes are complex and cover a wide range of issues involving many different role players, which include non-SAAF agencies. Obtaining numerous over-flight clearances add to the complexity of such missions. South Africa is a member of the UN Security Council and the broader international community. It is therefore incumbent upon the SAAF to ensure the President’s on time and safe arrival and to prevent at all cost, any possible embarrassment to the President and to our country.

Measures taken prior to scheduled flights for the President and other Principals are confidential due to safety considerations and this information, therefore, cannot be in the public domain.

The purpose of the recent time critical mission was to transport the President for his address to the United Nations in New York. Following this meeting the President immediately had to return to South Africa for another important, scheduled commitment. Clearly, departure and arrival times for the entire mission were critically important and standby aircraft in South Africa simply would not have sufficed, taken into consideration the reaction time required over the long distance in this case, over-flight clearance etc.

Aircraft available for the mission were the Inkwazi (BBJ), an SAA Airbus A 340 and a Global Express. The A 340 was only available for the outbound route to the USA due to other SAA tasks. The Global Express was not available as a standby for this outbound flight but was available to use as a standby aircraft in the USA for the homebound flight.

The necessity for the Inkwazi (BBJ) to fly via the Canary Islands (Las Palmas) to New York for refuelling purposes is noteworthy.

Despite all precautionary measures, aircraft could present with unforeseen technical difficulties. The Inkwazi (BBJ) had been on the ground in Switzerland for several months for a major service. Upon its return to the RSA, it was used extensively for training flights to ensure that all possible “snags” are noted and cleared. Any slightest possible glitch had to be avoided and thus a Plan B was put in place, albeit the standby aircraft.

Planning long range missions must also include the duty time of aircrew. In the interest of flight safety it is critical to avoid pilot fatigue and “fresh” crew need to be positioned to take over. For this reason additional crew were positioned beforehand at the refuelling stop in Las Palmas for the BBJ (normal practice), as all the said aircraft it does not have a special “rest area” facility on board for standby crew and thus could not be accommodated on board. A standby crew in South Africa would not have sufficed, due to critical time constraints and reaction time.

In the interest of our country and under the circumstances, the SAAF will continue to act responsibly by providing a plan B with standby abroad, especially for time critical and/or very important missions to ensure the President’s on time and safe transportation to destinations. Ends

Issued by: Department of Defence
(Defence Corporate Communication)

Media Liaison

Enquiries: Brigadier General Marthie Visser

Director Corporate Staff Services

South African Air Force Headquarters

Tel : (012) 312 2791

Mobile: 082 459 1893