Ten young men of the South African Air Force were awarded their coveted Wings at a parade at AFB Langebaanweg on Thursday.
Under a warm blue sky and traditional West Coast breeze, Chief of the South African Air Force, Lieutenant General Fabian ‘Zakes’ Msimang awarded the Wing brevet to the proud students of Pilot Wing Course 118. Immediately after having their Wings pinned to their chest, the Candidate Officers were promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant.
Accompanying them on parade were the recipients of three Flight Attendant (Bronze Wing) brevets who had completed their 100 hours practical flying phase.
The pupil pilots commenced their basic training in 2010 and attended the Military Academy at Saldanha in 2011. After going on survival course in early 2012, they started their flying training at the Babcock Flying Academy at the Zwartkop airbase near Pretoria in February 2012, flying the side-by-side Cessna 172. On the completion of their initial flying training at Babcock, the pupil pilots once again moved down to AFB Langebaanweg and started flying the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II military trainer until they qualified as Air Force pilots.
Despite the upbeat ceremony, it was poignantly highlighted that it was exactly a year ago that a SAAF C-47TP Dakota crashed in the Drakensburg mountains of KwaZulu Natal whilst flying from AFB Waterkloof to Mthatha. Eleven SAAF members lost their lives and a moment of silence was held to honour them.
In his address, Msimang noted that two SAAF Rooivalk attack helicopters attached to the UN Force Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) flew the aircraft’s first ever combat mission.
“Our aircrew and personnel performed with distinction,” Msimang remarked.
Msimang stressed the need for safety, stating that the success of the Rooivalk mission in the DRC “is indicative of the continuing high standards of training and discipline” in the SAAF.
“Within all this, please know, understand and appreciate that safety is an inseparable element in our Air Force culture and it is our critical key performance indicator,” he continued.
Since June this year, the SAAF has embarked on an analysis of the SAAF training environment and all ten SAAF training providers have aligned and structured their courses to accommodate the National Qualification Framework.
“This is critical,” Msimang noted, “if we are to ensure that training standards in our institutions within the SAAF are relevant, professional and recognised accordingly.”
The SAAF Association floating trophy for the student who showed the greatest overall improvement was awarded to 2nd Lt L Heymans.
The Air Command floating trophy, awarded to the student who obtained the highest percentage during the theoretical phase of the Pilots Wings Course, was awarded to 2nd Lt J Hartt. He was also awarded the Air Force Board floating trophy for the student who obtained the highest overall percentage during the flying phase of the Course.
The Inkwazi Floating Trophy, awarded to the student who obtained the highest overall percentage on the Pilot’s Wings Course, was awarded to, not unsurprisingly, 2nd Lt J Hartt.