The Triumphant are on their way home with the coveted William Webb Ellis trophy and once back on SA soil they will be transported around the country be a very proud airline. Two years ago, when Springbok Rugby was in the doldrums, FlySafair showed confidence in the budding team with their new coach and boy did they get it right.
The Springboks under the guidance of Coach Rassie Erasmus and Captained by Siya Kolosi went from zero to hero and now are on top of the world, FlySafair plan to take them even higher during the next few days for their nationwide tickertape parades in all the major cities in South Africa.
FlySafair’s in its current form first Boeing 737-400 passenger aircraft took to the skies for the first time on 16 October 2014 sporting the airlines iconic pink and blue tail. While the airline represented a fresh new face in South African domestic aviation, few people realised that the company behind FlySafair, Safair, has been a major player in aviation for more than 50 years.
Safair Operations which has been operating specialised aviation services since 1965. Over the years the airline has flown a variety of different aircraft types on all kinds of missions in various environments. The company boasts a long-standing relationship with two aircraft manufacturers in particular namely Lockheed and Boeing.
Safair has long been operating a very special aircraft type called the Lockheed Hercules, affectionately referred to as “the Hercs”. These amazing aircraft are powered by four Allison propeller engines and can be used in a number of very interesting ways to execute specialised aviation and airlift services. Safair operates one of the world's largest fleets of civil Lockheed L-100 Hercules cargo aircraft.
The wide bodies and rear cargo doors mean that these aircraft are great for transporting large, and often awkward, loads by air. Another major feature of these particular aircraft is their ability to operate off of shorter and irregular runways, meaning that they can be flown into areas that traditional jets would struggle to access. Everyone that spent time in the SADF in the 80’s and was deployed on the Angolan Border will fondly remember the Safair Hercs that at the time were know, along with the SAAF C-130, as “Flossies”.
Safair has been operating and maintaining Boeing aircraft since the early 1980’s. Some of the work conducted over the years was on cargo operations, but a large part of the work was only on a lease basis. If you’ve been a semi-regular flier in South Africa over the past 15 years or so, there’s a very high chance that you’ve been aboard an aircraft that was owned and operated by Safair, it may simply have been sporting a different colour on its tail.
Safair has operated flights for a number of very familiar airlines including South African Airways, Air Namibia, Ryanair and 1Time. Safair was also the company that operated the first flights conducted by Kulula.com effectively helping to establish the airline in 2001.
Safair is based at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Kempton Park was established in 1965. At the time it was known as Tropair (Pty) Ltd and was a general aviation charter company. In 1970 the company name changed to Safair Freighters (Pty) Ltd when the company was purchased by Safmarine and the new entity began operations on 18 March 1970. Its primary client in the 1980s was the South African Defence Force. Until the 1990s it mainly served the local and regional air cargo market. In 1991 it diversified into aircraft maintenance and overnight courier operations before concentrating on leasing and chartering. In 1998 Safair purchased a 49% stake in Air Contractors, based in Ireland, and was itself acquired by Imperial Holdings for $40 million in December 1998. In July 1999 Safair acquired control of National Airways Corporation and Streamline Aviation.
Safair is wholly owned by ASL Aviation Group Ltd based in Dublin, Ireland, a subsidiary of the Belgian group Compagnie Maritime Belge. Humanitarian Aid and Relief operations has always been Safair's "niche" market. Safair assists aid and relief agencies such as the United Nations, World Food Programme, and the International Committee of the Red Cross in delivering much needed humanitarian aid to stricken regions on the African continent as well as other areas in the world where such assistance is required. Until 2018 Safair was contracted to the Italian Antarctic Program (National Antarctic Research Program (PNRA)) to support science over the austral summer, flying Lockheed L-100-30 missions from Christchurch, New Zealand to Zucchelli Station in Terra Nova Bay, Antarctica. In 2007, Safair obtained its IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) approval.
From all South Africans Thank you FlySafair for believing in our Springboks when others didn’t, may you now reap the rewards by the flying public uniting behind you in return. Its very sad that the National Carrier couldn't or wouldn't do the same for their international transportation as the team is now returning in drips and drabs.