top of page

The SAAF's mighty 17 Squadron rescues stranded flood victims

On Monday, 09 December 2019 at approximately 12:30, the National Joint Operational Centre (NATJOC) activated two South African Air Force helicopters from 17 Squadron based at AFB Swartkop to assist people stranded in Centurion and Mamelodi following flash floods as a result of the continuing torrential downpours experienced in the Gauteng Province.

A SAAF Atlas Oryx helicopter and an Agusta A-109 Light Utility Helicopter were able to airlift 79 stranded people at the Centurion Lake Hotel to safety. Three of the unfortune people who were airlifted from the hotel sustained injuries and were later taken to Unitas Medical Centre for medical treatment.

Atlas Oryx

Agusta A-109

The two helicopters proceeded to Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, and successfully airlifted five people, who were trapped by flash floods, to safety. No injuries were reported in Mamelodi. The two helicopters completed the two air rescues at approximately 17:00. There were no fatalities reported during either rescues. I attempted to get to Centurion Lake Hotel to take some photographs of the rescue but unfortunately I was on the opposite side of the river.

End Street Centurion

Blackwood Drive Centurion

The ongoing training that these helicopter crews undergo keeps them “Battle Ready” whether the threat comes from a foreign force or local flooding their moto always rings true "Pro Re Nata" translated means “As the Occasion Arises”.

Helicopter Preparation Camp

17 Squadron was formed on 1 September 1939, and formed part of the Airways Wing at Swartkop, flying ex-SAA Junkers Ju-52/3m's, but was disbanded on 1 December that year. The squadron was reformed on 8 October 1942 as a general reconnaissance squadron and arrived at Aden in January 1943 to fly Blenheim V's. In May that year they moved to Egypt soon thereafter converted to Ventura GR V's.

Junkers Ju-52

In October the squadron moved to St Jean and Ramat David in Palestine for convoy escort duties and anti-submarine patrols. Detachments were also operated from Gibraltar and Bone in Algeria. In July the squadron moved to Sardinia. Late in 1944 the squadron returned to North Africa and in 1945, now based in Egypt, it began training for conversion to Wellingtons and Warwick GR Vs. Returning to South Africa in September 1945, the squadron was disbanded at Brooklyn (now Ysterplaat) on 31 March 1946, when they were flying the PV-1 Ventura.

PV-1 Ventura

The squadron was reformed in Cape Town on 1 June 1947 flying Ventura and Harvards. In 1955 the squadron was disbanded but was reformed at Langebaanweg on 1 December 1957 to fly the three Sikorsky S-55s and the surviving S-51 for air-sea rescue duties. In December 1960 the squadron received the Alouette II and in mid-1961 moved to Ysterplaat. Alouette IIIs were received in 1962, with A flight stationed in Pretoria and B Flight at Bloemfontein, while C Flight and Training Flight remained at Ysterplaat.

Alouette III

In 1971, C Flight formed the nucleus for the reformed 16 Squadron. 17 Squadron and its two Flights eventually found its home at AFB Swartkop. A Puma flight was added in 1992, but in 1994 they were replaced by the new Oryx. However, the last two Pumas were only retired in 1997. Following the 1994 elections, 17 Squadron acquired the SA 365N Dauphin, formerly of the Bophuthatswana (Homeland) Defence Force, for VIP duties, before being disposed of. The squadron currently operates the A109 LUH and Oryx helicopters.


bottom of page