Is this the End of the Silver Falcons?


What would the country’s Airshows and National Celebrations be without the SAAF Aerobatic Display Team? For those of us that religiously follow the South African Airshow circuit it will represent a missing part of the history of the South African Air Force.

For generations, the South African Airforce Silver Falcons Aerobatic Team have thrilled crowds across South Africa, bolstered national pride and encouraged aspiring future SAAF Aviators.

The Silver Falcons the South African Airforce only formation aerobatics display team is currently based at Air Force Base Langebaanweg to the North of Cape Town. The Silver Falcons fly the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II, the basic trainer of the SAAF in a precise five-ship aerobatic routine. In 2019 the team battled many challenges, with a number of team members leaving and being replaced with less experienced but very capable members, although this is the norm for teams around the world the Falcons had to contend with a higher than normal attrition. To compound matters further the team was plagued by technical issues, corrosion on the engine mounts was one of these. Team #83 was forced to utilise the red white ab initio trainers known as the “Coke Can” version of the Pilatus PC 7 MKII.

2020 saw things deteriorating even further as the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. All airshows across South Africa were forced to reschedule or outright cancel as public gatherings were prohibited. The team has now been reduced to only two members that are current. No other members have been mentioned to do any “Falcon fly-offs” to bring the team back to its full five-ship compliment.

During the 2019 Ladysmith Career Expo and Airshow held last October, the team managed a four-ship display flying in two red and white aircraft and two in Falcon livery of which eight aircraft were painted up in 2008. The same four-ship team were seen at the 2020 Prestige Day Parade at AFB Swartkop which was expected to be the centenary celebration of the SAAF, a fact that was conveniently ignored by the powers that be. Armed Forces Week in Polokwane the team had to suffer and again make use of non-falcon painted aircraft.

Seemingly the final blow to the “Pride of our Nation” was struck a few weeks ago when a signal, that was leaked on social media yesterday, effectively grounded the Falcons with no end date mentioned other than a quarterly review of the situation.

"Based on the current financial allocation priority utilization of aircraft (PC7 MKII) must be given to Pilots Wings Course 128 (PWC128) and Pilots Instructors Course 01 (PIC 01) of 2019 and necessary flying maintenance. Any other support roles in: example the operational support (Border Patrol) and Silver Falcons cannot be supported and planned for at present status.”

As far as we are aware Pilatus PC7 has never been used in a border patrol role in the SAAF, 41 Squadrons Cessna 208A Caravans normally perform this task as they are equipped with the “Koiler” camera systems. We are aware that the Caravans only came back online in the middle of last year after been grounded since 2016.

With limited resources, a political saga brewing SAAF Headquarters. Is this truly the end of the Silver Falcons?

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