Monday, January 30, 2012

Dedicated support management unit for South African Air Force VIP flights

Aging and insufficient government-owned aircraft to meet the increasing demand for South African leaders’ presence at international forums is now the sole responsibility of a dedicated support management unit.

Based at AFB Waterkloof, home of the SA Air Force’s (SAAF) dedicated VIP air transport unit 21 Squadron, the recently established unit will see all VIP and VVIP flight related activities consolidated under one command.

SAAF chief Lt-Gen Carlo Gagiano made this announcement during Friday’s Air Force Day parade at AFB Swartkop but did not elaborate on its composition.

Insiders pointed out the new unit should liaise between the squadron’s command, the Presidency and national Treasury. This would make for better coordination and planning as far as aircraft availability was concerned. It should also indicate what specific aircraft are available and airworthy as well as deal with charter and leasing arrangements if no suitable government aircraft are available.

“It will also, hopefully, not see any repeats of chartered aircraft being declared unsafe just prior to take-off and prevent repeats of multi-tasking of aircraft for a single journey, as happened with the Presidential flight to the UN General Assembly earlier this month,” he said, on condition of anonymity. The newest aircraft in 21 Squadron’s inventory is the Presidential Boeing BBJ, Inkwazi, which arrived in the country in 2002.

Last year it underwent a major C-Check maintenance procedure in Switzerland as per original equipment manufacturer specifications. It is the only inter-continental capable aircraft in the squadron. The squadron also flies a Falcon 900B, a pair of Falcon 50s and a pair of Cessna Citations.


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