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Thu, Apr 11, 2013

South Africa's Silver Falcons To Be Grounded

Aerial Demonstration Team Being Pulled From Airshows

The U.S. air show organizers and promoters that are feeling the sting of the loss of the Blue Angels and The Air Force Thuderbirds this season due to cuts in the federal budget are not alone. In South Africa, the bite of the defence force budget bug seems to have claimed another victim. This time it’s the South African Air Force’s Silver Falcons elite aerobatic team. The cockpit ambassadors of the SAAF have been grounded.

According to a news release forwarded to ANN, while there is no official paperwork yet confirming the move, there is a very high probability the Silver Falcons and any other SAAF participation, will be withdrawn from airshows and public events for the 2013 financial year. One exception to this likely withdrawal, which has already been made, is the Swartkop SAAF Museum airshow in May.
Last weekend’s Navy Festival at Simonstown was the first indication of the airborne arm of the SANDF’s withdrawal from public events. Organizers were informed just 24 hours before the event was to begin that there would be no SAAF participation.
The current Silver Falcons team, under the command of Major Roy Sproul (callsign Cougar), is the 73rd of its type. His team members are Major Werner Vermaak (Cruncher), Lieutenant Jacques Poolman (Blackjack), Major Heybrecht van Niekerk (Valiant), Major Beau Skarda (Dusky) and Captain Mark Gentles (Katana). When at their home base, AFB Langebaanweg, the Silver Falcons are supported by 2 Air Servicing Unit. On deployment a team of between eight and 12 technicians are integral to the overall success of each aerial display.

In a message posted on their website, the team said "we will continue to maintain a state of readiness should this situation change, and in the expectation that next year we will be back up to speed with a full year of commitments.

"Whilst we are bitterly disappointed by this eventuality, we must understand that the global economic situation, and particularly the reduction of defence budgets worldwide are going to have ramifications, and that the operational side of the SAAF must obviously take priority. We trust in our leaders to make the right decisions to ensure the best outcome for the SAAF as a whole, and we pledge ourselves as a team to play whatever part in it we can."

Sounds familiar.

(Images courtesy Athol Franz, Editor African Pilot Magazine)




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