Tag Archives: Zwartkops Lugskou

A Moment Time Stood Still-Air Force Base Swartkop

Wherever one wonders around aviation museums around the world, you wonder and think how aviation has come this far as we speak in 2019,expecially in South Africa .The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Imperial war museum at Duxford and many more.Airforce Base Swartkop in Pretoria is also part of the elite museums to visit as an aviation enthusiast touring South Africa.

The Past..

The SAAF claims Swartkop is the second oldest air station in the world and the oldest operational air station in the world.Over the years many distinguished Squadrons have been based at Swartkop. This includes 26 Squadron which was formed there on 24 August 1942.

* Photos by Adrian Munro, Stefan Bouwer, Team Aviation Central and SAAF Museum archives

Photo of Swartkop taken 1935

The Chief of the South African Air Force opened the relocated at AFB Swartkop in 1993. The Air Force Base reverted to Air Force Station status in 1999. This decision was made by the South African Air Force to vacate the base and leave behind the Museum located there and to keep the Airfield as an extension of Airforce Base Waterkloof. The SAAF Museum Historic Flight had also moved to Hanger 14 at the end of the Southern part of the base to this present day.

As of December 2013 the South African Air Force still hasn’t vacated all operational units on the base. The South African Airforce Museum currently occupies the northern side of the base while active SAAF units occupy the southern side of the base.

One of the oldest ATC Towers In South Africa

Air Force Base Swartkops over watches the residents of Valhalla, Centurion in Pretoria and most air force officers that outlasted their selection phase of pupes course and other forms of duties in the South African Airforce were boundless.

Still to this very day Harvard’s and other museum assets fly at the base
Former 44 Squadron C47 Dakota part of the Museum Historic Flight

The famous SAAF memorial is located on Bays Hill in Swartkop outside overlooks the entire Airbase. Its familiar in pictures of SAAF fighters passing behind it as they brought the sound of freedom amongst visitors of many airshows held over the years. The memorial was unveiled 1 September 1963 by the then State President of South Africa Charles Robberts Swart. The unveiling ceremony was attended by 5000 people.

SAAF Memorial Bays Hill

The history of the SAAF dates back after a visit to observe the 1912 military manoeuvres in Europe, Brig. Gen. C.F Beyers (who was then Commandant-General of the Defence Force) gave an extremely positive report on the future use of aircraft for military purposes to General Jan Smuts initiated an arrangement with private fliers in the Cape and established a flying school at Alexandersfontein near Kimberley, known as the Paterson Aviation Syndicate School, to train pilots for the proposed South African Aviation Corporation.. The first South African military pilot qualified on 2 June 1914.

de Havilland DH.9
New and old trainers T6 Harvard & Pilatus PC7MKII

On the 1 February 1920 Colonel Pierre van Ryneveld was appointed as the Director Air Service with the task of forming an air force, the date is used to mark the founding of the South African Air Force. In December 1920 the South African National insignia was added to aircraft for the first time.

SAAF Insignia 1921–1927
SAAF Insignia 2004-Present

4 Squadron was reformed in January 1951 at AFB Waterkloof as the Active Citizen Force element of 1 Squadron with Harvards and Spitfires until once again disbanded in October 1958. On 1 November 1961, it was reformed at Swartkop, flying Harvards and in August 1972 the first Impala Jets were received.

Swartkop in the late 1940s
Swartkop in the late 1940s Photo credit http://www.spitfire-restoration.co.za

The squadron moved from Swartkop to Waterkloof and then to Lanseria Airport where it received Impala Mk IIs. It saw numerous deployments to South West Africa and Mpacha and Rundu airfields in southern Angola. Its home base remained at Lanseria until it was disbanded in September 1991.

The Museums Spitfire in her former glory days

Airshows at AFB Swartkop over the years..

For years many of Aviation Centrals followers have been to some of the many historical airshows at Airforce Base Swartkop in Pretoria. The shows have had a big impact in promoting aviation in South Africa and more military aviation.

Yester year youngsters watching former fast movers shadowing “Bays Hill” in the foreground in the form of Mirage IIIs,Mirage F1s and Cheetahs and today the Gripen as the countries 4.5 generation fighter aircraft. The echo of the sound of freedom is what draws the “vlamgat” lovers to these shows!

Swartkop has had a number of airshows over the years which were mainly known as flying days from when the museum had a big fleet of ex air force aircraft that were part of the shows program.This also saw many fighter aircraft from the then current and past SAAF from various fast mover squadrons,including Impalas, Mirages, Cheetahs and up till now to the current SAAF fighters Gripen and Hawk. Warbirds that have attended included PBY Catilina, DC3, DC4, DC6, JU52, Spitfires, Mustangs, Sea Fury’s, Yaks and the list goes on.

Ex Eastern block jet trainers such as the L39 and L29, Vampires, Hawker Hunters and a T2 Buckeye have touched down on Swartkops sloped runway on many occasions. Many airliners have taken part in shows and have landed at the base included MD80s, Airbus A319s, Boeing 707s, 727s and 737 series.

Photos below by Adrian Munro, Stefan Bouwer, Team Aviation Central and SAAF Museum archives.

Since 2012, the Chief of the South African Air Force, Lt Gen FZ Msimang, has initiated a programme to preserve and promote our Air Force history, which includes former TBVC states and the Armed Wings of Former Liberation Movements in relation to the corresponding political, social and economic dispensation of the country under the theme “embracing our collective heritage”. One of the fundamental elements in nation-building and cultivating a cohesive society is the reconfiguration of the heritage landscape to ensure that it reflects the diversity and the incredible efforts of the unity of our society.

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