Tag Archives: C47TP

SAAF C-47 77 years and counting!

Originally written by Dean Wingrin in 2015 for the 80th celebration. Edited by Ryno Joubert in 2020 for the 85th anniversary!

Known by such names as the Dakota, Dak, Gooney Bird, TurboDak and even Vomit Comet, 2020 commemorates the 85th anniversary of the first flight of the venerable Douglas DC-3 / C-47 forbearer, the Douglas Sleeper Transport (DST) passenger airliner which evolved into the 21-seater DC-3, on 17 December 1935.

35 Squadron Badge “SHAYA AMANZI”- STRIKE THE WATER

According to The Dakota Association of South Africa, the DC-3, as the DST was to become known, was the first commercial transport aircraft capable of making a profit from carrying passengers only. Most aeroplanes of its vintage were being subsidised by the carriage of mail and freight, whilst air-travel was only for the daring and the affluent.

With the war clouds of World War Two looming on the horizon, the civilian DC-3 was developed into the military C-47 Dakota, powered by two Pratt and Whitney radial engines, with an enlarged cargo door and strengthened fuselage. Along with the Jeep and the Bazooka, General Patton announced it to be one of the major contributors to the victory in the Second World War.

The C-47 was capable of transporting 10,000 lbs (4 536 kg) of cargo or 27 passengers in permanent seats or configured for 28 paratroopers. By the time the last Dakota left the assembly line in 1946, a total of 10 655 DC-3, C-47 and associated variants has been produced.

The Dakota has seen over 77 years of military service in South Africa. The aircraft entered SAAF service in 1943 when the RAF passed a number of their fleet onto the SAAF. By the end of World War Two, a total of 84 Lend-Lease Dakotas had been transferred to the SAAF.

At the cessation of hostilities in 1945, a large number of surplus Dakotas were disposed of, including transferring some to South African Airways. The survivors of the SAA fleet later found their way back to the SAAF in 1971.

When sanctions were imposed on South Africa in the mid-70s, a number of Dakotas were purchased from various sources to supplement those still in SAAF service. In total 16 were added to the SAAF strength. At one stage, the SAAF had the distinction of operating the largest remaining fleet of Dakotas in the world.

The Dakota performed yeoman service during the Border War from the 1960’s through to the end of hostilities in 1988, performing such roles as troop transport, resupply, medical evacuation, Para -trooping and other ancillary activities. Her toughness stood her in good stead.

During one particular mission near the South West African/Angolan border on 1 May 1986, a Dakota of 44 Squadron, commanded by Captain Colin Green, was hit by a SAM-7 surface-to-air missile while transporting high-ranking officials. The missile strike resulted in the loss of most of the rudder and a large proportion of the elevators. The pilot managed to keep the aircraft in the air and on course to AFB Ondangwa, where it was landed safely with no injuries to its crew or passengers.

Following the end of the Border War, the number of squadrons operating the Dakota was reduced, along with the disposal of airframes.

SAAF Museum C47 & AFB Swartkop resident!


The early 1990s saw a large number of Dakotas upgraded to ‘TurboDak’ configuration under Project Felstone. This conversion involved replacing the piston engines of the classic Dakota with two Pratt and Whitney PT6A 65R turboprop engines, lengthening of the fuselage and the installation of modern avionics. Thereafter, the aircraft were re-designated as the C-47TP TurboDak. Between 1989 and 1994, twelve aircraft were converted to C-47TP standard.

35 Squadron C47TP “6884” at AFB Swartkop
The Newly upgraded SAAF C47TP

35 Squadron has been associated with the Dakota since 1985, when several C-47s were acquired to replace the recently retired Avro Shackleton MR3 in the maritime surveillance role.

When 25 and 27 Squadrons were amalgamated with 35 Squadron on 31 December 1990, additional Dakotas were utilised for air transport, leaving the Squadron responsible for both the Maritime and Transport roles. The classic piston-engine workhorses were finally withdrawn in September 1994 and replaced with the modified turbine engine C47TP Dakota.

Apart from the Squadron’s maritime role and transport role (consisting of Para- trooping, target towing, scheduled passenger services, aero medical evacuation and logistical support), the Squadron also performs other support functions. These include electronic intelligent gathering, tactical image (photo) reconnaissance and numerous training functions, such as navigator and telecommunication operator training.

Langebaanweg Airshow 2017-Picture by Jarryd Sinovich
35 Squadron C47TP “6887” at the 50th Anniversary of the Silver Falcons Aerobatic Team at a Airshow at AFB Langebaanweg December 2017
35 Squadron C47TP “6825”
Airforce Day 2020, AFB Swartkop
35 Squadron C47TP “6825”
Airforce Day 2020, AFB Swartkop

As a result of rationalisation that has taken place over the last few years, only eight C-47TPs remain in SAAF service, where they serve with 35 Squadron in Cape Town in a variety of roles. The variants operated are: five maritime surveillance configured aircraft, two in transport configuration and one as an Electronic Warfare (EW) training platform.

C47TP leads the light transport formation making up of 41 Squadron Cessna 208As and 44 Squadron Casa 212s.

The SAAF has the distinction of operating the largest remaining fleet of Dakotas used by the military in the world:

Colombia: 6 (FAC1654, FAC1658, FAC1667, FAC1681, FAC1683, FAC1686)
Guatemala: 2 (FAG530, FAG590)
Mauritania: 1 (5T-MAH)
Thailand: 7 (RTAF46151, RTAF46153, RTAF46154, RTAF46156, RTAF46157, RTAF46158, RTAF46159)
South Africa 35 Squadron: 8 (6814, 6825, 6828, 6839, 6852, 6854, 6885, 6887)

South African Airforce Prestige Day 2020

The South African Airforce Prestige Day was held at Airforce Base Swartkop, the second oldest operational Airforce Base in the world to date, in Pretoria on Friday 31 January 2020.

AFB Swartkop

The South African Air Force was established on 1 February 1920. The Air Force has seen service in World War II and the Korean War. This years theme of celebrating the South African Airforce, is “embracing our collective heritage”.

The parade was opened by a paradrop from two 44 Squadron Casa 212s with a number of skydivers from the Golden Eagles Parachute display team and the Pretoria Military Skydiving Members, including the big South African flag.

22 Squadron Lynx Helicopter

Part of General Fabian Msimang’s speech he mentioned:

“Formation of the Union of South Africa’s Air Force
In 1917 sent by Prime Minister General Louis Botha to London to attend the Imperial Conference, General Jan Smuts presented a report to the British Parliament which became known as the ‘Smuts Report’ stated, inter alia;”


“Air Service on the contrary, can be used as an independent means of war operations far from and independently of, both Army and Navy.”
General Jan Smuts soon summoned Sir Pierre van Ryneveld to London and was told:

Chief of the South African Airforce General Fabian Msimang
Chaplin Smit reads a beautful testimony


“I want you to go back out to South Africa and start an air force”. 
Subsequently, South Africa received an Imperial Gift that comprised of 113 aircraft and included steel frames for 20 hangars and everything else required to start and operate an air force. The consignment was sent here to where we currently stand, an airfield that was named Swartkop, the oldest active military airfield in the world today.  Some of the Imperial Gift Hangars are still in daily use as you can see.

Prestige Day 2020 Mass Flypasts

During the parade we got to wintness some spectacular flypasts from both ex and current South African Airforce aircraft, a mass helicopter formation led by a 16 squadron Rooivalk attack helicopter. Other types of helicopters included Oryx, Lynx, Agusta A109s from various chopper squadron across South Africa. The SAAF Museum also were a part of the formation with a Puma, two Alouette IIs and Alouette IIIs.

SAAF Helicopter Formation
A pair of 16 Squadron Rooivalk, Museum Puma, Agusta A109LUH & Oryx Helicopter
Agusta A109LUH
Oryx Helicopter
16 Squadron Rooivalk & Museum Alouette II

The next formation included two museum aircraft assests, a Kudu and Cessna C185, followed by a formation of Harvards.The Transport formation was up next led by a 35 Squadron C47TP Dakota, with three 41 Squadron Cessna 208A Caravans and two 44 Squadron Casa 212s making up the formation.

Museum C4.M Kudu & Cessna C185
Museum Harvard’s
35 Squadron C47TP Dakota, Leads a trio of 41 Squadron Cessna C208A Caravans & 44 Squadron Casa 212s
35 Squadron C47TP Dakota

The sound of freedom was then up next with the roar of the Hawk and Gripen formation as they buzzed overhead the parade made up of 85 Combat School and 2 Squadron assets. The Final flypast was led by a 21 Squadron Boeing 737BBJ, A Dassault Falcon 50 and the Silver Falcons Aerobatic Team.

Fighter Formation 2 Squadron Gripens & 85 Combat Flying School Hawk Mk120s
Fighter Formation 2 Squadron Gripens & 85 Combat Flying School Hawk Mk120s
21 Squadron Boeing 737BBJ,A Dassault Falcon 50 and the Silver Falcons Aerobatic Team.

The prestige unit of the year for the South African Airforce from 2019 was presented to AFB Ysterplaat as part of the Prestige Unit award.

AFB Ysterplaat awarded the Prestige unit trophy.

The parade concluded with Fledglings releasing doves and balloons while the SAAF announcer read out, “We will keep whirling and twirling from the sky. White doves fly into our hearts, embracing our Air Force heritage. Carrying messages of goodwill. We will sing forever young and free. We will be an Air Force that inspires confidence.”

Releasing doves and balloons with future Airforce Members

SAAF Museum Flying Day 1 February 2020

The First flight training day for the year 2020 at Airforce Base Swartkop was different this year, it was the South African Airforce’s birthday, which was founded on the 1 February 1920.

Museum Alouette III

With the Prestige Day parade held the day before at Airforce Base Swartkop, many of the aircraft that took part in the mass flypast were present and gave the visiting public a glance at both static and departing aircraft returing to their home bases across South Africa.

22 Squadron Super Lynx

The Usual museum aircraft such as the many Museum Harvards, Patchen Explorer, Cessna C185, Kudu and Alouette II, III as well as the Puma continued with currency flights in between display slots.

SAAF Museum Harvard’s
SAAF Museum Cessna C185

Friends of the SAAF Museum sold Boere Wors Rolls, Refreshments and held guided tours of the airforce heritage displays located on the base premises.The windsock Café was also open for cool and hot refrements throughout the day.

The days proceedings started with a short display by a 35 Squadron C47TP Martime Dakota from AFB Ysterplaat in Cape Town. Major Paul “Raccoon” Kempthorn flew one of the best Rooivalk displays that we have witnessed in a long time.

35 Squadron C47TP
16 Squadron Rooivalk
16 Squadron Rooivalk

The Silver Falcons Aerobatic Team 84 led by new team lead Major Sivu Tangana showed off the tight formation aerobatics of four Pilatus PC7MKIIs.

Silver Falcons
Pilatus PC7MKII

Two Cessna C208A Caravans from 41 Squadron, who operates out of neighbouring Airforce Base Waterkloof, gave a short formation display. Major Rehan “Kaine” Venter flew his second airshow display as he is now the new Hawk display pilot for 85 Combat Flying School.

41 Squadron Cessna C208A Caravans
85 Combat Flying School Hawk MK120
85 Combat Flying School Hawk MK120
2 Squadron JAS39C Gripen

Major Geoffrey “Spartan” Cooper flew a great display in the JAS39C Gripen before heading back to Airforce Base Makhado in the Limpopo Province.

2 Squadron JAS39C Gripen

The Museum Helicopter assets including the Alouettes II and IIIs closed the flying day with their helicopter display, with a big chance of seeing them do it again on 9th May 2020 at The SAAF Museum Airshow.

SAAF Museum Puma & Alouette III
SAAF Museum Alouette III

Well done to the Museum staff and AFB Swartkop on providing a different flying day as a gift to the public on the South African Airforce Birthday!

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