The South African Air Force (SAAF) on Friday hosted a major aviation awareness and youth career exposition event at Eldorado Park south of Johannesburg, which featured displays by Gripen and Hawk jets, current and past helicopters and the SAAF’s cockpit ambassadors, the Silver Falcons.
The SAAF said the youth outreach programme aimed to promote aviation awareness and encourage the youth to excel academically in order to enter the aviation industry. All secondary schools in Eldorado Park were invited to attend the event, through the Eldorado Park Principals Forum. Several thousand learners attended the event, which was presided over by Chief of the SAAF, Lieutenant General Fabian Zakes Msimang.
He encouraged “the future of this country” to join the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and South African Police Service (SAPS) “and defend this country”. He encouraged learners to take a liking to maths, science and geography and be disciplined and committed. He called on more women to serve in the military as part of ongoing transformation efforts – two female generals were present at the event.
One of the speakers was Major Geoffrey Simeon Cooper, a Gripen fighter pilot, who hails from Eldorado Park. He said he joined the SAAF because it is the most professional place to be, and encouraged youngsters to choose the right path in life, “because if you choose right, the path is laid out for you.”
South African Air Force Spokesperson, Colonel Eugene Motati said the event was an opportunity to show the youth that the South African National Defence Force has to offer. It was also a good community engagement exercise that shows the SANDF working to protect the citizens of South Africa.
Friday’s event featured static displays such as a Namacurra patrol boat, Ratel infantry combat vehicles and SAPS Squirrel helicopter. Various tents showcased career opportunities within the SANDF. The biggest attraction was the SAAF’s aircraft – Oryx helicopters took youngsters on short rides around the sports fields where the event took place, while a variety of aircraft performed overhead. One of the first displays was a four-ship flypast by Gripens, followed by a three-ship Hawk formation and a spirited display from the Silver Falcons (four aircraft).
Other participating aircraft included a BK 117, A109, and two Oryx helicopters, which dropped and picked up soldiers. Spectators also got to witness a dog demonstration, precision drills, Hawk aerobatics and display by SAAF Museum Alouette II and III helicopters. The mini-air show was concluded with a solo Gripen display.
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