SAAF flying hours unveiled in Parliament
The Presidential Boeing BBJ Inkwazi logged just under 200 flying hours in the 2016/17 financial year, a reply to a Parliamentary question has revealed. In his efforts to find out how the airborne service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is utilising its slim budget, opposition Democratic Alliance party (DA) MP Kobus Marais, also his party’s shadow defence minister, continually poses question to defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Among recent questions she has answered is one on force employment hours flown by the SA Air Force (SAAF). On VIP flying hours, Mapisa-Nqakula told Marais his question was ambiguous because “it is not clear whether the 155.7 VIP hours referred to is annual or quarterly hours flown”. She goes onto to state “a total of 195.5 flying hours were flown with Inkwazi during the financial year 2016/17”. She also notes “no hours were flown on leased aircraft” and “no force employment hours were flown by the SAAF on leased aircraft”.
Mapisa-Nqakula could be seen to be in grudging agreement with Marais’ statement that a lack of serviceable aircraft affected the annual force employment flying hours judging from her response to another part of his question. “The C-47TP fleet is a legacy system. Flight safety and airworthiness issues restricted the aircraft from flying,” she told him as regards AFB Ysterplaat-based 35 Squadron responsible for maritime patrol while AFB Waterkloof-based 41 Squadron could not fly its Cessna Caravans C208s from September 2016 because “a maintenance contract was not in place”. As far as 44 Squadron was concerned, the Minister said it had only three aircraft on strength and since September 2016, only one has been available for flying missions as “the others [were] unavailable due to unserviceability”. Of 28 Squadron, the SAAF’s only medium-lift transport unit flying C-130BZs which are more than 50 years old, Mapisa-Nqakula said “this platform achieved the required target of flying hours in the quarter under review”.