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Posted by on in Falcons News Updates

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As 2014 fast approaches with advance warning, there is little we can do about it, as in my case one chapter has closed on my life, while another adventure has started. As I reflect on my time as Falcon 7 while I sip on my red wine over a Lowveld setting, which happens to be my new home, my previous statement about life, chapters and adventures all remind me of how my Falcon 7 career started.

The Silver Falcons sowed the seeds of a future Air Force life not far from my current location in Tzaneen; where the family stopped to watch an aerial display. Strange how things work, but soon after the Display in The Sunday Times there was a recruitment advert for the Air Force; that is when I knew that is what I wanted to do. The seeds were nurtured on a continuous basis through the Tzaneen Bush Pilots Flying Club and the annual Airshow where I could see and meet Air Force people.

I joined the Air Force in the Skills Development program with the hope of becoming an Air Traffic Controller, at that point Silver Falcons were nowhere in the thought process. Over time through hard work and a bit of luck I did become an Air Traffic Controller, and with this I was posted to Air Force Base Langebaanweg. Having just qualified as an Air Traffic Controller, I remember the day the first newly painted Astra in the now familiar blue and white scheme (thanks to Kuba Miszewski from First African Paints,) arrived. When it landed I was amazed at how nice it looked I walked around the aircraft at least two times I then went home and life continued. The then current Team asked me a month or so later if I would like to become the Public Relations Officer. Wow! How could I say no?

There are countless fond memories and good times to look back on. The things that will remain with me till I die are the life experiences, opportunities and great relationships that my times with The Silver Falcons have brought me. One often hears bad/negative things about The Air Force but I continuously ask my self where else would I be paid to see a different part of the country every weekend as a Air Traffic Controller, sitting on a ejection seat flying tight formation aerobatics with some of the most highly trained aviators in the world and once we reach our destination see friendly faces that have now become so familiar that I can call them family. The icing on the cake is standing at The Silver Falcons stall on Show day answering questions and trying to inspire the next generation of military personal in a life similar to mine; as not to long ago I was that young boy looking up and thinking if I could do that.

The main purpose of The Silver Falcons is to create awareness and promote The South African Air Force. The Silver Falcons have a history going on 46 years, I think that past, present and future teams have and will continue to do a fine job.

Thanks to all the teams supporters and friends that I have come in contact with through the team, I hope you will continue to support the current and future teams in the same manner. Most of all I would like to thank the Air Force for providing me with necessary qualifications to do my job and then allowing me the opportunity to be part of this prestigious team, I hope that the team can continue to grow through continuous support from with in The Air Force and the South African Aviation Community. The Silver Falcons presences is warranted and needed. I can vouch for that cause if it were not for one of the Falcons Teams flying over Tzannen I would probably be an accountant or something and I know life would not be as cool as it has been sitting back seat with The Silver Falcons.


Posted by on in Falcons News Updates

SM 8504-Roy Sproul cropAfter a long and exciting career with the South African Air Force and the Silver Falcons Aerobatic Team, I have decided that its time to hang-up my gloves and step down that someone else may experience the honour of leading such a World Class Team and furthermore also allow a new member the opportunity to experience the thrills of Precision Aerobatic Flying.

Over the course of my two tours with this professional Team, I have been privileged to fly in the No3 and No2 positions before my appointment as Leader in 2010. Highlights of my Falcons career include, but are certainly not limited to having performed numerous live broadcast aerial displays ranging from the Opening of the FIFA World Cup, the Nedbank Cup Soccer Challenge and a Presidential Inauguration to name but a few. Other highlights are the regular formations flown with other aircraft ranging from the Airbus A340 to a Cessna 172!

However all of this aside, what made every challenge and show worthwhile must certainly be the publics enthusiasm and the support shown by the rest of the aviation fraternity. Without the public, no Team could survive and the pride and passion shown by the members of the public was phenomenal, during down times and periods of uncertainty, the public and the Teams supporters were always there with words of encouragement and every shows attendance was beyond expectations, even in areas far removed from major cities and hubs.

I must also commend and thank the civilian and military pilots and support crews on the Air Show Circuit for their continual support, friendship and ‘can do’ attitude. The aviation world is very small and the Air Show world even smaller, yet every individual and Team feels like family and arriving at a venue was always exciting to see the familiar faces and if you ever needed advice or help with something, you were never far from a helping hand. I hope that this comradeship between the various Teams and individuals continues to go from strength to strength.

The regular photographers on trips also formed a very special bond with the Team and I must thank them for all the positive PR and willingness to share their work with the Team. Their continual passion for their work over the years has really helped build up the image of the Team and without a doubt inspired many a young person to pursue a career in aviation.

It’s with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to Team 74, this Team has had a special bond, are all truly inspirational pilots and brought some unique qualities to the table! I know that each member of the Team will go on to assist and support their new Leader just as they did for me and continue to fly the flag high. It is however a great comfort knowing that Maj Beau Skarda will now be taking the reigns of the Team and be leading the “Cockpit Ambassadors” of the SAAF into the future. Beaus’ friendship and experience were paramount to making my tour as Leader so smooth and I wish him well for his future as No1.

Without the SAAF’s training and support throughout my career, I would never have been able to experience and be part of the Teams rich and colourful history and for this I will always be grateful. To meet the majority of the ex-Falcons members during last years 45th Silver Falcons Reunion was an honour and reaffirmed why this Team is considered one of the best in the world.

Finally, a special and heartfelt thank you goes to my wife, Helma and my kids, Robert and Nicole. Without their support, my tour with the Team would not have been possible! I am eternally grateful that they allowed me to pursue this dream and stood steadfast behind me even though it meant weeks away from home.

Thank you to all the Silver Falcons supporters and my best wishes to Team 75!

Sincerely

Major Roy Sproul

Outgoing Team Leader

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Posted by on in Falcons News Updates

Some say it's the end of an era...

But I like to believe its the beginning of a great adventure :)

It's been a fruitful three years in the team. I started in March 2010 as the GLO of the legendary Team 70, the pioneers of many a flying feet. From formation flying on all types of heavy freighters to displaying in front of 2 billion people at the FIFA WORLD CUP SOCCER and yes, for those wondering, I was inside the stadium next to the Chief choreographer :) 

After performing fly offs amongst eleven possible candidates for the team the announcement was made on the 5th of August...

Being the first female in the team and basically  an "experiment" of note, training started and believe me... it wasn't for the faint of heart either...

Being able to take criticism, stern voices and a constant drive to achieve perfection during the entire sortie, although your concentration levels are lower than a pupil in school :-$, was all worth it in the end :)

I think everybody always wants a nice clear calm cool day for their first display but unfortunately for myself and my co-new-falcon it was a baptism of fire. Our first four displays... over water... and the last two being in the most turbulent conditions found... Simonstown navy festival... and let's not even mention the hottest and highest airfield in South Africa as your 5th and 6th display ... Ermelo...

For those who don't understand the significance about displaying over water let me try and explain. You have no depth perception over water which gives you a false sense or hope that the ground is still far far away of which  it is not so you have to adapted and scan your altimeter all the time looking for safety gates and achieving certain speeds and heights during the display. For flying "hot and high" goes all about loss of engine performance and control effectiveness of the aircraft due to the warm less dense air which in itself gives more challenges during the display.

I flew 44 displays as the number 2 of Team 71 &72 and 31 displays as the number 4 of Team 73. 

For me, the number 4  has been the most challenging regarding responsibilities and movement in the display. From having one aircraft formatting on you (which in itself requires a stable platform otherwise you making life dreadful for your team member trying to formate on you) to having three formatting aircraft and you being the only link between the leader, power available and geometry of the maneuver. Not to even mention flying in the box and constantly moving around to assist your fellow team mates by making the diamond look like a diamond although someone has fallen back in a maneuver sitting what feels like with mere inches away from their wings with your spinning propeller.

The journey hasn't been an all flowery one... it's had it's ups and downs, it's awesome moments, it's scary moments, it's good moments and it's bad ones but to have had the honour to be apart of something unique and having had the opportunity to achieve one of my most memorable dreams have been a absolute blessing and honour...

To all the photographers, fans, friends, family, supporters of the team thank you very much for everything you have all done and still is doing for the team. Its been an honour and privilege to display for you...

To my fellow and future team mates, good luck, keep it real and keep it safe!

Regards

Mother Goose/MG/HB/Heybie 

Member number 95 of the South African Air Force Aerobatic Dispaly Team

The Silver Falcons

 

 

 

Posted by on in Falcons News Updates

AFB LANGEBAANWEG FAREWELL FOR LT GEN GAGIANO

Before sunrise on Friday 24 August 2012, two Pilatus PC7 MkII aircraft got airborne from AFB Langebaanweg en-route to the Test Flight and Development Centre (TFDC) near Bredasdorp. The purpose of the mission, to surprise and collect the Chief of the South African Air Force, Lt Gen C. Gagiano for the final portion of his farewell road show of the Western Cape Air Force Bases.

Due to the discreet and efficient planning of the mission by the staff of DBFT, upon arrival at TFDC, the crew of the PC7’s were met with tremendous surprise by the staff of TFDC who were due to welcome the Chief to their base only moments later.

The two PC7’s were initially parked well away from the TFDC movement centre where CAF was to address the base personnel. After CAF’s address to the TFDC staff, he was flown by Oryx helicopter for a brief visit to Skipskop whereupon the two PC7’s were taxied across to the movement area in anticipation of his return. Whilst away from the unit, the lead PC7, Falcon 1, was ceremoniously prepared and positioned with a red carpet and ceremonial guard comprising members of TFDC for CAF’s final farewell from the unit.

After returning from Skipskop, CAF was informed of the plans and provided with a g-suit and helmet which were generously provided by the TFDC personnel for his final PC7 flight. After a unique ‘Generals Salute’ and address by CAF dressed in a flying overall, Lt Gen Gagiano strapped himself into the aircraft without hesitation displaying his great professionalism as an aviator having not flown in the PC7 for a number of years.

Lt Gen Gagiano was paired with Maj Roy Sproul for the flight with the backup PC7 flown by Capt Mark Gentles. After take-off, CAF was handed control of the aircraft and flew the entire route back to Langebaan himself. Passing the town of Darling, CAF’s aircraft was intercepted by the rest of the Silver Falcon Team flying two red and white PC7’s representing the Central Flying School and two aircraft in the Falcon colours.

The now 6-ship formation then completed a scenic flight of the West Coast before positioning over the Langebaan Lagoon for a 5min Silver Falcon aerobatic sequence before routing to AFB Langebaanweg to meet up with the rest of CAF’s delegation.

After disembarking from an Oryx at AFB Langebaanweg’s VIP movements section, Mrs Gagiano along with Maj Gen Msimang and his wife were treated to a final loop and break by the Falcons with their very special guest! After landing, Lt Gen Gagiano made the time to personally thank each of the Falcons crew for their contribution representing CFS and AFB Langebaanweg on his final flight.

A final word from Maj Roy Sproul (Falcon Lead): “On behalf of the Silver Falcons who are charged with the responsibility of publicly showcasing the professionalism and skills of ALL past and current serving members of the South African Air Force, it was a great privilege and honour to be able to serve under Lt Gen Gagiano and partake in his farewell. We hope that he and Mrs Gagiano will enjoy a well deserved retirement and I once again take the opportunity to thank CAF for all his years of service, serving us, the men and women of the SAAF”CAF and Team 73

Posted by on in Falcons News Updates
Newbie. Major Werner Vermaak's first entry on the blog - summing up the first half of the year and acknowledging a few achievements in case you missed them ...Wink

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Buti's last post as an active member of the team and his summary of the Waterkloof Air Show and Lifestyle Expo 2011

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No. 5's account of the recent Durban Air Show.

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A Busy weekend with plenty of interesting flying. No. 5's account of the Swartkops and Rand Air Show weekend.

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No 2's account of the highly successful Ermelo Airshow

Posted by on in Falcons News Updates

Too often on Monday mornings, when I scroll through a slightly depressing collection of friends’ Facebook status updates, I am reminded of how important it is to have a job that you love.  Another rollercoaster weekend of display flying has come and gone and I find myself tackling the week ahead high on the euphoria of the weekend’s show. But it was a tough one...

This weekend (2-3 April) was the annual Navy Festival at Naval Base Simon’s Town on the Cape Peninsula, commemorating the South African Navy’s 89th birthday.  Of all the Silver Falcons displays I have done, the Navy Festival shows have been most challenging by far. Although incredibly picturesque, Simon’s Town has a couple of unfriendly traits from a show box perspective: high ground on two sides of the display area (which guarantees turbulence when any of the prevailing winds blow), an ill-defined display line over water and a propensity to howling south-easters – which, apart from the orographic turbulence formed, also create a layer of clouds (similar to Table Mountain’s cloth) when it blusters over the 2500 ft mountain. As if that is not enough, it also has airspace challenges in that our display infringes on the Cape Town TMA and it is located along the ever-popular peninsula route, which guarantees civilian traffic on unmanned frequencies to be conflicting. (The fact that the air space is closed by NOTAM for the purposes of the displays of course does not prevent general aviation traffic from flying into it...)

So, challenges aside, how did it go? Under the circumstances I feel it went well, but it was a significantly different show to the one we flew the previous weekend at the Rapport Mykonos Festival. I think it was great exposure for especially Roy, Heybrech and Beau in the new positions, but Buti and I were equally challenged by all the gremlins. There were moments in Sunday’s show where, amidst heavy breathing, rapid head and eye movements and inverted TIBA radio calls, I was overcome by the beauty and the sheer exhilaration of what we do. And during those moments, all the bumps and clouds and challenges just made me feel more alive.

I think the weekend’s flying was best captured by Beau, in a manner only he can.  After Saturday’s show, whilst we were signing off paperwork, he just shook his head and drew a big circle on a piece of paper and labelled it: “COMFORT ZONE”. Then he drew a little stick figure on the other side of the paper and labelled it: “ME!”

But hey, formation aerobatics never really gets easier – it just gets better!

 

Capt Gerhard Lourens
Falcon 4


We have one day left to prepare for the first air show of the year, before we hit the blue road to Ermelo for the Ermelo Air Show this weekend. Team 71 would like to thank Capt Xolani Vundla, Capt Josias Mashaba and Lt Mark Gentles for bracing the traffic and sacrificing their free time to assist us with safety on the ground this weekend, whilst our GLO, Lt Jesse Ramaisa, is on task in Switzerland.

Posted by on in Falcons News Updates
My re-cap of the Validation, Hand-over and Rapport Mykonos Lagoon Fees

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Hi everyone,

Welcome to one of the new features of our recently revamped site. The plan for the Blog is to get all of the members of the team to contribute on a regular basis, and share their experiences of Air Shows, Events, Training, etc. This will hopefully provide all our fans with a more in-depth look at the team - from within the team. Feel free to suggest articles that you would like to see appear on the Blog and we will do our best to accommodate your suggestions.

Sincerely

Beau Skarda

Falcon 5

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Capt Roy Sproul's message to all the Silver Falcons' supporters

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