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I N F O R M . C O N N E C T . M O T I VAT E . I N S P I R E



MAJOR HEYBRECH VAN NIEKERK Major Van Niekerk has made history by becoming the first female member to fly with the Silver Falcons, the aerobatic display team of the SAAF. PHOTOGRAPH SOURCE:

MAJOR HEYBRECH VAN NIEKERK SILVER FALCON PILOT & INSTRUCTOR Major Heybrech van Niekerk was born in Witbank and joined the SAAF in October 2002 and qualified as a pilot in June 2005. She was selected for the fighter line but sent to 41 Squadron to await the course intake at 85 Squadron (Impala Hawk interface). She requested to complete the instructors course due to the increased waiting period for her course intake at 85 Combat Flying School. She qualified as a SAAF instructor in 2008 and as a B-category instructor in January 2010. In March 2010, she was appointed as the Ground Liaison Officer for Silver Falcon Team 70. On the 5th of August 2010, Major Van Niekerk - callsign ‘Valiant’, a decorated officer of the SAAF, made history as the first selected female to fly as a member of the Silver Falcons, the official aerobatic display team of the SAAF, and validated as Falcon 2 of Team 71 in March 2011. She flew as Falcon 2 in Team 71 and 72 and now flies as Falcon 4 in Team 73. On the 3rd of August 2012, Major Van Niekerk received the Tshumelo Ikatelaho medal at the Medal Parade held at AFB Langebaanweg. The Tshumelo Ikatelaho medal is awarded to officers and other ranks of the SANDF who have distinguished themselves through the execution of duty through brave or meritous conduct, leadership, devotion to duty, praiseworthy service or other distinguished conduct concerning campaigns, military operations or notable military actions.

THE ‘FIRST LADY’ OF THE SILVER FALCONS MARCH 2011. The first official display of Team 71 took place at the Wings Parade held at AFB Langebaanweg yesterday. Team 71 members for the 2011 air show season, which includes its first female member, is as follows: FALCON 1: Captain (now Major) Roy Sproul; FALCON 2: Captain (now Major) Heybrech van Niekerk; FALCON 3: Captain (now Major) Buti Tsebe; FALCON 4: Captain (now Major) Gerhard Lourens and FALCON 5: Major Beau Skarda. The Silver Falcons is the official aerobatic display team of the South African Air Force. Based at Air Force Base Langebaanweg near Cape Town, the Silver Falcons fly the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II. The team consists of five display pilots, of which Falcon 5 is the soloist. Major Heybrech van Niekerk is the first female member of the Silver Falcons, who gave their first display in November 1967. Major Van Niekerk was previously the Ground Liaison Officer for Team 70. Major Sproul took over as Leader from Major Ternent, while the other new member, Major Skarda, replaces Major Frylinck. Original article by Dean Wingrin (THIS IS AN EDITED VERSION). SOURCE:


Introducing Team 71 (L to R): Roy Sproul (Falcon 1), Heybrech van Niekerk (Falcon 2), Buti Tsebe (Falcon 3), Gerhard Lourens (Falcon 4) and Beau Skarda (Falcon 5).

PHOTOGRAPH: Irene McCullagh

‘MOTHER GOOSE’ FIRST FEMALE SILVER FALCON Her nickname is “Mother Goose” because she always has a plaster or painkiller on hand if one of her fellow Falcon team needs it - but this Goose, Major Heybrech van Niekerk, flies with the best of the best. On the 5th of August 2010, at 29 years old, she has entered history as the first female to fly as a member of the Silver Falcons, the aerobatic display team of the South African Air Force. The Silver Falcons, consisting of five pilots, fly spectacular stunts in their Pilatus PC7 MK2 aircrafts at airshows and special events. Major Van Niekerk said it was a dream come true after a year serving as this elite team’s Ground Liaison Officer. Her first official performance with the team, on March 24, at the Air Force base in Langebaan’s grand parade for students who have passed flight training.

In 2005, Major Van Niekerk qualified as a SAAF pilot. She says the additional pressure to perform in a male-dominated environment, come from within her. “When I climb into that plane, I just focus on the leader and the task at hand.” She has 1650 military flying hours under her belt to-date. Major Roy Sproul, team leader of the Silver Falcons, said the requirements and standards are extremely high: “To be eligible you must be, at least, a B-category flying instructor, which means you need 200 hours of military instruction behind you; have a minimum of 1000 military flying hours and have operational tour experience. “ The team often fly at up to 550km/h, about 100m above the ground, with the aircraft’s wings between 0.5 m and 1.5 m apart. “Therefore, we choose only the best of the best,” said Major Sproul. By Karin Burger | Translated by Laurian Miles SOURCE:


Excellence through endurance Passionate aviators.


By PO Dennis Ndaba Photo: Sgt David Nomtshongwana he SA Air Force College held a commissioning parade at the SA Air Force College in Thaba Tshwane on 19 June 2003. It was the first time that the Air Squadron Sword was presented. "The United Kingdom Air Squadron was founded in 1966 by a group of passionate aviators with a common interest in all forms of aviation. Over the years the Air Squadron developed and from modest beginnings progressed to the point where it undertook flights to Russia, Jordan, Tanzania, Morocco, Pakistan and the USA, apart from widening its links with aviation internationally. The Air Squadron also developed its support for aviation at grass roots level," said Lt Gen Roelf Beukes, the Chief of the SA Air Force, during his address. "Part of this support was to introduce a trophy, promoting aviation awareness, for the best air cadet in the UK, and in the United States Air Force. This year the UK Air Squadron visited South Africa. During this visit the Air Squadron Trophy in the form of a Wilkinson Sword was handed over to the SA Air Force. "This Air Squadron Sword will not only serve as a reminder of the very strong link the SA Air Force has with the Royal Air Force and the UK Air Squadron, but also as a motivator to all future officers to make an effort to earn this really remarkable piece of workmanship," said Lt Gen Beukes. Lt Gen Beukes said that the cornerstone of the SA Air Force has always been professionalism, adherence to high flying standards and work ethics, self-discipline and dedication. He also reiterated that commissioning is not simply another

Lt Gen Roelf Beukes congratulates the first recipient of the Air Squadron Sword for the best overall learner, CO Heybrech van Niekerk, while Col "CD" Schoeman, the Officer Commanding SA Air Force College, is looking on. CO Van Niekerk also won the Old Mutual Officership Trophy and Leadership Trophy. promotion: on the contrary, it is a great honour and with it comes increased responsibility. "The Air Force is moving rapidly into a new era, and I cannot think of a better time for you to become involved at officers' level. As officers in the SA Air Force, you will all play a vital role in the future of our Air Force. I am convinced that good progress has been made by the Air Force towards shaping the future. Towards the end of last year the Air Force Board approved the SA Air Force strategic transformation plan aimed at the achievement of vision 2012," said Lt Gen Beukes. "This, we believe, is a milestone document in the history of the Air Force as it provides a clearly defined road map towards the desired endstate of vision 2012. A number of key strategic issues that the Air Force has to deal with successfully in order to realise vision 2012 have been identified. The first is the transformation of the Air Force's human resource component to a point where it will be truly representative of the nation it

serves, and where it will be sufficiently competent to apply air power to the maximum benefit of the country," said Lt Gen Beukes. Lt Gen Beukes added that another crucial strategic issue that has been identified is the need to bring the Air Force to a point where it will be affordable and sustainable. A key factor in achieving the levels of affordability and sustainability that we are aiming for is the direct involvement of local industry, not only through improved support concepts and contracts, but also through the innovative use of Public Private Partnership initiatives. "A third key strategic issue is one that relates directly to our constitutional mandate, and that is the provision of a combat ready Air Force. As mentioned, the shifting of operating funds will directly benefit force preparation, and we foresee a continuous increase in the annual flying hours of all flying units between 2003 and 2010, within the bounds of the funds allocated in the budget," concluded Lt Gen Beukes.


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CAPTAIN HEYBRECH VAN NIEKERK’S SAAF AWARDS: Basic Military Training: Academic Trophy Officers Formative Course: Leadership Trophy, Officership Trophy and Best Overall Student (First recipient of the UK Squadron Sword) > Pilots Wing Course 105/05: Best Overall Flying Trophy and Best Overall Student > Tshumelo Ikatelaho Medal 2012 > >


The Silver Falcons in action! PHOTOGRAPH: Christo Crous

THE SILVER FALCONS AIR CREW The Silver Falcons is the aerobatic display team of the South African Air Force. Their aim is to inspire the youth, promote aviation and showcase the skill of SAAF pilots to the general public. The team flies the Pilatus PC-7 in a 5-ship formation aerobatic display. In most military aerobatic teams today, display flying and ground crew duties are coupled to a full-time posting in a dedicated squadron. The Silver Falcons, however, is a part-time team. Pilots and ground crew all perform display duties as an over-and-above task to their primary postings. Based at Air Force Base Langebaanweg on the South African West Coast, the Silver Falcons are all full-time ab-initio flying instructors at the Central Flying School. To date, 97 pilots have been selected to fly in 73 different teams for the Silver Falcons. Each pilot is assigned a unique, sequential number. Whenever one or more team members change, a new team number is also allocated. Falcons 1-5 make up the flying members of the team. Falcon 6 is the Ground Liaison and Safety Officer (GLO) and Falcon 7 is the Public Realtions Officer (PRO)

THE SILVER FALCONS GROUND SUPPORT CREW Few people realise the amount of work required and all the procedures in place to keep a military aircraft serviceable. Often out of the limelight, there is a hard-working team of specialists to ensure that the Silver Falcons not only go up, but also come down with their machines in good working order. At home base, the Pilatus PC-7’s are maintained by the technicians of 2 Air Servicing Unit. On deployment, a team of 8 to 12 technicians accompany the display team and contribute to the success of each aerial display. The total contingent is split into 2 “teams” who rotate the deployments throughout the year. In typical SAAF fashion, the ground crew members always create room for humour, rivalry and traditions when deployed. SOURCE:


Major Heybrech flying over Cape Town.


ABOUT AEROBATICS Aerobatics is the practice of flying maneuvers involving aircraft attitudes that are not used in normal flight. Aerobatics are performed in airplanes and gliders for training, recreation, entertainment and sport. Aerobatics also improve skills and handling of the aircraft. Some helicopters, such as the MBB Bo 105, are capable of limited aerobatic maneuvers. Most aerobatic maneuvers involve rotation of the aircraft about its longitudinal (roll) axis or lateral (pitch) axis. Other maneuvers, such as a spin, displace the aircraft in all three axis simultaneously. Maneuvers are often combined to form a complete aerobatic sequence for entertainment or competition. Aerobatic flying requires a broader set of piloting skills and exposes the aircraft to greater structural stress (called G-loading) than for a normal flight (though the aircraft is placed under structural stress, each aircraft has a limitation to the amount of Gloading the aircraft can sustain - this is called the manouvre envelope). Manouvre envelope is not only G-loading but minimum and maximum speeds, landing gear operation speeds etc. it is the envelope in which the aircraft can be operated safely without harming, damaging or causing structural damage on the aircraft. In some countries, the pilot must wear a parachute when performing aerobatics. While many pilots fly aerobatics for recreation, some choose to fly in aerobatic competitions, a judged sport.

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW In the early days of flying, some pilots used their aircraft as part of a flying circus to entertain. Maneuvers were flown for artistic reasons or to draw gasps from onlookers. In due course some of these maneuvers were found to allow aircraft to gain tactical advantage during aerial combat or dogfights between fighter aircraft. Aerobatic aircraft fall into two categories — specialist aerobatic, and aerobatic capable. Specialist designs such as the Pitts Special, the Extra 200 and 300, and the Sukhoi Su-26M and Sukhoi Su-29 aim for ultimate aerobatic performance. This comes at the expense of general purpose use such as touring, or ease of non aerobatic handling such as landing. At a more basic level, aerobatic capable aircraft, such as the Cessna 152 Aerobat model, can be dual purpose — equipped to carrying passengers and luggage, as well as being capable of basic aerobatic figures. Flight formation aerobatics are flown by teams of up to sixteen aircraft, although most teams fly between four and ten aircraft. Some are state funded to reflect pride in the armed forces whilst others are commercially sponsored. Coloured smoke trails may be emitted to emphasise the patterns flown and/or the colours of a national flag. Usually each team will use aircraft


similar to one another finished in a special and dramatic colour scheme, thus emphasising their entertainment function. Teams often fly V-formations (VIC-formations) or Echelon-formations (Echelon is in a line like VIC left or VIC right only); they will not fly directly behind another aircraft because of danger from wake vortices or engine exhaust. Aircraft will always fly slightly below the aircraft in front, if they follow in line behind one another in a straight line, this is called Line Astern. Aerobatic maneuvers flown in a jet-powered aircraft are easier to fly than a propeller aircraft due to the absence of torque, propeller slipstream and the ever present danger of chopping up the wingman with the aircraft propellor. To enhance the effect of aerobatic maneuveres smoke is sometimes generated; the smoke allows viewers to see the path travelled by the aircraft. Due to safety concerns, the smoke is not a result of combustion but is produced by the vaporization of fog oil into a fine aerosol, achieved either by injecting the oil into the hot engine exhaust or by the use of a dedicated device that can be fitted in any position on the aircraft. The first military aerobatic team to use smoke at will during displays was Fleet Air Arm 702 Squadron “The Black Cats” at the Farnborough Air show in September 1957.

TRAINING Aerobatics are taught to military fighter pilots as a means of developing flying skills and for tactical use in combat. Aerobatics and formation flying is not limited solely to fixed-wing aircraft; the British Army, Royal Navy, Spanish Air Force and the Indian Air Force, among others, have helicopter display teams. All aerobatic maneuvers demand training and practice to avoid accidents. Such accidents are rare but can result in fatalities. Low-level aerobatics are extremely demanding and airshow pilots must demonstrate their ability before being allowed to gradually reduce the height at which they may fly their show.

COMPETITION Competitions start at Primary, or Graduate level and proceed in complexity through Sportsman, Intermediate and Advanced, with Unlimited being the top competition level. Experienced aerobatic pilots have been measured to pull +/-5G for short periods while unlimited pilots can perform more extreme maneuvers and experience higher G levels - possibly up to +8/6G. The limits for positive G are less than for negative G (blood rushes to the brain or “pools” in the brain which can result in death if an artery bursts - negative G is extremely dangerous. Unfortunately, positive G loading can lead to loss of consciousness at any loading due to a number of factors playing part eg. lack of fitness, smoking and drinking all reduce G tolerance, not bracing properly for the onset of G loading etc. (some pilots have experienced glock at as little as 3G).

PERFORMANCE Aerobatics are most likely to be seen at a public airshows. SOURCE:


SAWIA is a registered non-profit organisation (Reg # NPO 089-579) with the South African Department of Social Services. designed by m a n t a r a y |


SAWIA_Womens Month_2012_11 August_SAAF_Major Heybrech van Niekerk  
SAWIA_Womens Month_2012_11 August_SAAF_Major Heybrech van Niekerk  

MAJOR HEYBRECH VAN NIEKERK SILVER FALCON PILOT & INSTRUCTOR Major Heybrech van Niekerk was born in Witbank, joined the SAAF in October 2002...