SAAF Silver FalconsPerforming on Saturday, 21 May at the Kishugu Lowveld Air Show, the Silver Falcons Aerobatic Team is the official display team of the South African Air Force (SAAF).
The South African Air Force (SAAF) Silver Falcons team has its origins in the very first ever jet display team formed in the SAAF, the Bumbling Bees. The Bumbling Bees were formed in 1953 and flew the De Havilland Vampire in a 4-ship formation aerobatic sequence.
Disbanded in 1958, the team was reinstated in 1966 flying the Aermacchi MB-326 ‘Impala’ Mk I – the SAAF jet trainer at the time. The team was officially name the Silver Falcons Aerobatic Display Team on 22 November 1967.
Based at Air Force Base Langebaanweg close to Cape Town, the Silver Falcons currently fly the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II in a 5-ship routine.
Pilatus PC-7 Mk II Specifications
Wing span — 10.19 m
Length — 10.13 m
Max operating speed — 300 knots (555 km/h)
Maximum Mach number — Mach 0.6
Maximum operating altitude — 25 000 ft (7 622 m)
Stalling speed (Clean) — 75 knots (139 km/h)
Stalling speed (Landing configuration) — 65 knots (120 km/h)
Often out of the limelight, the Silver Falcons travel with a highly trained, specialist technical support crew with vast experience and a diverse knowledge of aircraft ensuring the team go up and come down with all machines in good working order.
On deployment, a team of 8 to 12 technicians accompany the display team and contribute to the success of each aerial display. Each “crew” consists of a Technical Officer, a Crew Chief, Avionic and Mechanical technicians, Survival specialists, Armourers (ejection seat) and MSC technical personnel for the mountains of paperwork and data capture that accompanies an aircraft system.
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, more than 100 pilots have been selected to fly in the 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).