On Friday the 28th of September Genl Carlo Gagiano handed his responsibility as Chief of the South African Air Force over to Genl Fabian Msimang during a spectacular parade.
Genl Gagiano joined the SAAF in 1968 and qualified as a pilot on the Impala in December 1969. During his long and illustrious flying career he flew the Harvard, Astra, PC-12, Vampire, Impala, F-86-Sabre, Mirage III, the F1CZ and the Cheetah D & E aircraft. As a tribute to Genl Gagiano, most of the aircraft he flew during his career flew past to give him a walk down memory lane.
Genl Gagiano addressed the parade with a lively and concise speech but to most of us it was an emotional experience as this is the man who we all respected and know as the officer and the gentleman. He successfully increased the capabilities of the air force under significant political pressure and financial constraints, something we all, and especially those serving in the force are very proud of. There was absolute silence when Genl Gagiano received his final salute and those in the parade were bursting with pride.
I am sure that it must have been a sad moment for Genl Gagiano as he was closing a chapter in his life after 44 years but the expression on his face when he finally handed his command to Genl Mismang appeared to be filled with joy. Perhaps it was a sign of relief or just an expression of satisfaction handing it to a very qualified and capable successor. With Genl Msimang being an aviation enthusiast and who has flown the Mi 8, Mi 25, Allouette III, Oryx and A109E, he is certainly a soldier by heart with the aviation foundation required to lead this part of our defence force with the largest budget requirements and probably also the most political interference.
After the formalities the invited guests were again entertained with some low flying by a four-ship of Cessna Caravans, the Silver Falcons, a C130, a Hawk formation and a Gripen formation.
The grand finale was of course a solo Gripen display flown by Blokkies Joubert. This exhilarating display was the only way that we as South Africa could bid Genl Gagiano a heartily farewell and best wishes for the future.
Genl Gagiano, we salute you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!