SAAF Museum and Pink Drive cancer awareness initiative

By Garth Calitz

The SAAF Museum and a group of dedicated volunteers took hands with Pink Drive, a cancer awareness organisation to host a charity drive with a difference. Eight volunteer 'static Pilots 'managed to sit in four fighter jets and an Avro Shackleton maritime patrol aircraft for 100 Hours to raise funds for Cancer awareness.

At 8:00 on Tuesday morning 26th February the event was declared open by the officer Commanding SAAF Museum, Lt Col Mike O'Connor with a parade following a Parachute jump by the Air Force skydiving team “The Golden Eagles”. Col Eddie Crouse officer commanding AFB Zwartkop handed over goodie bags to the “volunteer pilots”. The Pilots then marched off to their aircraft which became their home for the next 4.16 days. Each volunteer pilot was backed up by two ground crew who spent the 100 hours making sure their charges had enough to eat and drink.

For Lt Col Mike O'Connor, Officer Commanding of the museum who had been part of the planning for the past few months, the reality of breast cancer became very personal when Linda O'Connor his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer no less than a week before the event. Linda was about to go in for surgery at the time of the opening. Linda we wish you all the best and may you have a speedy and clear recovery. Mike, Linda, Lindsay and Mike junior you are in our prayers at this difficult time.

During the 100 hours the team was joined by celebrities and well known personalities from all walks of life, who gave up one hour of their time to sit in an additional Mirage III. Many “Big name” Celebrities heeded the call to support this worthy cause. Johan Stemmet of “Noot vir Noot” fame did his stint and enjoyed it so much he asked to sit for an additional two hours. The celebrety aircraft was occupied by singers, actors, beauty queens, sportsman, fashion designers, political figures, radio personalities, senior Air force personnel, TV presenters, Aviation legends and even a Baroness.

Well known songstress Yvone Chaka Chaka affectionately known as 'The Princes of Africa' who is also a Honorary Colonel of the Air Force Gymnasium, took over the hot seat from the Chief of the Air Force Lt Gen Zakes Msimang who shared his hour with the previous Chief Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano. The light hearted banter between these two great pilots, one a Chopper driver and the other a Jet Jock, had the public in stitches.

The fundraising took the form of many competitions which were held throughout the four days. 'Discover the Museum', a treasure hunt, encouraged the entrants to move through all the exhibition halls and collect answers to questions and in the process the public were exposed to the proud history of the South African Air Force. All the correct entries were entered in to a draw where many great prizes could be won. The Golden Eagles skydiving team jumped daily and released ribbons over a demarcated area, plots were sold and prizes were given to the owner of the plots where the ribbons landed.

Never seen before South African Air force movies were shown in the Historic DC4 Sky Master. All patrons were also entered into a lucky number draw and amazing prizes were given away. Salomé Swanepoel, renowned aviation artist, donated a commissioned painting of an aircraft of the winner's choice. The painting was raffled off and the draw was done on Saturday. Pink ribbons were also sold and once again the all patrons were in line to win wonderful prizes.

In the run-up to the event Radio Ripple, a local Pretoria radio station ran a SMS competition with a 20 minute Harvard flight kindly donated by The Harvard Club going to the winner. Hirsh Centurion donated a Samsung Galaxy tab that was just one of the many prices that was won. Riaan Grobler a presenter from Ripple made what may be the first live on air broadcast from under a tandem canopy flown by professional skydiver Graham Field. Chris Briers from the newly formed Air Team supplied and flew the Xtol PAC 750 as a jump ship, Both Graham and Chris gave their time and equipment at no charge.

Tony Gibson and Riaan Struwig from Flight unlimited showed off their skill at flying their powered paragliders, doing two twilight displays on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. The propellers on the PPG's have been embedded with a LED light system that spells out massages as they fly, the public were in awe as they manoeuvred low and slow.

Rain unfortunately ruined all the activities planned for Friday evening, but that didn't dampen the enthusiasm. The visitors were treated to a great evening's entertainment by the Ducktails in Disguise inside the Windsock Restaurant which also served as the HQ for the whole operation.

Saturday started off with the monthly flying training day at the Museum followed by the big finale a display by Scully Levine and the Gabriel Wings Team and accompanied by a Pyrotechnics display by the Army Engineering Core led by Col PC Manser. This marked the official end of the 100 hours. A large 8 x 5 meter screen was brought to the event free of charge by Prosound Live Telemetry. Live displays were transmitted from all the flying aircraft and when there was no flying visuals previous air displays were shown. Brain Emmenis from Capital Sounds supplied all the sound and commentary giving the whole event a typical airshow feel as only Brian can do.

The final Grand prize draw took place and due to the overwhelming support from the sponsors the draw took over an hour with literally hundreds of prizes given away.

The organiser would like to thank all the sponsors for the wonderful generosity shown and for all the support to PINK DRIVE may this annual event grow from strength to strength.

SAAF Museum

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