Eulogy-Arrie De Klerk at the SAAF Memorial, Bays Hill, Swartkops

By Karl Jensen and Phillip Weyers


Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. This epitomizes Arrie De Klerk's life and contribution to the wonderful world of aviation.

In January 1962, Arrie de Klerk and Karl Jensen both joined the SAAF and got chased around for 3 months by noisy NCOs at the SAAF Gymnasium. "Fortunately," Karl recalls, "we were both selected with 74 others for pilot training at CFS Dunnottar, commencing in April that year. The 9 months of training was by no means a walk in the park. Besides the intensive academic study required, starting basic flying training on the Harvard was a mighty challenge. The training, in retrospect, was superb and at the end of the course we qualified as Pilots GD (General Duties) and were awarded our wings by General Bennie Viljoen on 6 December that year after 200-230 hours of flying. Arrie received his Commission from State President CR Swart in September 1963."

Arrie attained his Commercial Pilots License in 1966 and joined SAA in April 1969. He flew as a First officer on the Boeing 707. This was the usual entry course where the 1st Officer learnt about the way the airline functioned, the flight deck gradient and for in-flight relief of the primary crew.

The Airforce Memorial at Bays Hill.

Arrie's first officer experience was followed by a conversion as co-pilot onto the Boeing 727, and then as co-pilot onto the Boeing 707 followed by the Boeing 747. The airline was a wonderful place to fly and with Arrie having had good basic training at Dunnottar on Harvards, he had no problem in flying these much bigger and enormously complex aircraft.

Arrie was promoted to Captain in 1979 on the Hawker Siddely 748, followed by Captain on the B737s for nearly 2,000 hours. He became a Snr Captain when he qualified on the Airbus A300 in 1985. In 1990, Arrie converted as Captain on the Jumbo Boeing 747, the "Queen of the Skies".

Col Bill de Pinho opened the ceremony and Reverend Trevor Slade conducted the service.

1990 was the same year that the Harvard Club of SA was formed. It was a far-sighted project that Arrie initiated and tackled with tremendous enthusiasm. Arrie was the main driving force behind the club's formation and he is often referred to as the 'father' of the Harvard Club. The club was founded on the 20th of April during the 50th anniversary of the Harvard in South African Air Force service. The SAAF announced the phasing out of this excellent training aircraft, to be replaced by the Astra. The SAAF, as well as the government, agreed to allot several Harvards to the Harvard Club for preservation. Ten aircraft were handed over to the Harvard Club in July 1995 and declared National Heritage items. The Chief of the Air Force at the time was Lieutenant General James Kriel and the founder Chairman of the Harvard Club was appropriately, Arrie de Klerk. These ten aircraft were to be preserved for the people of South Africa and at least six of these Harvards were always to remain in an authentic SAAF colour scheme, as is the case today. Arrie instigated and compiled the regular club newsletter 'The Wobbler' for many years.

Family, friends and colleagues at ceremony.

Arrie flew all models of the Boeing 747 that SAA operated, barring the -400 model. They were the 747 Super B, the SP, the Stretched Upper Deck (SUD) model 300, the Combi and the pure Freighter, until his compulsory retirement in 2004 at the young age of 60. Arrie flew the last flight of the Boeing 747 Classic in SAA. He accumulated a total of 20,024 hours and 50 minutes of flying time - all accident free.

There were many individuals in the airline who did their job, but never served voluntarily on other related organisations that were established for the benefit of everyone. Arrie was not one of these:- Arrie was a dedicated aviator and served in the SAA Pilots Association as Vice President for 2 years and as President from 1987 - 1989. He was awarded the highest accolade of SAAPA, the Scroll of Merit in 2002. At the same time, he also served on the Board of the SAAF Museum.

I salute you Arrie - the world was a better place when you were around. Your legacy will live on while your soul without doubt, rests in peace in that great big hangar in the sky.

Karl Jensen

Captain Karl Jensen and Col. Mike Louw who read Phillip Weyers's eulogy. Phillip was hospitalised with a suspected heart attack.

Phillip Weyers new about Arrie before he eventually met him when they were both members of the South African Airforce Association. "Arrie," Phillip said, "joined the SAAF Association in 1979 and was appointed Chairman of the Eastern Transvaal Branch in 1982. After being appointed National Vice President in 1985, Arrie represented the SAAF Association in 1986 with President Ron Haywood at the Delville Wood Memorial in the Somme region of France. A year later in 1987, Arrie was appointed National President and aged 47 at the time, remains the youngest President in SAAFA's 76-year history. Arrie served as National President with great distinction."

After completing his term as National President, Arrie was elected Vice-Chairman of the Council of Military Veterans' Organisation under Brigadier General Roy Andersen, CMVO then a voluntary umbrella body for all Veterans Organisations. While in this post, Arrie visited the Republic of China, or Taiwan, to gather intelligence on how they dealt with and supported their military veterans.

While serving on the SAAF Association NEC with Arrie, where he was a great character and wonderful company, Arrie re-initiated the Silver Queen Air Rally, so named commemorating the flight by General Sir Pierre van Ryneveld and Air Vice Marshal Quintin Brand undertaken in a Vickers Vimy from Brooklands in England to Cape Town in 1920.

A flypast of four of the Harvard Club's Harvards

In 2010 Arrie was awarded the Order of the South African Association in the Gold Class, the 23rd person to be so recognised in recognition and appreciation for his SAAF Association passion, dedication and achievements. Of the criteria attached to being recognised for a SAAF Association award is: "It is the consistently exceptional, above and beyond the call of duty that is recognised, a member who consistently does more than is required or expected". None personified these criteria better than Arrie.

After Arrie and Carol emigrated to Howick, he transferred to the Durban Branch and continued to dedicate time and effort to the SAAF Association as he had always done and was appointed a Country Vice President in 2013. This appointment is in recognition of past achievements, but more importantly, in recognition of the respect and affection in which the appointee is held by his SAAF Association colleagues.

The missing man formation.

Also, while residing in Howick, Arrie discovered that the John Household Goodman Memorial nearby had fallen into disrepair and become derelict. With his passion for aviation, Arrie set about with his customary enthusiasm and energy to correct the unfortunate state of affairs and garnered the support of the SAAF Association, the Royal Air Forces Association, SAPPI, Mondi and the South African Heritage Resource Agency to correct the unacceptable situation. Today, thanks to Arrie's efforts, the Memorial is in a fine state and enjoys a substantial number of visitors.

To Carol, Madeleine, Lisa and family, I extend on behalf of the South African Air Force Association my heartfelt condolences with your immense loss, may you have strength and believe that Arrie is flying a Harvard in the big circuit in the sky with the other exceptional people and aviation legends who went before.

Philip Weyers

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