It has been twenty years since my last visit to the museum - and boy, what a change. I was last there when the 2003 airshow held at Ysterplaat. A lot has changed since then
The Museum is run by a bunch of aviation enthusiast who volunteer their time to refurb and maintain several old aircraft that were used by the SAAF in days gone by.
The visit brought back so many good memories for me personally.
I took a small bunch of people from our village to the museum. We had a dedicated guide (Pierre du Toit) who was very knowledgeable and spoke enthusiastically about each aircraft and answered any questions.
The museum is divided into two hangars - one on the "live" side of the airbase and the other on the non-live side. The larger of the two hangars houses currently about thirteen aircraft, a few of which are under intense restoration to static display condition. A Buccaneer (416) has been refurbed and is looking really good - the paintwork alone has cost the museum in excess of R120k to repaint. The volunteers are currently adding finishing touches to the aircraft - it will be one of the focal pieces of the collection in my opinion.
A superb Sabre (372) decked out in Korean war colours is another fantastic looking machine. I used to watch them (many years ago) from the top of the Voortrekker monument as a young boy, flying in formation - taking off from Swartkops airbase - those were the days! Such a beautiful aircraft!
There are two Mirage examples in the collection. A Mirage III R2Z (857) and a Mirage F1CZ (213). I have a connection to the F1CZ in that I worked for Fuchs Electronics during the early 80's. Fuchs were contracted to repair the Cyrano radar and one of my jobs was to design and produce a device which gave an audio warning at a specific distance to the pilot when approaching an enemy aircraft in guns mode. We made the device and I believe it was tested but never went into production - the aircraft that it was tested in was 213.
I was very impressed with the fact that the aircraft are clean and dust free (mostly) and under cover. We really need to keep our heritage in tact no matter what.
Other aircraft housed in this hangar are:
Ø Impala Mk I (460) Ø Douglas C47 (6832) - I believe a veteran of WW2 and currently under extensive restoration Ø Harvard AT-6 (7293) Ø Albatross P-166S (896) Ø Alouette III (611) Ø Super Frelon SA-312L (314) Ø Wasp (93) Ø Whirlwind HAS22 (WV224) ex Royal Navy Ø Missing from this lineup is the Shackleton (1722) which is being repaired after a mishap with the recent engine run
The Frelon was another memory for me as I was part of the bunch of invitees who flew up to the Drakenburg in 1990 just prior to them being retired from the SAAF. One of the greatest SAAF helicopter pilots on that trip - Monster Wilkins. I remember standing on top of Cathedral Peak and seeing Monster flying a Frelon over us on a final flight for the Frelon in the mountains.
While I enjoyed a boerewors roll, I had a chance to chat to John Wilson who is the current chairman of the SAAF Museum volunteers and he told me that the museum is totally funded by donations and sales of merchandise. And of course, sales of boerewors rolls…. He said that a couple of years back, the museum was lucky if 20 people visited on a Saturday. On the day we were there, there were 250 people coming to see these beautiful aircraft. The museum also has an impressive poster timeline and artifact collection housed in the Collective Heritage Display Hall. It tells the story of the SAAF from its beginnings to the present day.
For a thorough visit, you will need at least three hours to cover the entire collection. The museum provides tour guides so you won't have to guess which aircraft you are looking at. The displays are well documented with signage which is easy to read. The museum opens at 9:00 and closes at 13:00 every Saturday.
Volunteers are always welcome and you can contact the museum if you wish to get involved. The volunteers spend some time after the closing time in the small pub discussing what they did on the day and aviation in general. A really worthwhile cause indeed.
The best way to contact the museum is via the Facebook page - Friends of SAAF Museum - Ysterplaat.