Shackleton 1722 DVD
Author: Andrew Schofield
Reviewed By: Dean Wingrin
The Avro Shackleton was acquired by the SAAF in 1957 and served until 1984 when the last examples were retired. Although only the RAF and the SAAF operated the Shackleton, the aircraft left her mark in the heart of all who flew and maintained her.
Shackleton 1722 is the last airworthy Shackleton flying today, lovingly restored and maintained by 'Pottie' Potgieter, 'Buks' Bronkhorst, Pat and their team at AFB Ysterplaat. The film is directed and produced by Andrew Schofield, renowned wildlife photographer and producer and is the product of four years of close cooperation with the SAAF. As Andrew says, the aircraft has Soul. It is thus no surprise that aviation enthusiasts from all over the world come to Cape Town just to see her fly. It is no easy task to keep such a large aircraft flying, requiring major dedication by those who lovingly restored 1722 after the demise of 1716. This is their story.
The film is told from the side of the air and ground crews, just about all of whom have retired from the SAAF and are now members of the SAAF Reserve. In fact, the average age of the crew is 65! The viewer is made part of the crew, from taking the Shackleton out of her hanger, to maintenance and flight. Interspersed with the flight is a potted history of the Shackleton in SAAF service, interviews with air and ground crew and a visit to the Newark Air Museum in the UK where Sqn Leader Brian Withers, under Shackleton Mk 2 WR977 in typical English showers, discusses the role of the Shackleton in the RAF. A review of a typical airshow flying routine is also included.
Also included is the story of Shackleton 1716 (Pelican 16) and her demise in the dead of the night, amongst the sand dunes in the Western Sahara in 1994 while on her way to an airshow in the UK. Actual footage of their rescue and the Mayday transmission are included.
Shackleton 1722 is a very special lady and this film is about her and, above all, the dedication of 'Pottie' Potgieter and his team. Without them, the Shackleton would not fly. It is no coincidence that the aircraft is also known as 'Potties Private Bomber'! Although brief mention is made of the background and history of the Shackleton, it is by no means an inclusive history of the Shackleton in SAAF service. Included are photos and reminisces relating to the delivery of the first Shackletons to South Africa and a brief mention is made to patrols along the coast of Angola, but no mention is made to her other operational roles, nor of the tragic crash of 1718 in the Stettynsberg mountains in the Western Cape during the winter of 1963 whilst en-route to an exercise with the South African and Royal Navies. These are minor critisms however, as the film is about 1722.
The production is professional, with music by Christa Steyn and the SA Army Band. In fact, my only major critism is that, at times, the commentary does not relate directly to what is being viewed on screen and the extended production duration over four years is evident in, amongst other things, the quality of the footage and sound, as well as the changing weather conditions in the background.
Do not let the above put you off however. This is an excellent film, making the viewer a member of the team and the film is a valuable record of a remarkable story about remarkable people and their passion for a remarkable aircraft! The DVD will certainly take pride of place in any aircraft enthusiasts' library or collection.
Watching and hearing the growl of those four Rolls-Royce Griffon engines will take on a whole new meaning after watching this DVD, knowing what dedication it has taken by her crew to keep her in the tip-top condition that she is.
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