THE AIRFORCE - SILVER FALCONS
Unlike many other air forces, the Silver Falcons are not a full-time team, but are made up of instructors and ground crew from the Central Flying School (AFB Langebaanweg) responsible for the ab initio flying training of the SAAF. They practice after regular working hours and perform most of their displays over weekends.
Since Col Chris Prins started the Silver Falcons in 1967, 350 displays have been performed with the Impala Mk I, while a further 174 displays have been performed with the PC-7 Mk II Astra up to 7 October 2007.
A brief history is provided on the team, including the 'Bumbling Bees', which was originally formed in 1953 by Commandant Chris Prins of the Air Operation School (AOS) at Langebaanweg, flying Vampire FB Mk9s. However, the Bumbling Bees disbanded when the AOS moved to AFB Pietersburg at the end of 1967.
Impala Mk Is were used for an aerobatic performance at the opening of the Atlas factory in November 1967, with the team being led by Cmdt Chris Prins. Realising the potential of this aircraft, Cmdt Chris Prins re-formed his aerobatic team in late November 1968, but the new name "Silver Falcons" was only adopted at a later stage. From then on the team regularly stole the show with their world-class performances in silver aircraft. The aircraft are standard Impala Mk Is, although with smoke generator equipment in place of the second seat. Even the silver colour scheme was standard for the Impala training fleet.
A new scheme was adopted in 1985, of a generally silver aircraft painted with striping in the colours of the Republic: orange, white and royal blue.
With the rationalisation process in South Africa, the team adopted a new colour scheme of dark blue, white and arctic blue. The first performance of the team in their new colour scheme was a 6 ship display (trailing smoke of the new national colours) at the Presidential Inauguration of Nelson Mandela on 10 May 1994.
The last display by the Silver Falcons flying the Impala was Team 51 in September 1997.
Due to budgetary and other restrictions, the team became dormant for two years. The first display by the new Silver Falcon Team 52 in October 1999 introduced the PC-7 Mk II Astra as the new team mount.
The team has lobbied long and hard for a new identity and a new design was approved in 2008. After eight years of flying the PC-7 Mk 2 Astra in the standard SAAF colour scheme of white and red, the team aircraft were repainted in a unique blue and white livery and the team was expanded to a 5-ship again. The first display in the new livery was flown at the Africa Aerospace and Defense Expo at AFB Ysterplaat in September 2008. The team now has their own identity and are therefore distinguished from the rest of the Astra fleet which is used for training.
The Silver Falcons have always used a C-47TP Dakota for their logistics, carrying spare parts, equipment and to carry support personnel between shows. However, the aircraft was always in ití's standard 35 Squadron livery. For a short period in late 2012, Silver Falcons Team 73 introduced "Gooney Bird". C-47TP Dakota 6840 which was painted in the Silver Falcons colours and used, operations permitting, to accompany the team to various airshows and often performs a solo display itself! At the same time, Silver Falcon No 6 was added to the formation team.