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85 Years of South African Air Force

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ISBN: 0958438897

Reviewed By: Dean Wingrin

This book records the individual aircraft histories of the thousands of aircraft that have worn the SAAF roundal or insignia over the past 85 years. It is, essentially, a 'numbers' book.

It was not the authors intention to produce a definative history of each aircraft type in SAAF service, but for SAAF enthusiasts who track planes and who wish to have easy reference to past and current airframe inventories. It contains serials and fates of approximately 8 000 aircraft, from the DH.4 to the SAAB Gripen, over 112 aircraft types in all.

Each type commences with a brief introduction to the aircraft, followed by a listing of aircraft by serial, constructor's number, date into service, previous identity and subsequent fate. If this sounds familiar, then it is. Much of the introduction and listings for many of the post WWII types have been copied over, word for word, from the authors previous publication, African Air Forces. An additional listing of all airframes written off in service follows each aircraft type, detailing the serial, date and aircrew/passengers.

The aircraft types are listed in approximate chronological order in which they entered service. While there may have been some logic to this arrangement to trace the 'history' of the SAAF via aircraft types, it does make it incredibly difficult to find a particular aircraft and the book does not contain any table of contents or index! This is a major oversight.

The author has gone through considerable trouble over a period of time to compile such a vast list, utilising official SAAF archives. Given the nature of the publication, it is too easy to nit-pick, but as it was published in mid-2006, many of the current airframes are listed as being current as at 2004. It was also interesting to note that the ZS registrations were not provided for all the ex-SAA Ju-86's, although these have been available for years.

There are four Rolls of Honour covering the three eras of the SAAF: 1921 - 1939, WWII 1940 - 1947, and post war 1947 - 2005 and RAF members who died in aircraft accidents in South Africa during 1940 - 1947. The Rolls are in chronological order and include the aircraft type, serial and squadron. It contains the ranks, initials and surnames of appox 4 900 SAAF/RAF and other persons who were involved in losses.

Despite the odd negative comment above, this book is recommended for anyone who is serious about the history of the SAAF and its' aircraft.

298 x 210mm, 445 pp, 200 b/w photos, 128 colour profiles

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