Written by Kim Helfrich and Dean Wingrin, Wednesday, 01 October 2014
Two factors are behind the current temporary closure of the SA Air Force (SAAF) Museum at AFB Zwartkop as well as its satellites at Air Force Bases Port Elizabeth and Ysterplaat.
Museum Officer Commanding Lieutenant Colonel Mike O’Connor said an attempt to break into and remove items from a display case in one of the exhibit hangars at Zwartkop was “luckily” nipped in the bud.
“Although nothing was taken it alerted me to the fact that I currently do not have sufficient personnel on base to perform all the necessary duties, one of which is keeping an eye open for people wanting ‘souvenirs’ of their visit to Zwartkop.
“By far the majority of personnel at all three SAAF Museum centres are Reserve Force members who receive a limited allocation of days to work a year and, in a number of instances, these days have now been used up,” O’Connor said.
He has started the process of obtaining the necessary days to allow Reserve Force members to return to work at Zwartkop, Ysterplaat and Port Elizabeth and is confident all three military aviation history centres will be open by next Friday “at the latest”.
“Rest assured, the SAAF Museum and its satellites will again be open to the public.”
The closure announcement was made earlier today via a Facebook posting which stated: “Please be informed that the SAAF Museum (ZWK, PE and Ysterplaat) is closed to civilians as of today until further notice”.
Last November O’Connor also had to declare a section of the museum’s outdoor display at AFB Zwartkop off-limits after a sonar buoy was removed from its lone Shackleton. The buoy was recovered and the issue amicably resolved but it did give rise to the need for extra security – at extra cost which the Museum can ill afford.
Previous Museum Officer Commanding Lieutenant Colonel Willie Nel upped security, using Reserve Force members and Friends of the Museum, after a number of attempts at removing gauges, dials and other instruments from cockpits.
The SAAF Museum is not rated as an operational unit of the air force and relies heavily on its own funding, the majority of which is generated by its annual airshow. Official SAAF funding is limited and Reserve Force members called up are also paid from this source.
There will be no flying training day at AFB Zwartkop this Saturday but it has nothing to do with the Museum closure.
“Museum aircraft put in a fair share of hours at the recent Aerospace Africa and Defence (AAD) exhibition at AFB Waterkloof and they need a break,” O’Connor said.