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The History Of The Silver Falcons

The Silver Falcons Aerobatic Team is the official display team of the South African Air Force (SAAF).

The team has its origins in the very first ever jet display team formed in the SAAF, the Bumbling Bees. The Bumbling Bees were formed on 1953 and flew the De Havilland Vampire in a 4 ship formation aerobatic sequence. In 1958 the team was disbanded and remained dormant until 1966, when Commander Chris Prins got the team re-instated flying the newly acquired Aermacchi MB326 (Impala) jet trainer. In the following year a name change was agreed on and the Silver Falcons first flew on 24 November 1967.

In the decades following the establishment of the team, the SIlver Falcons developed a reputation for precision formation aerobatic displays and performed hundreds of displays all over the country in various different events. The team was also eventually expanded to a 5 ship in 1988 and through continued commitment to presenting precise and disciplined military flying displays, became known as the "cockpit ambassadors of the South African Air Force".

The Silver Falcons flew their last display in Impalas in September 1997 after which the team became dormant due to the phasing out of the Impala aircraft. During 1999 a decision was made to re-establish the team on the Pilatus PC-& MkII (Astra), the ab-initio training aircraft of the SAAF, which had also recently come into service. The first display was flown in October 1999 with Lt Col Dave Knoesen (the only man to have flown in the Silver Falcons on both types of aircraft) as a leader.

The initial Astra teams again reverted to a 4 ship display and utilised aircraft painted in the same red and white livery as the trainig fleet. In 2008, after a generous donation by First Africa Paints, the aircraft were finally painted in a unique livery which set them apart from the rest of the fleet, and at the same time the team was, once again, expanded to 5 aircraft.

This year the Silver Falcons celebrate 45 years existence. To date there have been 97 pilots selected to fly in 73 different teams (team numbers are allocated after every personnel change) and have performed more than 650 displays, which includes only 2 accidents (only one of which was fatal) - a safety record unmatched by any other military aerobatic team in the world.

The Silver Falconsteam is, and has always been, made up of flying instructors who perform their duties as volunteers, "over and above" their normal daily tasks of giving flying instruction. This also sets the team apart in the world of military display teams, as almost all of the well-known teams, such as the US Navy's Blue Angels and the Royal Air Force's Red Arrows, are full time squadrons where the display flying is the teams sole focus. Besides the 5 display pilots there are also a Ground Liaison Officer and a Public Relations Officer that completes the "Air" crew.

Since the very beginning, the Silver Falcons have always been supported by a highly skilled and professional support team, chosen on a volunteer basis from within the ranks of the SAAF's Servicing Units, and this is no different today. The current support team consists of 18 members skilled in a variety of trades including mechanics, Avionics technicians, Armourers, Safety and Survival experts and Opreations Support personnel.
Silver Falcons' Timeline
The De Haviland Vampire with which the Silver Falcons were started during 1953 Imp_1 one
silver-falcons-mb-326-01 Imp1 crash
Imp2_new imp_new three
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