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
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.