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 CAF Honoured with Brazilian Air Force Merit Medal

On 23 October 2007, also being the Federative Republic of Brazil’s Air Force Day, the Chief of the South African Air Force, Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano, was honored by the Brazilian Air Force with the presentation of the Brazilian Air Force Santos Dumont Merit Medal.

The ceremony took place at a prestigious event at the Embassy premises in Lynnwood, Pretoria, where the Brazilian Ambassador to South Africa, HE Mr L.P. de Amorim decorated CAF with this highly ranked medal. The current Brazilian Air Force Attaché to South Africa, Col (Av) Paulo Erico Santos de Oliveira acted as Master of Ceremony during the occasion, which was attended by both Embassy Staff, including all of the Brazilian military diplomats, as well as a select group of SAAF guests to witness this historic event.

The Brazilian born Alberto Santos-Dumont, after whom this medal was named, was an early pioneer of aviation. Though he spent most of his life in France, where his contributions to aviation took place, he later returned to his native country to be honored with the title of “Father of Aviation” and Air Force patron in Brazil. In Brazil, Santos-Dumont is considered to be the inventor of the airplane, because of the official and public character (together with other technical points) of the self propelled heavier than air vehicle, which he designed and built. Dubbed the 14-bis, which was flown standing up, Santos-Dumont made the first public European demonstration of a powered heavier than air aircraft in Paris on 23 October 1906, with a short hop in ground effect of 50 meters. As the craft was incapable of sustained and controlled flight however at that stage, it was not labeled a true airplane. A replica of this craft is still to be seen in the Brazilian Air Force’s Museum at the Brazilian Air Force University just outside of Rio de Janeiro.

The Santos-Dumont Merit medal is awarded to civilian as well as military members (Brazilian and foreign) who have meritoriously distinguished themselves in service delivery of a higher standard to Brazilian aviation or for their attributes or value adding contributions to aviation in general. In Brazil, this medal is ceremoniously handed over to worthy recipients on 20 July (annually), which also celebrates the birthday of Santos-Dumont, still depicting a historic and proud event in this country.

In his speech, CAF thanked both the Brazilian Ambassador and the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) for the unexpected honor bestowed upon him with the receipt of this medal. He also emphasized the importance of excellent air force relations, more specifically the existing relationship between the SAAF and the FAB not only as far as mutual ventures are concerned, but also on the terrain of military diplomacy, expressing the assurance that this south-south relationship between two southern hemisphere air force giants will strengthen to even greater dimensions in future.

The ceremony was concluded with a light cocktail event after the formalities in typical Brazilian fashion.


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