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 Four SAAF students get their wings in Botswana

By CO Solomon M. Kotane, Ad Astra magazine and Photos by Sgt Marinda Spang, 5ASU (AFB Waterkloof)

Thebephatswa Air Base (TPAB), near Gaborone, was on 23 May 2008, turned into a centre of the Batswana traditional cultural activities during a wings parade of eighteen students, which included four from the South African Air Force (SAAF).

The graduation ceremony was interspersed with stately pomp and a magnificent display of dances, traditional songs and a rendition of vivid poetry. The rhythm of the fanfare began in the early part of the morning. It started off with the military band, casually blowing the notes as though they were playing at a royal wedding.

“It’s just like a great party,” whispered Brigadier Odirile Mashinyana of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Air Command, as we nudged our way and mingled with hundreds of visitors and air wing members into the hall. There was one thing missing though. The little tropical trees produced small quantities of breeze.

The unusually hot autumn sun, brittled away in the nearby military airfield tarmac. The surrounding was fairly quiet, save for the huge corrugated premises in which the ceremony was taking place.

The gathering, designed as if there would never be any similar pilot graduation in the future, was described by one of the chefs, Moripa Kgatwe, as a typical Botswana affair. Probably unnoticed by the master of ceremonies though, was the ricocheting sound of the music speaker all over the place, disturbing the otherwise enthralling occasion.

Maj Gen Lucky Ngema, Chief Director, Directorate Policy and Plans of the SAAF, who led the six Air Force delegation to the BDF ceremony, hailed the occasion as a “continuation of the strengthening of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) initiatives”. He intimated that the graduation was the first indication of corporation among the SADC member states.

Moreover, the General noted that the SAAF has over the years, since the collapse of the Apartheid system, started a collaborative effort with SADC in many ways, which began with the regional Brigade. “We are trying as much as possible, to implement the decisions of the SADC Standing Committee on Aviation,” he emphasised.

The Botswana Minister for Defence, Justice and Security, Brigadier Dikgakgamatso Ndelu Seretse, cautioned the graduands at the wings parade ceremony, “The career path you have chosen is full of personal sacrifices and demands absolute dedication to duty. Remember that soldiering is a calling and a commitment to serve the nation”.

Quoting extensively from the Chinese army General-turned-philosopher, Sun Tzu, who once said: “If I always appear prepared, it is because before entering on an undertaking, I have meditated for long and foreseen what may occur.” He reminded the students that the foundation of any good aviator lay in his knowledge base and professional approach to the task at hand.

Earlier, Brig Mashinyana had told the gathering that the BDF mandate in the Flying Training School, was to train the students of ab-initio pilots on PC7 aircraft, with the aim of producing professional military pilots.

He had also noted that “the graduating pilots were to achieve the knowledge and skills required for the fighter stream, the highest military standard set by air forces throughout the world.” He pointed out however, that that did not mean they would all end up as fighter pilots as some would join other streams such as transport and helicopter fraternity.

He had said the Flying School syllabus (course no. 26) taught both theory and practice running parallel. The ground school training (theoretical) has a total of ten subjects amounting to 9 202 lessons. The Flying Training syllabus totals 180 hours or 144 sorties.

He said course no. 26, started on 5 November 2005. After a weeklong orientation into the Botswana Air Arm, the trainees underwent parachute training and survival training at the Special Forces Training School from 20 November to 1 December 2006. The ground school lectures started on 4 December 2006 and the training was started in three phases.

In phase one, he said, students familiarised themselves with the basic theory of flying and stimulated their interest in aviation in general. The second phase included main topics from the ten chosen aviation subjects, which helped students to enter an aircraft and started learning how to fly.

The third phase is the fighter lead-in-training applicable to those pilots selected for the fighter stream, it consists of 20 hours of tactical flying.

The subjects learnt included the following:







Principles of Flight




Aircraft engines




Flight Instruments and Avionics




 Aviation Medicine




Aviation Meteorology




Aviation Law




Pilatus      PC      7 Aircraft  Systems and Emergencies










The following SAAF members passed the BDF Course No. 26

a) CO Nkosinathi Bulwana

The following SAAF members passed the BDF Course No. 26

a)                 CO Nkosinathi Bulwana

b)                 CO Aran Mark Gatenby

c)                  CO Molobane Lesley Ramasenya

d)                 CO Sumeshen Padayachee

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