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Brig Gen Anton Kreigler Retires

Compiled by Maj James V. du Toit and CO Solomon M. Kotane
Information supplied by Brig Gen Kriegler

Brig Gen Anton Kriegler has served the South African Air Force (SAAF) for the past thirty nine years – a truly great achievement for any career officer. To serve an organisation for so long, says a great deal about this remarkable man. Brig Gen Kriegler was the Officer Commanding of the Air Force Command Post since October 2006. This post is also the most senior Officer Commanding post in the SAAF and reports to the General Officer Commanding Air Command. He is responsible for the coordinating, monitoring and control of supported air power capabilities for force preparation for Chief of the Air Force; for employment, monitoring and control of supported combat ready air power capabilities in order to conduct internal and external air operations as tasked by CJ Ops and to employ a ready and supported mode of air transport for the President, Deputy President, Minister of Defence, Deputy Minister of Defence and senior cabinet and deputy ministers as governed in the Cabinet Memorandum for VVIP Air Transport. General Kriegler is a man with vast Officer Commanding experience, and he can look back at an illustrious career spanning almost four decades.

Brig Gen Anton Kriegler

Brig Gen Kriegler will retire on 31 March 2009. AD ASTRA spoke to him to find out what makes him tick. He explains:

Brig Gen Kriegler, at what stage of your life did you realise/decide to pursue a career in the South African Air Force (SAAF)?

My father served as an armourer on 27 Sqn in the Air Force during WWII and after he demobilised, he maintained his affinity with the Air Force and aviation in general. I therefore grew up in a household where aviation was an everyday topic. As a family we also regularly camped on the farm Jacob’s Bay on the West Coast adjacent to the Toothrock Weapons Range. There I sat for many hours and watched in awe as Air Force Vampires, Sabres and Harvards fired cannon and rockets. From a very early age I had therefore already made up my mind to become a military pilot.

Sir, if you could have your career all over again, would you have made the same decision to choose the SAAF as employer of choice? If any, what would you have changed, if you could?

The Air Force all over again. Hindsight is always a perfect science, but if I could have changed anything, it would have been the way we managed the integration process. In my opinion we should have spend a lot more time and energy to create opportunities to get to know one another better in the first few months after integration. We did not do this properly and it took too many years to smooth out issues in the workplace.

Gen Kriegler, you were streamed as an efficient pilot instructor in the SAAF, was this your preferred choice?

When I joined the Air Force in 1970, we all had to undergo a six month Joint Officers Forming Course (Army, Air Force and Navy) at the Military Academy. Upon completion, I completed my degree studies and then only went to Langebaanweg do undergo flying Training. In those days, anyone that was a graduate of the Military Academy, became a flying instructor, whether it was your choice or not! I have a great passion for teaching and thoroughly enjoyed all the training and development opportunities the Air Force has afforded me throughout my career.

You were appointed Director Air Transport and Maritime Systems, in your opinion, what was the main challenge you have faced since then?

Two main challenges stand out. The first was the acquisition and introduction into service of the Boeing BBJ at 21 Sqn just after my appointment. At that stage the Air Force was the only operator of a BBJ on the African continent. It must be remembered that it is an aircraft designed and build in Seattle in Washington, it is fitted with engines that are designed and manufactured in Paris, France and with a unique and custom-build interior completed in Basel, Switzerland. We were 10 flying hours or 10 000km away from Western Europe and North America, all on our own at the Southern tip of Africa and had to make it work from day one. It was a wonderful time!

The second was the management of the C130 fleet. When I was appointed, the upgrade (Project EBB) was 5 years overdue, the first three aircraft were delivered from Cambridge in the UK and Denel Aviation started on the last six. We had to operate 28 Sqn with pre-EBB as well as post-EBB aircraft with not all the technical handbooks or spares and components to do it. Just as we were managing to get all our ducks in a row, there was a world-wide grounding early in 2005 of older model C130s due to a wing-fatigue problem. Our C130s were delivered in 1963 and due to the Arms Embargo, the Air Force could not interact with the manufacturer Lockheed Martin, for a period of 23 years from 1971 to 1994. The Air Force followed the maintenance philosophy of the USAF but also had to do modifications out of own necessity over the years. This resulted in the SAAF fleet not being in the same configuration as the same vintage aircraft operated by fleet owners who had had interaction with Lockheed Martin. When the Air Force supplied Lockheed Martin with the data to determine the fatigue life of the wings, they did not want to believe us and wanted the Air Force to change all the wings at huge cost or to be absolved from all liability should the SAAF decide to continue flying. I can still remember the mammoth task undertaken by the engineers and technical staff to verify our statistics. We even went so far as to find and contact old retired 28 Sqn crew members to have access to their logbooks to ascertain the types of sorties flow. We removed and opened the wings of 406, our most severely used aircraft and invited engineers from Lockheed Martin at the cost of the Air Force to come and inspect our wings. Upon inspecting the wings of 406 and the rest of our fleet, they were astonished at the mint condition of our fleet, 42 years old at that stage. Our C130s are still flying safely, old wings and all!

During your career you have had many remarkable achievements. Which of those do you wish to highlight, if asked to do so?

Firstly my tour as OC SAAF Detachment Eros in Windhoek, Namibia in the mid-80s. I flew more than 700 hours in 18 months on King Air ZS LAY, today King Air 652, during the height of the Angola conflict.

All my other OC tours were special. Most SAAF members will only get one Officer Commanding appointment, I was fortunate to have had five, The SAAF Det Eros appointment was followed by postings as the OC of 41 Sqn, SANDF COLET, AFB Bloemspruit and my last one as OC AFCP.

Being the Senior Directing Staff of the Air force Senior Command and Staff Course at the Air Force College for four years was also very special.

As Officer Commanding Air Force Command Post since October 2006 until now, in your opinion, can you elevate any particular highlight that comes to mind during your term of duty?

The involvement of the Air Force in the Soccer World Cup 2010 Safety and Security exercises.

Gen Kriegler, are there any career lows or disappointments you wish to share with our readers?

Most careers have highs 50% of the time and lows during the other 50%, the Air Force affords a career that has highs 80% of the time. The secret is to make the most of the highs and live with the 20% lows.

In your opinion, what do you think are/were the main challenges of SAAF in modern times and also of the Air Force Command Post?

When the world economy is on the up and the local economy blossoms like that of South Africa over the last 10 years or so, there are many job opportunities in the aviation and aviation related industry. Many highly-skilled members therefore leave the Air Force for better salaries and career prospects. This is a cyclic phenomenon that is not new in the Air Force, although the out flux of skilled members over the last three years at the same time as the introduction of many new systems, has impacted particularly severely on the Air Force. The biggest challenge therefore would be to consolidate the manpower of the Air Force and collaborate with the private and commercial aviation related sectors to face the next few years jointly.

What do you consider will be more important: quantity, quality or to have “state of the art” technologies?

The strength of the Air Force has always been in the quality of its people. It is a challenge however if your quantity of quality personnel drops dangerously close to the “critical mass” required to sustain your output.

Which different aircraft types and variants of military aircraft, did you fly in your SAAF career?

I started my flying training on the Impala Mk 1, did a stint as a Station Pilot at Langebaanweg afterwards before being transferred to 11 Sqn, Potchefstroom to fly the venerable C185. Thereafter Flying Instructors Course at FTS Dunnottar on the Harvard followed. A transfer back to FTS Langebaanweg on a lengthy tour as an instructor in Impala Mk 1 followed. Thereafter it was down the coast to Ysterplaat and 25 Sqn to fly the wonderful Dakota C47. A tour in Windhoek, Namibia on the Beechcraft Super King Air B200C followed, to be topped with a posting to 28 Sqn and the Transall C160Z. I then left active flying to do a lengthy stint at the Air Force College. This was followed by a posting to 41 Sqn where I flew the Caravan C208 as well as being re-acquainted with the B200. After that a posting to SANDF COLET was followed by a quick (2 year) tour at SAAF HQ. I was then posted to AFB Bloemspruit where I was fortunate to fly the Alouette III and Oryx on a part time basis. I also had several flights in the Rooivalk. Coming back to Headquarters and appointed as DAT&MS, I took up flying the King Air and Caravan on a part time basis. I also occasionally flew all the other aircraft on the DAT&MS stable, from the Boeing BBJ down to the C185.

Furthering on operational issues, how many hours have you accumulated on fast jets during your care. Which aircraft is closest to heart, i.e. which one would you rate your favorite and for what reason?

As an operational transport pilot, I feel flattered to be asked such a question. The only jet I have flown is the Impala Mk 1 on which I have almost 1 400 hours with more than 1 000 hours ab initio instructional hours. My favorite aircraft is undoubtedly the Beechcraft King Air tail number 652. She flies like a thoroughbred filly! Very close second is the old Dakota C47. I have almost 2 000 hours on her and have enjoyed every minute. She is both headstrong and docile, ugly to fly in turbulence and a beast to land at the most of times, but she is the queen of the skies!

Gen, any “close shaves” with nature you have had during your flying career? What was the lesson learnt from this experience?

Yes. Mostly flying the Dakota in the winter months in the South Western Cape with high winds and low freezing levels. There were also some operational night sorties in Namibia and Angola with heavily laden C160s and the King Air. The lesson one learns at an early age: respect nature, understand your personal and aircraft limitations and never stop learning from every sortie that you fly.

Sir, what, in your opinion, are the makings of a military pilot/what characteristics should a career pilot have?

A burning passion to fly, to be hard working and professional in all you do, to have icy self-discipline, to be committed, dedicated and respectful of the environment in which you fly.

As you know, the SAAF has lost, and is still continuously losing a lot of critical expertise due to resignations and even the mobility exit mechanism (MEM’s)? In your opinion, what solution do you foresee could bring back the balance of skill and continuity in the organization?

This would be very difficult in the short term. It must however be borne in mind that there are still many skillful members left in the Air Force. The gaps that open up when people leave, provide growth opportunities to many others that in turn releases potential and new energy into the SAAF. One area that is being utilised very effectively is to utilise many of the senior members that leave as Reserve Force members to mentor and coach the more junior members.

Sir, do you have any children? If so – can you tell us about them? Eg., where are they now and what type of professions they pursued in life? Did they perhaps follow the “like father, like son/daughter” concept?

I have a daughter who is a teacher and a son that is in the insurance and music industries. My daughter is passionate about military aircraft and desperately wanted to fly but when she finished school in 1995, the Air Force did not afford the opportunity for females to be trained as pilots. One of her majors is geography, her closest link to aviation! As a youngster my son was interested in flying but as he progressed in school, computers took over and this lead to music and today he is happy with his career.

Sir, moving on to your spouse, having supported you all these years, in your career (you know the saying, behind every successful man, there’s an equally, successful woman). What was her first words/reaction to you when you told her of your intention to retire?

Like any good relationship, we have planned this together over the last few years. She has been a teacher her whole life and retired at the end of last year after a very fulfilling career. We are both looking forward to move back to our “roots” in the lovely Western Cape

What are your hobbies?

I love the outdoors, gardening and cooking. I also love fishing and playing golf.

Sir, after such an illustrious career of 39 years of Service in the DoD, what would your message be for the young aspiring SAAF member?

Enjoy the SAAF with a passion, remember it is not a job, it is a calling.

Sir, what do you intend doing the following year?

I am joining the Air Force Reserves and will fly at 35 Sqn in this capacity for as long as my health will permit. I will also be involved with the Soccer World Cup 2010 as a Reserve Force Officer. Further to that, I will get involved with Ground School lecturing at flying clubs in the Western Cape.

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