One of 12 former South African Air Force (SAAF) fighter aircraft, sold to
Ecuador for more than R550-million, has been quarantined following an
unspecified "in-flight" incident in the South American country.
On Thursday Denel Group spokesperson Sinah Phochana confirmed that a Fuerza
Aérea Ecuatoriana (FAE) pilot was hospitalised after suffering injuries on
"Denel Aviation confirms that one of the 12 Cheetah
supersonic fighter aircraft sold to the Air Force of Ecuador in 2010
experienced an in-flight incident on Monday in Taura," said Phochana.
"The FAE Ecuadorian pilot, Major Galo Álvarez, suffered light injuries and was
taken to the naval hospital, where he is recovering."
She was unable to confirm Ecuadorian news reports that the pilot suffered facial
injuries due to decompression in the cockpit.
Phochana said Denel test pilot Mike Weingartz, who was seated in the
rear cockpit of the aircraft was, however,
able to bring the aircraft safely back to Ecuador's Taura air base.
"Denel's thoughts are with Major Álvarez and his family and the company wishes
him a prompt and full recovery," she said.
Denel's aviation chief executive, Mike Kgobe, has dispatched a team of
investigators to probe the incident. Phochana said the team was expected to
arrive in Ecuador on Thursday.
Denel Aviation had sold the 12 Cheetah C
supersonic fighter aircraft to Ecuador as part of an agreement signed by Kgobe
in Ecuador's capital, Quito, in December last year, said Phochana.
The $78-million package was sold to the country by Denel Aviation, the SAAF and
"Denel Aviation [formerly Atlas Aircraft Corporation] is the design authority of
the single-seat fighter that was locally
developed as a variant of the [Dassault] Mirage lll in the 1980s," Phochana
"In terms of the agreement with the Ecuadorian Air Force Denel Aviation will
continue to provide a comprehensive maintenance and support service for at least
five years following the sale, with an option for renewal."
Kgobe stated that the ongoing maintenance contract involved the provision of
repairs and overhaul work to a wide range of aircraft models.
"Our offer met the needs of FAE, which was looking
to modernise its fighter fleet," said Kgobe, adding that talks between
Denel Aviation, Armscor and the FAE had begun in 2009.
The Denel Cheetahs had been in storage since they were retired from active duty
"The aircraft have been made available for sale through Armscor, the state
agency responsible for the sale of surplus military products and equipment,"
Denel Aviation and the South African Cheetah Support industry, in conjunction
with the SAAF, was directly involved in the decommissioning and packaging for
storage of the aircraft and support infrastructure.
"The Denel Cheetah C and D aircraft were retired from service following the
acquisition by South Africa of its new fleet of Saab Gripen fighter jets under
the strategic defence package acquisition programmes," said Kgobe.
With acknowledgements to
Tshwarelo Eseng Mogakane and African Eye News Service
and Mail and Guardian.
Mighty strange - the pilot
sitting in the rear cockpit of a single seat aircraft was able to land the
Sounds more like a Cheetah D or E, possibly used to train the FAE.
Makes sense, because the Cheetah D and E variants are quite old, hence the
inflight incident which caused the good major a bloody nose.
Whereas the Cheetah C is a relatively modern jet fighter, brought into service
by the SAAF in 1997.
So modern is it, that it was purchased in 2010 by the FAE, which was looking to
modernise its fighter fleet.
That's after it was retired by the SAAF in 2008, after just 11 years in service,
when the SAAF ran out of petrol to operate its operational fleet of 28 Cheetah
Cs (from its inventory of 38 plus about 16 spares).
These cost us taxpayers about R10 billion in 2010 Rands.
And then they sold about a quarter of them to the FAE for just R550 million
What a bunch of wankers?