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Air Force criticised for carving up Shackleton

Sunday Independent

Staff Writer

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Cape Town-130313-The Avro Shackleton on static display at the ysterplaat Air Force base has been cut up and sold as scrap. The SAAF had 8 of them, taking delivery of the first during August 1957, and retiring the last of the fleet in 1989. Due to their long range, their primary function was patrolling the shipping lanes of our coast, and search and rescue. This plane was one of only 12 Shackletons in the world that are still intact. The SAAF has the only remaining plane that is still reported to be airworthy, although it, too, has been grounded. Picture Jeffrey Abrahams

AIRCRAFT enthusiasts are angry that the South African Air Force is hacking up the old Shackleton aircraft that was on display at the entrance to the Ysterplaat base.

The old Shackleton, a British long-range maritime patrol aircraft, was one of eight planes delivered to the South African Air Force in 1957 and 1958. Enthusiast Greg van Schaik told the Cape Times that he had been astonished to see a wing of the old plane on the back of a flatbed truck driving down Koeberg Road on Tuesday.

“It is one of very few Shackletons left in the world and they are just cutting it up to be sold for scrap metal, without any concern for the cultural and historical perspective. These aircraft have had a long history on our coastline doing maritime reconnaissance and rescue. The air force apparently doesn’t have the money for this sort of thing, so it’s just going. I just don’t get it. I think it’s a bit suspicious,” he said.

However, Christo Stroebel, officer commanding the Ysterplaat air force base, said the aircraft had become dangerous. “It’s been standing there since 1984. Two years ago the undercarriage broke off in a storm and it fell back on its tail. We’ve been fixing it but it’s really become corroded and it’s not economical to fix it any more. So last year the museum decided to take it away.

“It’s very sad. I didn’t want to watch it and lots of people on the base are sentimental about it. It’s like taking your 18-year-old dog to the vet to be put down,” Stroebel said.

The Shackleton was developed for use by the Royal Air Force by Avro from the Avro Lincoln bomber with a new fuselage. It was originally used mainly in anti-submarine warfare and for maritime patrols, but from 1951 to 1990 it was adapted for early warning search and rescue and other roles. It served in the South African Air Force from 1957 to 1984. Named after polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, it was jokingly described as “a hundred thousand rivets vibrating in close formation”.

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