Chief of the Air Force Lt-Gen Zimpande Msimang. File photo: ANA/Jacques Naude

Pretoria - The loss of a historic hangar in a fire at the South African Air Force Base Swartkop (AFB Swartkop) in Pretoria on Saturday morning is a setback to the South African Air Force (SAAF) and the "history of military aviation worldwide", the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) said.

The SANDF confirmed that a general purpose hangar at Air Force Base Swartkop, which did not house any aircraft or museum artifacts, caught fire at about 5am on Saturday, the SANDF said in a statement.

Though there was extensive and structural damage to the hangar, there were neither human injuries nor fatalities. The cause of the fire was still unknown. The base fire services and the City of Tshwane fire services managed to extinguish the fire to prevent further damage to other vehicles and equipment, the SANDF said.

The SANDF with the support of the Tshwane fire services would immediately initiate a preliminary investigation and/or a board of inquiry to determine the cause and extent of the fire. 

The majority of the hangars of AFB Swartkop were classified as “heritage structures” because this was the first established air force base in South Africa. The base and the hangars were built from the early 1920s.

"This loss of the hangar is a setback to the South African Air Force and the history of military aviation worldwide. Since 2012, the chief of the South African Air Force Lt-Gen FZ [Zimpande] Msimang has initiated a programme to preserve and promote our air force history, which includes former TBVC states [Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, Ciskei] and the armed wings of former liberation movements in relation to the corresponding political, social, and economic dispensation of the country under the theme 'embracing our collective heritage'.

"One of the fundamental elements in nation-building and cultivating a cohesive society is the reconfiguration of the heritage landscape to ensure that it reflects the diversity and the incredible efforts of the unity of our society. We are grateful for the prompt response of the City of Tshwane and the Air Force Base Swartkop fire services," the SANDF statement said.

African News Agency (ANA)