I love flying. It has an enchantment and an excitement all of its own. Even in the ‘big planes’, I thrill to the feel of the seat pressing into my back as the aircraft surges down the runway, and arches up into the sky, higher and higher, as the earth tilts away from view below. I gaze out of the window and along the sweep of the wing, as we meet the soft white masses of the clouds, and pass through into another world – the “high, untrespassed sanctity of space.” [J.G.Magee]
Rand Airport was officially opened in 1931 – and I was there recently to visit the SAA Museum. South African Airways was formed on 1 February 1934 and is now one of the world’s oldest airlines. The Museum was founded in 1986. It receives no grant from SAA and its only source of income is from visitors who pay an entrance fee. What SAA has done though, is let them have 2 Boeing 747s!
Pride of place goes to the Lebombo. You will almost certainly recall that on 24 June 1995, just before South Africa won the Rugby World Cup by beating New Zealand 15-12, a Boeing 747 swooped low over Ellis Park Stadium with the message “Good Luck Bokke” beneath its wings. What an inspiration – from Lebombo and SAA.
Lebombo first arrived on 6 November 1971. Since then it has transported 6 million passengers, clocked over 107 000 flying hours – equal to twelve and a half years in the air – flown 91.6 million kilometres, consumed about 962.2 million kilograms of fuel and had 3384 new tyres. You could say that she deserves a rest! She is still in remarkably good condition – and to walk through the cabins is to walk through history – not just the march of the outside years, but of the lives of joy and pain, fear and hope, that she has carried within her.
Not far from her stands the second Boeing 747 – Maluti – who arrived in 1976 and flew for over 82 000 hours. Between them stands a 1940 Lodestar, a 1945 Douglas DC4, a 1947 De Havilland Dove and a 1951 Douglas DC6. I was amused to see a glass fronted box containing a white rope. The label said “Escape Rope!” How things have changed from the Spartan 1940s, to the more elegant 1970s, and on to today, another 30 years later. I found each of the cockpit areas especially intriguing – with all the instruments and controls in such a confined space.
Apart from the aircraft there are simulators, and a display museum containing photographs, models, instruments, and other items. Next to it is the Biggles Bar and Bistro – which was humming with activity – and in front of it one of the airport runways, on to which a number of light aircraft glided whilst we were there.
We enjoyed ourselves very much. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful and it was good to be able to wander around and through the aircraft, to look at them in a new way, to get a better understanding of what is involved in the wonder of flight – and to gain a new appreciation of just how far aviation had progressed since the first powered flight on 17 December 1903.
Have a look at the very good website – with its fund of information and excellent photographs – and then drive out and look at the aircraft themselves, now that they are not filled with pushing people and bags.
They are special.
“You don’t fly by staring at the ground”
Monday to Friday: By appointment only
Saturday: 09h30 to 14h00
Sunday: 09h30 to 14h00
Public Holidays: 09h30 to 14h00
Cost: Adults – R25; Children – R15
For further information follow the links alongside.
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