BOEING 707-328C SERIAL 1417

Boeing 707-328C (c/n 19723) was part of a package of three obtained by the SAAF in 1986; from ex stock of Air France.  This aircraft was the first aircraft to fly after 60 Squadron was reformed in 1986 and the Squadron documentation states that the first orientation flight took place on the 11 August 1986 at the hands of the then Officer Commanding of 60 Squadron, Colonel Viviers.

More significantly, this particular aircraft logged the longest operational flight ever made by a SAAF Boeing 707 when on 10 September 1988, the aircraft flew 11 hours and 30 minutes non-stop during an emergency flight from Cape Town to the South African SANAE base in Antarctica to drop urgently needed medical supplies.

Boeing 1417 also carried the South African flag with the SAAF’s first ever participation in an International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford during July 1995.  Boeing 1417 together with her crew won two of the 10 awards up for grabs in the Sky-tanker competition namely, the Spirit of the Meet Award and the Best Overall Ground Competition.  Boeing 707 1417 made her final flight on 29 March 2001 and was confined to storage at 60 Squadron until the Squadron disbanded in 2007.

Before the scrap-man could lay his hands on the remaining 707’s languishing at Air Force Base Waterkloof, two keen Warrant Officers, namely Warrant Officer Class 1 Halstead and Warrant Officer Class II Alan Taylor, devised a grand plan to recover a front fuselage cockpit section of a Boeing 707 for posterity and display purposes, even though the SAAF Museum had already received an ex 60 Squadron Boeing 707, Serial 1419 during 2007.  Aircraft number 1417 was selected and after delicate negotiations to secure the aircraft for the museum, plans were set into motion.  1 Aircraft Servicing Unit (1ASU) at AFB Waterkloof agreed to provide the critical technical assistance and equipment needed, because the front section of the aircraft had to be cut from the rest of the fuselage on site.  The arduous and dangerous task to cut the aircraft from the rest of the fuselage was done by 1ASU within the course of two weeks.  Special supporting jacks and cradles had to be devised to support the front part of the aircraft after its separation from the main body. 

The fuselage was initially held into position by positioning a pair of straps around the belly of the aircraft that extended up to the rig of a crane.  For its transportation from Waterkloof to Swartkop by low-bed trailer, great care had to be taken to avoid any overhead obstacles especially telephone and power lines, not to talk about the ever-present bridges spanning the route.  Amidst a lot of tension the journey was safely made and all were relieved when the aircraft arrived at the Museum on Sunday the 18th of April 2010 and was moved into position at Zwartkop.  The technical team from 1 ASU finally secured the aircraft into its cradle by attaching four welded support beams along the sides of the lower hull and sealed the rear of the fuselage section against the elements.

Both Warrant Officers were adamant that the aircraft would be utilised as a live exhibit.  In order fort this to happen, the cockpit would have to be completely refitted with live instrumentation and audio-visual links to engage visitors.  The remainder of the fuselage aft of the cockpit would be fitted out and utilised as a unique “Boeing” conference room where, by special appointment, meetings and conferences could be held in an absolutely unique environment that forms a distinctive part of the illustrious history of the South African Air Force.

(All photographs Courtesy of Warrant Officer Class II Alan Taylor)