The French manufactured Alouette III helicopter was first delivered to the South African Air Force in 1962 and served with distinction until its final retirement from service in September 2007. Affectionately known as the “Draadkar” is was replaced by the Augusta 109, although many SAAF aircrew regretfully alluded to the fact that no other chopper will ever replace the Alo III. Its uncomplicated operation and ease of maintenance will sorely be missed by most.
The Air Force Museum, tasked to preserve and display the history of the SAAF, has however remained true to its mission and today the Alouette III keeps on flying, even though its only once a month, during the museum’s flying training days.
Thanks to the technical team and specifically the dedication of Flight Sergeant Groenewald, a former 22 Squadron helicopter, still splendid with its bright coloured Search and Rescue colours and 22 Squadron badge, flew again. Alouette III number 624 flew from Swartkop for the first time since its retirement in September 2007 when it was piloted by Brig Gen Piet Burger with flight engineer WO1 Pierre du Toit and F/Sgt Groenewald on board.
This particular aircraft (SAAF 624 & c/n 1868) was obtained via the United States during 1975 and sported the US registration number N8396 at the time of its delivery. The Air Force Museum preserves and display the following Alouette III helicopters. They are:
- 29 – Static – Swartkop
- 611 – Static – Ysterplaat
- 624 – Airworthy – Swartkop
- 628 – Airworthy – Swartkop
- 632 – Static – Port Elizabeth
Capt Leon Steyn Historian, SAAF Museum