DENEL Aviation is taking its state-of-the-art technology, along with highly skilled pilots and engineers, to its clients elsewhere on the continent in a bid to increase its business.
Experimental flight testing is one of the specialised services provided by Denel Aviation.
In the past, highly specialised test flying could be conducted only in South Africa but now the company plans to take the unique skills and experience of its experimental test pilots and flight test engineers to clients across Africa.
Last month, the company announced that nearly 530 Denel Aviation-Aero Manpower specialists were to be retrenched as the South African Air Force had failed to renew a contract with the firm.
The retrenchments would affect aircraft maintenance specialists. Unions have asked Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to intervene and save the jobs.
Denel Aviation CEO Mike Kgobe said that instead of having aircraft flown to its facilities in SA for testing, the company had decided to take its highly skilled pilots and engineers to clients on the continent.
The test pilots and flight test engineers had the responsibility to ensure that every aircraft that leaves the company’s facilities following maintenance or repair work was ready for full flying duties.
"This service is part of Denel Aviation’s initiative to grow its business in Africa. We are taking our highly skilled pilots and engineers as well as our state-of-the-art technology to the client, cutting the costs and effort to fly the planes out to SA for testing," Mr Kgobe said.
The company was also expanding its maintenance and repair services to the rapidly growing number of military and civilian aircraft crisscrossing the continent. "We are playing an increasingly important role to support defence forces and the commercial aviation industry in Africa through flight testing and top-quality maintenance of their fleets."
Derick Matthee, the manager of Denel’s flight test centre, said the centre offered a highly specialised and sought-after service to the aviation market, both locally and abroad. The new technology of combining state-of-the-art facilities and telemetry with world-class flight test personnel "has contributed to the centre’s growing reputation in the global aerospace community".
"Our primary responsibility is aviation safety. Once the aircraft has passed our flight testing, the client can be absolutely assured that it is 100% safe and ready for regular flying duties," said Mr Matthee.
The elite group of experimental test pilots have all gained their initial experience in the military, followed by a professional test pilot’s course in the US or UK.
Mr Matthee said only the best and most experienced pilots were entrusted with the often dangerous responsibilities. Test pilot applicants need a minimum of 750 hours of pilot-in-command time and should be medically fit for flight duties. Engineers need a bachelor’s degree in maths, science or engineering.