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Hangar Talk September 2017

Hangar Talk — Wings over Langebaanweg - By: Tom Chalmers

THERE IS a theory that the human cannot develop real emotional feelings for inanimate objects – an air force base is an inanimate object, it is lifeless, and its construction consists of mortar, bricks, tar, steel and glass. The only living organs are the personnel and their families serving on the base which provide the wherewithal to develop such emotions for an air force base At the expense of getting overly philosophical, without the personnel on the base, there would really be no base. Each day in the life of the base leads to the creation of memories because, with the setting of the sun each day, all that is left after all, are the memories created that day.

With these words, Major-General Des Barker (SAAF Rtd) SM, MMM, opened his foreword to “Wings Over Langebaanweg, Stories from a South African Air Force Base” which he and Andrew Embleton jointly compiled and published recently. No copybook-sized is this work of art. In contrast it is 349 pages packed full of the memories Barker talks about. It covers happenings at the South African west coast base from 1946 to 1993 and it is available in both a limited edition hard cover and soft cover versions. Published by the author, Andrew Embleton, using the Jenni Cory Graphic Design Company and printed and bound by Digital Action, in Cape Town, this book defies the efforts of even the most ardent “can’t-put-it-down-until-it-isfinished” reader so extensive is this historical coverage of “Wings Over Langebaanweg”.

I received a copy of this masterpiece – for masterpiece it really is – soon after the ink was dry about two months ago and have subsequently spent countless hours reading part of it, but each time I put it down, I realise that I have only just scratched the surface – as it were – and still have a long way to go until I reach the back cover. It really is one of those books which is difficult to put down no matter how tired you may be.

Consisting in total of 15 packed-full chapters, one of the most interesting of which I found to be the one on the ever-green Impala jet trainer/fighter. In the Introduction, Embleton wrote: “The Aeromacchi Impala was the mainstay of Langebaanweg for many years and the air base played host to a constant stream of fighter pilots learning their profession or honing their battle skills until 1993 when it returned to an “ab initio school” as the Central Flying School moved down from Dunnottar preparing the way for the Atlas Pilatus PC-7— to take on a new role as a primary trainer.”

Although the publishers have not been shy about using photographs, drawings and even cartoons featuring the many aircraft the SAAF has used over the years like the Vampire, Canberra, the various Mirage marqués, Spitfires et al, I got the impression that the Impala dominated. Be that as it may, and in contrast, the de Havilland Vampire also received extensive coverage, including a 14-page article by Des Barker about flying the aircraft in the SAAF, as against one on flying the Impala by the same author which covered ten pages.

hangar talk

Photographs of service life at Langebaanweg and the people – and aircraft -- who / which made it tick, abound throughout the book, especially the section between pages 145 and 171.

Embleton and Barker certainly have spared no effort in compiling the long and varied history of the Langebaanweg Air Force Base and the men and women who served there. Every scrap of information has obviously been researched, checked and, if suitable published.......................................To read the full article please subscribe to our E Magazine Here.

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