When the SAAF held its 50th Anniversary celebrations in 1970, it had little material evidence to reflect on a rich aviation past which included participation in both World Wars, the Berlin Airlift and the Korean War. It was at this stage that the War Museum (later to be called the South African National War Museum) was rejecting numerous historical aircraft due to a severe lack of storage space. the situation was so bad that the War Museum disposed of it’s rare Tutor, Wapiti and Fury, later disposing of a Ju-52/3m and a Ju-88 which had fell into a state disrepair while stored outdoors. During the celebrations, Lt. Gen. Sir Pierre van Ryneveld, father of the SAAF, remarked on this state of affairs.
After much rejection and deliberation, approval for the establishment of a South African Air Force Museum (SAAFM) was finally granted by the Minister of Defence on 26 October 1973, thanks to the persistent campaigning of Col. PJM McGregor and his ardent interest in the establishment of such a museum.
The objects and aims of the Museum have been set out as follows:
To collect, preserve, restore and exhibit articles and records pertaining to the heritage and traditions of the SAAF and military aviation associated there with;
To interest and educate the general public, particularly the youth, in military aviation; and
To undertake research into and to accumulate and disseminate information and knowledge relating to the history and traditions of the SAAF.
Under the initiative of Col. McGregor, the SAAFM first OC, a small staff was gathered together for the purpose of documenting the history of the SAAF and gathering together those aviation relics which had survived the ravages of time. Before long a steady stream of photographs, logbooks, uniforms, aircraft parts and other items were reaching the Museum and arrangements were made to store a number of aircraft which had survived in the absence of a formal preservation policy.
The Museum’s main task is concerned with the collection and display of aircraft and items associated with the SAAF. It is also concerned with the restoration of SAAF aircraft to both static and flying condition. The Museum’s functions can essentially be divided into three areas:
Historical research and documentation;
Operation of the Historic Flight; and
The storage of aviation-related artefacts.
Museum branches are located in Cape Town, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth.