Safair Celebrates 50 Years of Adventure

In: Who we are
Safair Lockhead Hercules L100-30

Did you know that it is possible to relocate sharks across the globe by aeroplane?

FlySafair may seem like just another new low-cost airline flying you around our beautiful country. But, born from Africa’s largest specialised charter company, Safair, it is part of a 50 year heritage of safe, reliable and adventurous aviation. Adventures around the world include:

– Landing on ice in Antarctica

– Relocating rhino and other threatened species

– Humanitarian relief and food drops in East Africa

– Helping to clean up oil-spills

– Transporting cars to the Dakar rally

– Shipwreck search and rescue

– Flying dignitaries and delegations across Africa since 1965, including Clive Rice and the cricket team for their first tour after Apartheid.

You can imagine that operating an average flight from Cape Town International to O.R. Tambo in a 737-400 is just another day in the office for pilots and crew that have successfully transported hammerhead sharks from Thailand to Singapore in four massive aquariums. In a landmark conservation effort, the sharks were loaded onto one of Safair’s six Lockheed 100-30 Hercules planes with specialist aviation and veterinary crew. Factors including the compensating weight of the water, and securing the right temperature and pressurisation for the sharks had to be meticulously calculated.

You can imagine that operating an average flight from Cape Town International to O.R. Tambo in a 737-400 is just another day in the office for pilots and crew that have successfully transported hammerhead sharks from Thailand to Singapore

Safair originated when South African Marine Corporation (Safmarine) purchased Tropair in 1965, and while the company has operated a great many aircraft, it is best known for its fleet of Lockheed Hercules 100-30 planes, currently the largest fleet in the world. Yes, they are those giant fat propeller-based planes that you see in the movies like A-team.

“They are incredibly versatile with four propeller engines and a drop down tail. We also engineered a unique drop-down lever system to operate the food drops,” says Kirby Gordon, Vice President of Sales and Distribution for FlySafair. The company became known in the seventies for its innovation, with the design and manufacture of unique aviation products like the drop-down lever. Safair currently has stations in Naiorobi and Entebbe to operate food relief missions in Northern Africa.

“Safair has set the standard for airline service in Africa with a team of highly qualified personnel across a wide range of commercial aircraft having serviced the needs of more than 40 different airlines and operators in Africa.”

We have been fundamental players in starting more than three popular consumer airlines

In fact, if you’re a semi-regular flyer you’ve most likely flown on a Safair plane before. The company has a long tradition of leasing and operating commercial passenger planes to our domestic market. “We have been fundamental players in starting more than three popular consumer airlines,” says Kirby. Safair has maintenance bases at all major airports in South Africa and service agreements with several domestic airlines.

Safair Food Relief

With spring just weeks away and people planning their summer holidays, FlySafair has launched new routes to East London and Durban from both Cape Town and Johannesburg, as well as fitted its planes with ergonomic seats, and updated the livery. It is also due to start operating the fuel-efficient 737-800s.

At the same time, Safair is gearing up for its annual December missions to Antarctica for a New Zealand based research firm. The mission can only go in December, when the ice is thick enough to land on.

Safair Aircraft
Safair L-130 on ice

This legacy of operating and leasing aircraft across the continent is what has enabled FlySafair to achieve landmark success in such a short space of time, including the record-breaking 25 minute aircraft turn-around and the best on-time performance amongst all domestic airlines, while still offering rock-bottom fares that have driven the cost of flying down by as much as 39%.

“This would not be possible for a complete start-up commercial passenger airline. We’ve been fortunate in that our history and experience has meant we haven’t faced many of the teething problems we would have otherwise. We’re already there. ”

Safair Lockhead Hercules

“As our parent company celebrates its 50th birthday this month, you could say that FlySafair’s the oldest new kid on the block. With our experienced pilots, maintenance and operations excellence, and financial backing we look forward to the continued success of FlySafair’s consumer-facing enterprise.”

Safair Lockhead Hercules L-130 takeoff