Flying Springbok, The
Despite the odds, it is one of the world's longest-surviving and most fascinating airlines.
An artistic rendering of the African antelope, the Springbok, was depicted with stylized wings to serve as the logo of South African Airways (SAA) for well over 60 years. It was replaced by a new corporate identity when the airline was rebranded after the demise of apartheid, the release of Nelson Mandela from political incarceration, and the introduction of a non-racist democratic society in South Africa in the mid-nineties. As a state-owned entity, many people once saw SAA as the 'apartheid airline.' For a time, travel on board its aircraft was restricted to whites only, but this was later changed to include members of all the country's diverse racial groups. SAA pioneered flight throughout Africa during the colonial era, long before airports, supply services, radio and weather forecasting capabilities even existed. Its staff and equipment served with the Allies in Europe and North Africa during WWII and it met the enormous challenge of having to circumvent African airspace when flying to destinations abroad after most African nations closed their skies to it in protest against the country's racist policies in the early sixties.
Over the years the airline grew into one of the world's major domestic, regional, and international carriers. Its long history was eventually terminated and replaced by a new entity in 2020 with the the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. In its original incarnation it could proudly boast of being one of the world's oldest and longest-surviving international carriers. It is still seen by many around the world as the airline with that much revered and fondly remembered emblem, the Flying Springbok.
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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. So I am not who you would probably expect to be reading this book - a 60 year old female. I found this book fascinating. I was initially drawn to it because I flew a few times on SAA flights, London to Johannesburg, in the seventies on the Lebombo 747 and the Drakensburg. Not knowing Lebombo meant big nose as a child, I thought it had something to do with a bomb, and so when one of the engines caught fire on takeoff from Heathrow I wasn’t surprised - though I was cheesed off that our holiday was delayed by a day whilst a new engine was flown out and fitted! These memories intrigued me to learn more about the airline in this book, but it was so much more. It is a history of aviation in South Africa, a history of the airline, but also a fascinating account of how the politics of the country shaped the airline and it routes. Also how the airline shaped the history of aviation around the world - I now know the reason for oval windows in aircraft! I thought this book was wonderfully written - never dry, never boring. It was very informative, written with humour and great attention to detail. It is one of the few books I have reviewed that I will be buying on publication date. ~ Georgia Scott (Reviewer), NetGalley
An absorbing account of a major international airline told against a background of pivotal historic, political, social and technical events. A fascinating and enlightening read. ~ Charles Kohlhase, Mission Design Manager, NASA's VOYAGER Spacecraft Interplanetary Mission, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) California.
This is a great story that includes world history wrapped in the aluminum skin of aviation. It contains extraordinary detail that burrows through wars, racism, determination, success, death and rebirth as South African Airways seeks new life after 2020. It is a wonderful read that should be mandatory for students of history and both civil and military service schools. ~ Brigadier General Bob Jordan, (retired), US Army
This is a fascinating tale that covers not only the development of air travel between Southern Africa and the rest of the world but also the too little-known evolution of the great, giant continent of Africa. The detailed aspects on aircraft and the amazingly courageous characters who flew the planes is spellbinding. This is a wonderful window on world history and is not to be missed. ~ Captain Stuart Bird-Wilson, (retired), British Special Air Services
This is a detailed and marvelous history of flying, commercial aviation and South Africa in general. It brought back many memories of my own career. The author has done an outstanding job of research and I highly recommend it to aviation aficionados, historians and general readers everywhere. ~ Lieutenant Colonel Ed Reynolds, (retired), US Air Force