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Legendary pilot dines with SAAFA

SAAFA members once again gathered to dip into the past and share tales of their time spent soaring through the sky.

Pilot extraordinaire and South African Air Force legend Cobus Toerien recently spent an afternoon of fellowship in the company of the South African Air Force Association (SAAFA) East Rand branch.

A table for 24 was set in a quiet corner of the Tonino Cucina Griglia at the Benoni Country Club on October 20 as members, guests and friends gathered to catch up with Toerien.

SAAFA national president Mike Louw as well as the chairpersons of the Pretoria and Johannesburg branches were also in attendance to raise a glass to an aviation specialist who flew 168 combat missions during the Angolan conflict.

Having spent five decades with his head soaring through the clouds, Toerien’s long and illustrious resumé includes becoming a BMil graduate from the Military Academy, University Stellenbosch.

He piloted Harvard, Impala MkI as well as MkII, Mirage F1CZ and the Cheetah before using his knowledge and expertise to become a flight safety and accident investigator for SAA.

Sharing in a private joke are Bill de Pinho (SAAFA Pretoria chairperson), Mike Louw (SAAFA national president) and Cobus Toerien.

“During my time in the cockpit, I have been on great adventures and experienced the world below at the speed of sound,” said the former colonel.

“I will cherish the relationships I forged with my squadron and fellow officers above all. We were and remain to be a band of brothers.”

Following the prompts of those around the table to talk about the flight at saw him being awarded the Army Star, Toerien admitted that upon his invitation to the branch luncheon, he did not expect to take centre stage to deliver a speech.

“I thought I was just coming here to meet up with good old friends,” he said in jest.

“To make a long technical story short, I was awarded a medal after I was able to bring a MiG safely in for a landing without an engine.”

Karl Jensen (SAAFA Johannesburg chairperson) shares an aviation antidote with the table.

He explained that during a flight test just before dusk, he had reached Mach 1.4 after which the engine seized operation.

Drawing on his experience and praying to the gods of flight, he successfully landed the plane at Waterkloof Military base, unscathed.

“The following day the craft was back in the sky, it was truly an unnerving experience,” he said.

As waiters refilled the glasses of those in attendance, Bill de Pinho, SAAFA Pretoria branch made a toast to the local branch, commending the members and its chairman, Roelf Rossouw for its vibrance and tenacity in continually growing its membership, and hosting luncheons filled with aviation enthusiasts.

For more information regarding SAAFA East Rand or to become a member, call Rossouw on 073 186 7761 or email rossouwrj1@gmail.com.

SAAFA members Marinda Beukes, Devon Cardases and his dad, Nick and TC Schultz.

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