Change of Command of the South African Air Force

Posted on 24 October 2012, Report by Garth Calitz

Residents of Pretoria may have been slightly confused on Friday, the 28th September 2012. Believing that AAD 2012 had drawn to a close suddenly the skies were once again filled with the sound of "Thundering Jets". The aircraft were in fact flying to mark the change of command of the South African Airforce and subsequent retirement of Lt. Gen. Carlo Gagiano after an illustrious career spanning 44 years.

Lt. Gen. Gagiano joined the South African Airforce in 1968 and qualified as a pilot on the Aermacchi 326M "Impala" in December 1969. In 1985 he completed the South African Air Force's Senior Command and Staff Course and was subsequently appointed as the OC 3 Squadron, operating Mirage F1CZ aircraft. In 1989 he was appointed as the Officer Commanding 89 Combat Flying School, flying Cheetah D aircraft. During his career he flew many aircraft including T6G Harvards, PC 7 Astra's, Pilatus PC 12's, De Haviland Vampire, Canadair Sabre, Mirage III, Mirage F1CZ and the Cheetah D, many of which took part in the flypast at the parade.

From 1991 to 1994 he was the South African military attaché to Israel. On his return from Israel, Gen. Gagiano attended the South African National Defence Force's Joint Staff Course. He served as Inspector-General of the Air Force from 1998 to 2000, as Chief Director: Operations Development from 2000 to 2005, and was promoted to Chief of the Air Force in 2005 where he remained until his retirement.

Lt. Gen. Fabian "Zakes" Msimang officially accepted command of the SAAF at the formal parade held at Airforce Base Swartkops. Gen Msimang enters the position with a very impressive curriculum vitae spanning many years.

He received his initial flying training at Frunze 1 Central Officers Training Center, Kirghizstan, in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from 1986 to 1991. During this time he saw combat in Angola. He graduated from the institution with a diploma in Command & Tactics of Military Aviation.

He was appointed assistant project officer on Project Flange in Italy where he also completed the Senior Staff Course at the Italian Air Force War School.

On his return from Italy, Msimang was then appointed Officer Commanding of the Helicopter Flying School at Airforce Base Bloemspruit. Gen. Msimang completed the Executive National Security Program at the SANDF College.

Congratulations and Godspeed, Gen. Msimang. May your time as Chief of the Air Force be filled with success and prosperity. Gen Gagiano, Farewell and Thank You for your unfailing service to the South African Air Force and to South Africa as a whole. You will be missed.