FlySafair’s first Boeing 737-400 passenger aircraft took to the skies for the first time on 16 October 2014 sporting the airlines iconic pink and blue tail. While the airline represented a fresh new face in South African domestic aviation, few people realised that the company behind FlySafair, Safair, has been a major player in aviation for more than 50 years.
Behind FlySafair is a well-established company called Safair Operations which has been operating specialised aviation services since 1965. Over the years the airline has flown a variety of different aircraft types on all kinds of missions in various environments.
The company boasts a long-standing relationship with two aircraft manufacturers in particular: Lockheed and Boeing.
Safair has long been operating a very special aircraft type called the Lockheed Hercules, affectionately referred to as “the Hercs”. These amazing aircraft are powered by four propeller engines and can be used in a number of very interesting ways to execute specialised aviation and airlift services.
Safair Hercules in Antarctica
The wide bodies and rear cargo doors mean that these aircraft are great for transporting large, and often awkward, loads by air. Another major feature of these particular aircraft is their ability to operate off of shorter and irregular runways, meaning that they can be flown into areas that traditional jets would struggle to access.
Safair has been operating and maintaining Boeing aircraft since the early 1980s. Some of the work conducted over the years was on cargo operations, but a large part of the work was only on a lease basis. If you’ve been a semi-regular flier in South Africa over the past 15 years or so, there’s a very high chance that you’ve been aboard an aircraft that was owned and operated by Safair before – it may simply have been sporting a different colour on it’s tail.
Safair's First Boeing Aircraft
Safair has operated flights for a number of very familiar airlines including South African Airways, Air Namibia, Ryanair and 1Time. Safair was also the company that operated the first flights conducted by Kulula.com effectively helping to establish the airline in 2001.
Over the years Safair has had the amazing opportunity to participate in a number of incredible adventures. We’ve operated humanitarian aid relief missions all over the world; relocated rhino, dolphins, hammer head sharks and sting rays on conservation missions; and transported sports legends and presidents. One of the company’s great achievements is that we were the first ever airline to conduct a wheel-based landing on ice when flying to Antarctica – a mission that we still do on an annual basis in December when the conditions are safe and the ice is thick enough to and on.
Safair Boeing 707 over Durban Harbour
One can imagine that after landing on ice or dirt runways in the heart of Africa, the smooth runways of South Africa’s major airports are no sweat at all for Safair’s skilled crews.
While we are incredibly proud of the skilled people behind the scenes at Safair and FlySafair, it’s not just skill that’s helped us achieve what we have so far, but also experience. It’s the experience behind this airline that has helped us to achieve great things, like establish and maintain the most punctual airline in the country.