History of the Port Elizabeth Branch

History of the Port Elizabeth SAAF Museum

In 1990, after closure of the Port Elizabeth Air Force Base, an initiative to apply for authority to set up a museum in Port Elizabeth was put into motion by the local Friends of the Museum.

After successful negotiations between the Museum Board and The Friends of The Museum, permission was granted by the Chief of the Air Force in 1990 to establish the Port Elizabeth branch of the SAAF Museum. This was on condition that a suitable site could be found and that there would be no official funding for setting up the museum.

The Friends of the Port Elizabeth Museum raised private funding and Mr. A. E. Winkelmann (AMG) and Flight Sergeant van Loggerenberg were authorized to manage the branch. FACP PE (then 302 FACP) supplied one cleaner to assist.

1990 – The Site.

The site identified to best suit the needs of the Museum was the old 42nd Air School, one of the largest Air Schools of the Joint SAAF & RAF Training Scheme of WWII.

A portion of the site, located in Southdene on the south side of the Port Elizabeth airport was preferred as it comprised various old buildings well suited for the display of SAAF artifacts, static and serviceable aircraft.

There was the gunnery training building, parachute loft building and a Belman hangar, all of which were in a semi-derelict state and would require immediate renovations.


A 25 year lease agreement was signed between the SAAF Museum Board and the Port Elizabeth Municipality in February 1991. The lease expires in 2016.

1991 – Site Development.

In 1991 the site was cleared and prepared and the various buildings were allocated usages.

The Air Gunnery Training Centre with its historically unique Belfast timber trusses became the main building of the museum. The Mayor of Port Elizabeth was then appointed Patron of the Museum

1991 – Gunnery Training Building Restoration.

The main Museum building required a new roof urgently to stop weather penetration and to save the valuable timber Belfast trusses. 2000m2 of roofing materials were donated by Onduline of France and Safmarine provided free shipment to South Africa. Nampak donated cash for the purchase of roofing timber and William Scott Roofing provided free labour to erect and complete the roof. In addition, Dulux Paints supplied over 2500 Litres of paint for the project. The willingness and cooperation of these sponsors were a significant element in the establishment of the Museum.

In order to create awareness of the newly established Museum and the Friend organisation, the DeHavilland Vampire (205) was transported to Art in the Park with great success.

Prior to the lease agreement being signed, or the formal formation of the PESAAF Museum, an Oxford (G-AITF) was acquired from the United Kingdom and restoration work had already commenced by members of 16 Squadron and founder members of the local Friends of the Museum.


1992 – Official Opening & Air Show.

The museum was officially opened by Lt. Gen. A. J. Kriel on 25th April 1992 and on 25th April the same year an inaugural air show was staged, attracting 30 000 people and raising R20,000 for the PE Museum.


1993 – Amenities Added.

In 1993, public toilets were constructed to enable the facilities to cope with visitors and the Friends’ clubhouse, The Woodpecker Clubhouse was completed to entertain dignitaries and create social fellowship.


1994 – New Aircraft Displays.

The highlight of 1994 was the acquisition of the Dassault-Breguet Mirage F1-CZ (201) by road from Air Force base Swartkop. The Vampire was taken to the Port Elizabeth Technical College to be repaired to static condition by the students under the guidance of the Friends.

1995 – SAAF 75th Anniversary & Harvards Arrive.

The Museum hosted the SAAF 75th on 16th September 1995 attracting 30,000 people.

This same year, the Woodpecker Club House was officially opened by Brig. B. J. Kriegler.

Two North American T-6 Harvards (7480 & 7289) from the SAAF were received to be utilized as static exhibits and were hangered temporarily at the PE Air Force Base.

1996 – Hangar Refurbishment and Harvard Flights.

This year saw the dismantling and transportation of hangar material from the 47th Air School in Queenstown to be used to repair the existing Belman hangar.

The Museum then hosted the farewell of Lt. Gen. A J. Kriel.

A monetary pledge was received from Swartkops Museum building fund to assist with the repair of the Belman hangar. Refurbishment work then commenced in earnest.

The Harvards were made serviceable and the first Museum flight took place by Lt. Col. D. Knoessen on 17th October 1996.

1997 Harvard Pilots and Extensive new Library.

Authority was received for Co. D. Spolander, Lt. Col. T. Schroeder and Lt. Col. B. Sharp for these three pilots to regularly fly the Harvards.

Air Force Awareness Day was hosted by the Museum on 19th September 1997 and in this same year the Museum established its vast library of over 1000 books and over 8000 magazines that has become one of the most comprehensive reference libraries available on the African continent for SAAF and aviation heritage research.

The two Harvards were transferred permanently from the PE Air Force Base to the Museum hanger.


1998 – Cooperative SAA, ACSA Marketing and Belman Hanger Completion

24 March 1998 – Flight of Friendship.

The Officer Commanding Forward Air Command Port Elizabeth, Colonel Derek Spolander and Second in Command of the unit,  Lieutenant Colonel Trevor Schroeder, treated members of the local branch of the Friends of the South African Air Force Museum to a flight in two North American Harvard aircraft based at the city’s SAAF Museum.

Pictured above are (back left to right) Lt. Col. Trevor Schroeder, Mark Godfrey, Col. Derek Spolander and Christine Lee. (Front left to right) Woody Turner, Peter Williams, Andrew Winkelmann, Botha du Plessis, Tony van Niekerk, James Canepa, Hugh Jones and Barry Bradley. Picture by Ivor Markman.

Harvard flights were undertaken over the city to create awareness for the Museum. This marketing venture was very successful.

Substantial funds were received from ACSA, SAA and private donors when combining the naming of the first South African Airways Boeing 747-400 “Ibhayi” with the necessary work to complete the refurbishment of the Belman hangar. These donations were received due to the credibility of the Museum as well as the strong relationships built up between the Friends, Museum and the local business community.

The Museum then hosted the naming ceremony and function of the SAA Ibhayi Boeing with 500 dignitaries and 5000 spectators.


1999 – Bosbok & Puma Arrive, Post Changes and Belman Officially Opened.

The Aeritalia AM-3C Bosbok (920) was received from Swartkops and flown down to the Museum by Col. D. Spolander to be on permanent display here.

The Museum then hosted the Changing Over of Command Parade with outgoing OC Col. D. Spolander handing over command to Col. R. Jonsson.

The arrival of the Westland Aerospatiale SA-330C Puma (123) Air Force Base Swartkops as a permanent exhibit brought a new dynamic to the Museum and complimented the other exhibits which were growing on a monthly basis.

The Museum’s Harvards and Bosbok took part in the East London Air Show in June 1999 and additional funds were raised for the Museum.

In December 1999 the Belman hangar was officially opened by Co. D. Spolander.

2000 – Millennium to 2010.

The Museum has developed into an important tourist destination in the Nelson Mandela Metro and is recognized by all tourism authorities and many tourism organizations and hospitality establishments.

It continues to attract local and regional school parties, local and international visitors and students doing research.

The local Friends are an integral partner in its success and ongoing developments.

A portion of the anti-aircraft gunnery training practice lines have been painstakingly restored on the wall by one of the Friends of the SAAF Museum and ongoing upgrading is carried out on the building and exhibits.


2007 – Skimmerfoil arrival

Tandem Airfoil Flareboat Skimmerfoil

On Wednesday 4th July 2007 an unusual new exhibit arrived on a flatbed at the SAAF Museum in Port Elizabeth.  The Skimmerfoil Jörg IV is an extremely interesting craft which brought a uniquely new dimension to the Museum.

The TAF (Tandem Airfoil Flareboat) Skimmerfoil is referred to as a WIG (wings into ground) craft.  Its inventor is Günther W Jörg, who is still involved in  Airfoil Flareboat Technology (Airfoil) in Germany. In 1979/80 successful test runs with 4-6 seaters were carried out in South Africa.

2010 – Art Gallery and Projects.

An Art Gallery comprising oil paintings and pencil illustrations by Don Bell , a local artist and a Friend was opened in the Museum. The works comprise both SAAF and other air force aircraft. These works are sold to the visitors and a portion is donated to the Museum.


The Oxford restoration project which suffered a set back with lack of funding, was brought back on track as a priority and progresses well.


The Full Scale Supermarine Spitfire MK-IX Model project was started and should be completed by 2012/13.


2011 – New Infrastructural Development & Marketing Plans

The majority of the old 42nd Air School buildings and infrastructure have been allowed to collapse; however, the Museum Friends and the Woodpecker Trust are in the process of applying for heritage protection so that remaining buildings can be protected for future generations.

The buildings are now at capacity and additional structures are being planned to house more valuable aviation exhibits.


Aeritalia AM-3C Bosbok [920]
Aerospatiale SA-330C Puma [123]
Airspeed Oxford [G-AITF]
Atlas Impala Mk II [1037]
Bell Model 47 Sioux [ex RAF XT562]
Dassault-Breguet Mirage F1CZ [201]
de Havilland Vampire FB5 [205]
Sud Aviation SE-316B Alouette III [632]
Westland Scout  GT [ex Bahrain State Police]
Skimmerfoil Jörg IV
North American Harvard [7289]
North American Harvard [7480]
Artifacts and Displays:
Sperry Searchlight Mirror and Generator
Various plane engines
VHF Radio Transmitters
Impressive model airplane displays
Ejection seat display
Various Aviation artworks
Photo displays of airmen
Information on various WW ll aircraft
Anti-aircraft gunnery training practice lines
and much much more….

We Need Your Support
The Museum and PE Friends are non-profit entities which rely solely on volunteers, the Friends, independent donors and corporate sponsors, so any assistance is highly appreciated and goes to maintaining, upgrading and developing the museum into a world class tourism and educational destination.

Retail Shop – Food & beverages, Memorabilia.
Art Gallery – original aviation oil paintings, pencil illustrations, canvas print, posters & postcards..
Guided tours – Educationals.
Kiddies Educationals & Party venue.
Function venue – seminars, meetings, parties, braais etc.

The PE Friends of the PE SAAF Museum
The Friends are a voluntary group of people of all ages who are committed to aviation and the protection of our aviation heritage. They dedicate their time, experience and skills to marketing & maintaining the Museum, building new products & displays, restoring aircraft and raising funds.

Please consider joining us so that you too can make a difference.

Art Gallery & Collection
The Don Bell Aviation Art Gallery comprises a range of paintings, prints and illustrations of SAAF and other aircraft.

The Art Collection is a number of SAAF aviation paintings and illustrations loaned by Don for permanent display in the museum.
A portion of the income derived from sales and commissioned works in the gallery are donated to the museum.
Prints and post cards of all the paintings in the Gallery and Collection can be ordered.
Go here to view all the works.

The library, situated in the art gallery, contains a vast collection of aviation books of all manner of aviation related content.

Current Projects

The Friends, volunteers and Museum personnel are currently working on various heritage projects which require ongoing funding to achieve our goal of showcasing unique and important historical artefacts and exhibits.



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