Message from a Past Chairman


I have been asked on numerous occasions what it is that makes me so passionate about history and in particular the history of civil aviation in South Africa. The main reason is simple: as I matured I realised the importance of events that ran before us and as a result of my late father, who flew as navigator on Wellington Bombers in WWII and was interested in old cars, I developed an interest in “things of old”.
I joined the South African Airways Museum Society in 1992. At the time I was involved in the television production industry and was fortunate enough to be contracted to make a documentary on the Junkers Ju 52/3m which was in her fledgling years of being operated by the South African Airways Historic Flight carrying nostalgia seekers on Sunday morning scenic flights over Johannesburg. I am sure many remember her sonorous drone over the city and suburbs.
I was in awe of the Museum Society and the band of dedicated volunteer enthusiasts and their preservation efforts, and of the SAA Historic Flight and my general interest in things of old was quickly cemented into one subject, that of old aeroplanes and the history of civil aviation in South Africa.
The news of the impending return to civil service of a Douglas DC-4 Skymaster to be followed shortly thereafter by a Douglas DC-3 was received with great delight and I sunk my spare time into getting more involved with the Museum Society as well as making video productions of the DC-4 and DC-3.
I was elected Chairman of the SAA Museum Society in 1998 and ran for 8 years in office. During that time many exciting new projects were undertaken, the most notable of which was the acquisition of the Boeing 747-244 named Lebombo and the establishing of Museum facilities at Rand Airport in Germiston, just east of Johannesburg. The Museum houses a wonderful collection of aircraft, artefacts, photographs, books, videos and documentation which depict the broad spectrum of South African civil aviation history.
Out of the eleven aircraft that the museum currently owns, three are serviceable; two Douglas DC-4 Skymasters and a Douglas DC-3 Dakota. These aircraft are all classic propeller driven airliners that started their careers in the mid 1940s and still ply their trade carrying tourists to exotic destinations in Southern Africa. The aircraft are operated on behalf of the Museum by Skyclass Aviation. For more detailed information on the operation of the Museum’s Classic Airliners visit 
The South African Airways Museum Society plays an important role in the future of civil aviation in South Africa for it provides a valuable resource for the youth who may well become future employees of the aviation industry as a result of a visit to the Museum’s facilities., They will be able to whiteness firsthand some aviation machines of the past, as well as read up on the development of aviation and this may well spark off a career in what is truly a fascinated and most rewarding industry.
I have been most privileged to have been involved in continuing to build on the foundations laid down in the early 1970s by individuals who saw the need for an aviation museum, one that would preserve the past and link it to the future.
History plays an important role in the decisions we make that govern our future and I therefore feel it is imperative that young and old as well as commerce and industry are acquainted with the past. If we don’t know where we have come from then how can we guide ourselves into the future.
John Austin-Williams
Public Relations and Media Liaison Officer
South African Airways Museum Society
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November 2008