Ailing Gagiano to stay as Air Force head

2011-11-08 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Lieutenant-General Carlo Gagiano plans to stay on as head of the air force after the minister of defence did not accept the resignation he tendered last week.

Gagiano was booked into 1 Military Hospital with severe stress and is recuperating at home.

An air force spokesperson told Beeld yesterday that Gagiano plans to return to work as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the Defence Department said a high-level inquiry has started to determine how two men, who were involved in a coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea, could be allowed to pilot President Jacob Zuma in a chartered Boeing 727 to New York last month.

Ndivhuwo Mabaya, spokesperson for Lindiwe Sisulu, minister of defence, said Lieutenant-General Solly Shoke, Chief of the SA National Defence Force, has already appointed a commission of inquiry into the matter.

Beeld reported earlier that the air force does not have pilots who are qualified to fly a Boeing 727. Advocate Pikkie Greeff, national secretary of the SA National Defence Force Union (Sanwu), said it is a scandal that the air force cannot afford to keep qualified pilots of this calibre. “But now they have enough money to spend R1,6 billion on new VIP jets.”

Greeff said qualified pilots left the air force for better salaries in the private sector.

Mabaya yesterday said the air force does not have a Boeing 727 in its fleet and that is why it did not retain qualified 727 pilots. “Airplanes are not like cars. Helicopter pilots cannot necessarily fly jumbo jets.”

Mabaya said the air force has qualified pilots to fly all the types of aircraft in its fleet.

He confirmed that the department is urgently looking to buy two new VIP jets for the president and the deputy president.

An independent expert on air transport suggested the department will look at a Boeing 777 or an Airbus 330, which are the standard aircraft for chiefs of state who maintain their own planes. It is about security and productivity. Bear in mind that a delegation of 30 people normally accompanies the VIPs.”

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