‘Joyflight’ lands police jet pilots in hot water

2013-05-08 00:00

THE police are investigating a report that two pilots of the SA Police Service air wing came close to causing a diplomatic incident by “visiting” Swaziland in a police VIP jet.

Spokesperson Brigadier Phuti Setati yesterday confirmed the investigation, which follows a training flight by Lieutenant-Colonel Aaron Dlamini and Captain Tim Nhlengethwa in a Citation Sovereign jet on April 26 last year.

They took off from Wonderboom airport near Pretoria in the morning and landed there in the afternoon. In between they landed at the Kruger Game Park and then crossed the border, landing at the Matsapa airport in Swaziland.

Both pilots previously flew for the Swaziland air force and are of Swazi origin.

From Matsapa they flew to Polokwane and then to Pretoria. After landing at the three airports they switched off the jet’s engine, which, informed sources said, wasted cycles on the engine’s lifespan. It is not known whether they picked up any passengers or carried any load to Swaziland.

The pilots did not have diplomatic permission or authority for a fly-over, which informed sources said could easily have sparked a diplomatic incident if the Swazi authorities had wanted to act against the pilots.

Besides the R20 000 per hour in fuel to keep the Sovereign jet in the air, the police have meanwhile been billed for thousands of rands by each of the airports for landing and taxi fees. The final tally of the pilots joyflight is estimated to be more than R100 000.

The jet is normally used to fly top police officers and VIP visitors across South Africa or on international flights.

Both pilots were carpeted when they left the former head of police, General Bheki Cele, stranded. They were found guilty in a departmental hearing, but is not known whether they were punished.

Their joyride to Swaziland was reported last year, but no action was taken against them.

In 2012, an air force pilot was suspended after he “borrowed” a private plane to visit friends in Botswana. For that flight, the young lieutenant “borrowed” the fuel card of the air force’s VIP squadron at the Waterkloof airforce base to pay for his excursion.

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