The SAAF Museum Port Elizabeth

By Ricky Fouchť

Trials and Tribulations to keep our history alive

During my December holidays I decided to pay the Port Elizabeth SAAF Museum a visit. During this visit I was impressed to see so much care being taken of the old ladies of the skies. The exhibits in the main hangar are beautifully kept and displayed. Unfortunately, there were no lights in the hangar, leaving it very poorly lit, I later found out why.

The Curator, Crew and volunteers at the museum are hard at work in trying to keep the museum open and accessible to visitors, young and old. Grey High School in Port Elizabeth has started a cadet program and a number of learners have volunteered to assist by helping to clean and restore a number of the exhibits. The museum is not allowed to charge an entry fee but they do accept any donations that visitors are prepared to make.

I visited the museum on the 29th of December 2023 and at that stage they were already without power for a number of weeks due to cable theft on the grounds. The museum is located on ACSA (Airport Company of South Africa) grounds at the Southern side of the main runway (08/26) at the Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport in Port Elizabeth. At that time there was no attempt made to have this cable replaced and the museum is forced to wait till something is done.

I spoke to Morne Bellingan, Curator of the Museum on the 12th of January 2024 and they were still without power. During our conversation I enquired about the door on the second hangar that is torn apart and flapping in the wind. This hangar houses a very rare Airspeed Oxford, a lovely non-flying wooden Spitfire full scale model, a Puma, a Britten Norman Islander, a North American T6 Harvard and some other rare types.

Lying outside on a pile of tyres is an Impala Mk 1 that is waiting to be taken in to the hangar as well as an Aermacchi AM3 Bosbok reconnaissance aircraft and Piaggio Albatross that also need to be taken inside in order to protect them against the elements. This cannot be done as the hangar doors are too hazardous to even attempt to open them in fear of them coming down on personnel, visitors or even the rare aircraft that are already in the hangar.

The museum reported the matter to ACSA in October of 2023 but was informed that repairs to the hangar was not possible in the current budget and that they would revisit the request during the new fiscal year.

The Impala and Albatross were previously mounted as Gate Guards outside the main airport terminal but severe winds destroyed the structures on which they were mounted. The museum staff rallied together to get the aircraft relocated to the museum grounds. The aircraft sustained serious damage and need a lot of TLC to get them looking presentable as static displays.

This site is very vulnerable to theft and vandalism as the main gate cannot close and there are no security guards to safeguard all these precious memories from yesteryear. Burglaries have been experienced and also the theft of the power cables.

After my visit I decided to see if I could drum up some support for this wonderful piece of our history. Any donations are welcome. Material, labour and financial donations would be most helpful and extremely well received.

To donate please contact the Curator Morne Bellingan on Cell phone 079 600 6216 or E-Mail

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