Scrapped jet raises eyebrows

The F1 Mirage was found at the Fine Trading scrap yard in Salt River.

The discovery of an old SA Air Force jet at a Salt River scrap yard has raised questions about how it got there.

The Mirage F1, a French-made interceptor, the likes of which saw action in the Border War during the 1970s and 1980s, was spotted at the Fine Trading scrap yard by Milnerton resident Colin Brown, who photographed it.

His picture, published in Tabletalk’s December 14 edition, received a lot of attention from readers.

Table View resident and retired Air Force Base Ysterplaat employee Gordon Swanepoel, who worked as a ground staff mechanic on the base for seven years during the late 1950s and early 1960s, said:“If I look at the Mirage, I can see that it doesn’t have an engine, it is just the hull and there are no wings on it. It was most probably damaged in an accident. It is scrap, just aluminium.”

Ysterplaat Air Force Base spokesman Captain Patrick Paulse said the aircraft had been sold to the scrap yard through a tender process.

“The plane had no value to us,” he said. “It was standing in the rain and sun and was corroded. We have one in the museum.”

He added:“The plane was not supposed to be displayed outside; it was meant to be cut up for scrap.”

Friends of the SAAF Museum chairman Robin Meyerwitz agreed that the aircraft had no significant historical value like the Mirage F1 on display at the air force museum, at the base.

“The craft had deteriorated to a point in which it became a health hazard. It does not have historical significance. The one they got has a kill mark on it, which means that it shot down an enemy craft in the Border War,” said Mr Meyerwitz.

A staff member at Fine Trading said the Mirage had since been removed from its perch and stored after some “guys from the air force” asked them to because “it still has its colours on”.

He referred us to the firm’s operations director, Morne Bayman, for more information. Mr Bayman said the aircraft’s hull would be restored and not cut up for scrap.

Fine Trading owner Mark Fine confirmed that the plane had been removed from public view at the request of the air force, which had told him the hull needed to be repainted before it could be displayed.

“It is a complete air craft with wings, which I bought from one of my suppliers. I have had a Shackleton in the past, but I could not display it, so I had it cut up. The public does not realise that the aluminium oxidises rapidly,” he said.

He was not prepared to disclose how much he paid for the Mirage F1.

“I have not decided what I will do with the mirage yet, if it is going to cost a significant amount to restore the Mirage then I will scrap it,”said Mr Fine.