Gautrain races ancient SANDF helicopter and loses

  • A PR stunt between the SANDF and the Gautrain this morning saw the SA Air Force Alouette II light helicopter beat the Gautrain in a race.
  • The Aloutte II is among the older machines the SANDF has in its arsenal and is currently not in service.
  • With the Gautrain top speed at 160km/h and the helicopter’s at 180km/h, this was never a race but a way for the SANDF to shine a spotlight on its older war machines.

On Tuesday in an event that no-one was expecting or asking for, the Gautrain raced a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) military helicopter, specifically the Alouette II light helicopter, a French model that first went into production in the 1950s, though it is not known how old those flying today are.

The race began at 7:00 this morning, with SA Air Force pilots boarding a trio of Alouette IIs. The race would be between Gautrain Midrand Station to the Centurion Station. While official times have not been stated by either the Gautrain or the SANDF, social media posts indicate that the race was over in just under half an hour. The win going to the SANDF and three Alouette II ships.

According to a 2009 fact sheet from News24, the Gautrain uses the Bombardier Electrostar model of trains for its electric commuter rail system. This model of train has a top speed of 160km/h and has seen extensive use in the United Kingdom and saw its first service in 2000.

Meanwhile, the Aerospatiale Alouette II has a top speed of 185km/h, and since it can fly in a straight line from point A to point B this was never going to be a race, and instead was simply a fun, if unnecessary, PR stunt between the two entities.

It may be that the SANDF is looking to highlight its old fleet of military machines. The race this morning was done under the theme “Through Time: Legends of the Skies” which means that we could expect more of these stunts in the near future with the SA Air Force bringing their older machines to public conscience.

Luckily, and according to the SA Air Force, the Alouette II is no longer being used in modern-day operations by the SANDF. Instead, the military branch has the Super Lynx 300, BK 117, A109 LUH and the locally-made Denel Oryx and Rooivalk helicopters still in service.

The oldest of these machines is the Oryx which started its service in 1990.

This loss today marks yet another one for Gautrain recently, as the operator lost power between these exact same stations (Midrand and Centurion) earlier this month which saw commuters trapped in the motionless train between the two stations for at least a few hours.


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