(7 DECEMBER 1943 – 24 APRIL 2022) – Tiro Vorster was a world-renowned aviation artist. He was a Fellow of the American Society of Aviation Artists (ASAA) and this information comes from ASAA and from a profile in World Airnews by Pieter Cronjé.

Aviation artist Tiro Vorster with one of his internationally acclaimed works – this of a Tupolev Tu-95.

TIRO VORSTER GREW UP IN MIDDELBURG Transvaal as the son of a watchmaker and gunsmith father and a bookkeeper mother. Tiro’s early childhood fascination with drawing machines on soap wrappers took flight when he saw his first large aircraft at age sixteen. Like so many youngsters passionate about aviation he built and flew model aircraft. His home library is filled with his lifelong passion – from his childhood books, to memorabilia, autographs, gifts and personal messages from famous pilots, commanders, generals and captains of industry.

Tiro joined the South African Air Force (SAAF) and became a flight engineer on the Alouette III helicopter and the Shackleton maritime reconnaissance aircraft. He was decorated in nine combat tours.

‘He became a silent ambassador for South Africa and the SA Air Force’

He was a flight engineer in an era when flight engineers without computer help, had to calculate: takeoff weight, fuel supply, speed and many other figures to ensure safe takeoff, mission and landing.

He flew many search, rescue and patrol missions over the oceans, the desert and in guerrilla wars in Namibia, Angola and former Rhodesia – nine tours of duty of ten weeks each. He lost comrades and had close shaves: doing emergency repairs to a helicopter under enemy fire and insisting on being on board for the flight back to base.

Among his many awards was the Pro Merito medal for “exceptionally meritorious service and particular devotion to duty”, and the Military Merit Medal for editing SAAF’s Nyala magazine.

Tiro Vorster’s aviation art opened doors to many in high office. He became a silent ambassador for South Africa and the SA Air Force, behind iron curtains and despite military sanctions. Pieter Cronjé reports Tiro saying, “Art gave me wonderful opportunities. In 1984 I sent the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force a print of a Mustang P51, without permission from my superiors and against military protocol. I still have the handwritten thank you letter from General Charles A. Gabriel.

AASA writes that “Tiro was self-taught, he sketched and painted the aircraft all around him. An invitation to exhibit eight of his works at the United States “Centennial Celebration of Aviation Art” at the Dayton, Ohio Air Force Museum in 2003, was a career highlight.

Cronjé writes, “Aviation art demands all the “regular” elements such as perspective, colour, scale, contrast, texture, lighting, brush technique. Aviation artists have to master still life (aircraft in a hangar on the runway), landscape (aircraft over mountains, oceans, desert, in clouds), battle positions, light, reflection, camouflage and precise historical, military and technical detail. One mistake detracts from the merit of the work.”

On his walls, in collectors’ homes and military bases hang his paintings of Shackleton, Spitfire, Mustang P51, Bristol Beaufighter, Cheetah, English Electric Lightning, Lockheed Constellation, Junkers, Rooivalk, Wasp, Albatross, Kittyhawk, Focke Wulf and more.

Tiro and his wife, Hannatjie, a former teacher have a daughter, Tihanna, a former South African 400 metres athletics champion, musician, now physiotherapist in Mossel Bay. They are just as proud of her as she is of her parents and her artist father.”

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