South African National Parks (SANParks) celebrates Captain David Simelane “Blackhawk”, South Africa’s first black game capture rated pilot.

On 2 December 2020, Simelane completed his game capture rating, as an endorsement on his helicopter pilot license. Simelane has been a helicopter pilot for 16 years and has flown all over the world including Madagascar and South Sudan.

 “We are extremely proud of Simelane and his achievement. He is an inspiration to many young black aspiring pilots and we hope that his passion will inspire more people to choose this industry as their careers.”  –  CEO Fundisile Mketeni.

 “I have a passion for flying and now I get to combine that with my love for wildlife and nature. I wake up in the morning knowing that every flight I do is to make a difference in nature conservation and in people’s lives.

Working as a pilot for SANParks is a calling, it is tough but I am in a blessed position to say that this is not a job for me, it’s a passion. Couple that with the fact that I am doing it in the same park I first fell in love with wildlife 25 years ago, is just a dream come true for me.” said Simelane.

He started working for SANParks earlier this year, and is KNP’s first black helicopter pilot working under SANParks Air Services which provide aerial support for many of the departments within SANParks.

Mketeni emphasised that Simelane’s achievement is a reflection of SANParks’ action to improve employees’ expertise to address inequalities and disparities in staff profiles. SANParks is committed towards the development and implementation of access, equity, and equal employment opportunities within the organisation.

“As a world society has started to realise how important both our natural and cultural heritage is and with a passionate and educated person like Simelane at SANParks we can continue to conserve and leave future generations with the natural beauty and heritage of South Africa. Today is a proud day for SANParks and the SANParks Air Services, we salute David Simelane and wish him well as he goes onwards and upwards,” concluded Mketeni.

Game capture rating is a very complex pilot endorsement rating where a helicopter pilot needs to take into consideration the environment, animals and the crew all while flying the helicopter itself.

The SANParks Air-wing in conjunction with the various other Anti-Poaching teams, Special Rangers, the SANDF and the SAPS have evolved into a focused and dedicated Anti-Poaching Support and Anti-Poaching Response role in the Kruger National Park. This shift in operations and increased demand for Dedicated Aerial Support presents a major strain and unique logistical and financial challenges to the SANParks Air-wing team.

The Helicopter fleet have doubled in size from 2 aircraft to 4 aircraft. Annual flight hours for the SANParks fleet have increased substantially per aircraft with an associated increase in fuel costs, maintenance costs, flight crew, ground support and logistical support.

The SANParks Air-wing are deployed daily in various supporting roles, specialised operations and aerial support.

Aircraft used is the AS350B3 / H125 helicopter.

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