Lt Gen Gagiano Hands Over Command After 44 Years
By: Cpl Itumeleng Makhubela
The SA Air Force witnessed history on a Friday afternoon of 28 September 2012 when the third longest serving Chief of The Air Force, Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano handed over the reigns to Lt Gen Fabian (Zakes) Msimang on a change of command parade held at the Swartkop Airfield.
“ After 44 years, 6 months and 16 days service in the South Africa Air Force my time has come to hand over command of the South African Air Force to Lt Gen Msimang. I dedicated my life to the Air Force and if I were once again 17 years old today I would not make any other decision but to become a fighter pilot.” Indicated Lt Gen Gagiano during his address at the parade.
Lt Gen Gagiano joined the SA Air Force in 1968 and qualified as a pilot on the Impala aircraft in December 1969. During his long and illustrious flying career he flew the Harvard, the Astra, the PC 12, the Vampire, the F-86 Sabre, the Mirage 3, the F1CZ and the Cheetah D and E aircraft.
Speaking at a press briefing to the media he mentioned that as part of his legacy, it was difficult for him to leave behind a dedicated Air Force personnel. Lt Gen Gagiano conceded that the Air Force has a difficult task as many of their people are extremely marketable in the private sector and may leave for greener pastures.
Interesting to note was the ushering in of the first African male to be appointed as Chief of the Air Force. Lt Gen Msimang started his initial flying training at Frunze 1 Central Officers Training Center – Kirghizastan, in the Union of Socialist Republics from 1986 – 1991.
He graduated from the institution with a diploma in Command and Tactics of Military Aviation. During his career he has flown the Mi 8, Mi 25, Allouette III, Oryx helicopters and also did a factory conversion onto the A109E helicopters at Agusta/ Westland in Italy.