Maj James V. du Toit and CO Solomon M. Kotane
Information supplied by Brig Gen Kriegler
Brig Gen Anton Kriegler has served the South African Air
Force (SAAF) for the past thirty nine years – a truly great
achievement for any career officer. To serve an organisation
for so long, says a great deal about this remarkable man.
Brig Gen Kriegler was the Officer Commanding of the Air
Force Command Post since October 2006. This post is also the
most senior Officer Commanding post in the SAAF and reports
to the General Officer Commanding Air Command. He is
responsible for the coordinating, monitoring and control of
supported air power capabilities for force preparation for
Chief of the Air Force; for employment, monitoring and
control of supported combat ready air power capabilities in
order to conduct internal and external air operations as
tasked by CJ Ops and to employ a ready and supported mode of
air transport for the President, Deputy President, Minister
of Defence, Deputy Minister of Defence and senior cabinet
and deputy ministers as governed in the Cabinet Memorandum
for VVIP Air Transport. General Kriegler is a man with vast
Officer Commanding experience, and he can look back at an
illustrious career spanning almost four decades.
Kriegler will retire on 31 March 2009. AD ASTRA spoke to him
to find out what makes him tick. He explains:
Brig Gen Kriegler, at what stage of your life did you
realise/decide to pursue a career in the South African Air
My father served as an armourer on 27 Sqn in the Air Force
during WWII and after he demobilised, he maintained his
affinity with the Air Force and aviation in general. I
therefore grew up in a household where aviation was an
everyday topic. As a family we also regularly camped on the
farm Jacob’s Bay on the West Coast adjacent to the Toothrock
Weapons Range. There I sat for many hours and watched in awe
as Air Force Vampires, Sabres and Harvards fired cannon and
rockets. From a very early age I had therefore already made
up my mind to become a military pilot.
Sir, if you could have your career all over again, would
you have made the same decision to choose the SAAF as
employer of choice? If any, what would you have changed, if
The Air Force all over again. Hindsight is always a perfect
science, but if I could have changed anything, it would have
been the way we managed the integration process. In my
opinion we should have spend a lot more time and energy to
create opportunities to get to know one another better in
the first few months after integration. We did not do this
properly and it took too many years to smooth out issues in
Gen Kriegler, you were streamed as an efficient pilot
instructor in the SAAF, was this your preferred choice?
When I joined the Air Force in 1970, we all had to undergo a
six month Joint Officers Forming Course (Army, Air Force and
Navy) at the Military Academy. Upon completion, I completed
my degree studies and then only went to Langebaanweg do
undergo flying Training. In those days, anyone that was a
graduate of the Military Academy, became a flying
instructor, whether it was your choice or not! I have a
great passion for teaching and thoroughly enjoyed all the
training and development opportunities the Air Force has
afforded me throughout my career.
You were appointed Director Air Transport and Maritime
Systems, in your opinion, what was the main challenge you
have faced since then?
Two main challenges stand out. The first was the acquisition
and introduction into service of the Boeing BBJ at 21 Sqn
just after my appointment. At that stage the Air Force was
the only operator of a BBJ on the African continent. It must
be remembered that it is an aircraft designed and build in
Seattle in Washington, it is fitted with engines that are
designed and manufactured in Paris, France and with a unique
and custom-build interior completed in Basel, Switzerland.
We were 10 flying hours or 10 000km away from Western Europe
and North America, all on our own at the Southern tip of
Africa and had to make it work from day one. It was a
The second was the management of the C130 fleet. When I was
appointed, the upgrade (Project EBB) was 5 years overdue,
the first three aircraft were delivered from Cambridge in
the UK and Denel Aviation started on the last six. We had to
operate 28 Sqn with pre-EBB as well as post-EBB aircraft
with not all the technical handbooks or spares and
components to do it. Just as we were managing to get all our
ducks in a row, there was a world-wide grounding early in
2005 of older model C130s due to a wing-fatigue problem. Our
C130s were delivered in 1963 and due to the Arms Embargo,
the Air Force could not interact with the manufacturer
Lockheed Martin, for a period of 23 years from 1971 to 1994.
The Air Force followed the maintenance philosophy of the
USAF but also had to do modifications out of own necessity
over the years. This resulted in the SAAF fleet not being in
the same configuration as the same vintage aircraft operated
by fleet owners who had had interaction with Lockheed
Martin. When the Air Force supplied Lockheed Martin with the
data to determine the fatigue life of the wings, they did
not want to believe us and wanted the Air Force to change
all the wings at huge cost or to be absolved from all
liability should the SAAF decide to continue flying. I can
still remember the mammoth task undertaken by the engineers
and technical staff to verify our statistics. We even went
so far as to find and contact old retired 28 Sqn crew
members to have access to their logbooks to ascertain the
types of sorties flow. We removed and opened the wings of
406, our most severely used aircraft and invited engineers
from Lockheed Martin at the cost of the Air Force to come
and inspect our wings. Upon inspecting the wings of 406 and
the rest of our fleet, they were astonished at the mint
condition of our fleet, 42 years old at that stage. Our
C130s are still flying safely, old wings and all!
During your career you have had many remarkable
achievements. Which of those do you wish to highlight, if
asked to do so?
Firstly my tour as OC SAAF Detachment Eros in Windhoek,
Namibia in the mid-80s. I flew more than 700 hours in 18
months on King Air ZS LAY, today King Air 652, during the
height of the Angola conflict.
All my other OC tours were special. Most SAAF members will
only get one Officer Commanding appointment, I was fortunate
to have had five, The SAAF Det Eros appointment was followed
by postings as the OC of 41 Sqn, SANDF COLET, AFB
Bloemspruit and my last one as OC AFCP.
Being the Senior Directing Staff of the Air force Senior
Command and Staff Course at the Air Force College for four
years was also very special.
As Officer Commanding Air Force Command Post since October
2006 until now, in your opinion, can you elevate any
particular highlight that comes to mind during your term of
The involvement of the Air Force in the Soccer World Cup
2010 Safety and Security exercises.
Gen Kriegler, are there any career lows or
disappointments you wish to share with our readers?
Most careers have highs 50% of the time and lows during the
other 50%, the Air Force affords a career that has highs 80%
of the time. The secret is to make the most of the highs and
live with the 20% lows.
In your opinion, what do you think are/were the main
challenges of SAAF in modern times and also of the Air Force
When the world economy is on the up and the local economy
blossoms like that of South Africa over the last 10 years or
so, there are many job opportunities in the aviation and
aviation related industry. Many highly-skilled members
therefore leave the Air Force for better salaries and career
prospects. This is a cyclic phenomenon that is not new in
the Air Force, although the out flux of skilled members over
the last three years at the same time as the introduction of
many new systems, has impacted particularly severely on the
Air Force. The biggest challenge therefore would be to
consolidate the manpower of the Air Force and collaborate
with the private and commercial aviation related sectors to
face the next few years jointly.
What do you consider will be more important: quantity,
quality or to have “state of the art” technologies?
The strength of the Air Force has always been in the quality
of its people. It is a challenge however if your quantity of
quality personnel drops dangerously close to the “critical
mass” required to sustain your output.
Which different aircraft types and variants of military
aircraft, did you fly in your SAAF career?
I started my flying training on the Impala Mk 1, did a stint
as a Station Pilot at Langebaanweg afterwards before being
transferred to 11 Sqn, Potchefstroom to fly the venerable
C185. Thereafter Flying Instructors Course at FTS Dunnottar
on the Harvard followed. A transfer back to FTS Langebaanweg
on a lengthy tour as an instructor in Impala Mk 1 followed.
Thereafter it was down the coast to Ysterplaat and 25 Sqn to
fly the wonderful Dakota C47. A tour in Windhoek, Namibia on
the Beechcraft Super King Air B200C followed, to be topped
with a posting to 28 Sqn and the Transall C160Z. I then left
active flying to do a lengthy stint at the Air Force
College. This was followed by a posting to 41 Sqn where I
flew the Caravan C208 as well as being re-acquainted with
the B200. After that a posting to SANDF COLET was followed
by a quick (2 year) tour at SAAF HQ. I was then posted to
AFB Bloemspruit where I was fortunate to fly the Alouette
III and Oryx on a part time basis. I also had several
flights in the Rooivalk. Coming back to Headquarters and
appointed as DAT&MS, I took up flying the King Air and
Caravan on a part time basis. I also occasionally flew all
the other aircraft on the DAT&MS stable, from the Boeing BBJ
down to the C185.
Furthering on operational issues, how many hours have you
accumulated on fast jets during your care. Which aircraft is
closest to heart, i.e. which one would you rate your
favorite and for what reason?
As an operational transport pilot, I feel flattered to be
asked such a question. The only jet I have flown is the
Impala Mk 1 on which I have almost 1 400 hours with more
than 1 000 hours ab initio instructional hours. My favorite
aircraft is undoubtedly the Beechcraft King Air tail number
652. She flies like a thoroughbred filly! Very close second
is the old Dakota C47. I have almost 2 000 hours on her and
have enjoyed every minute. She is both headstrong and
docile, ugly to fly in turbulence and a beast to land at the
most of times, but she is the queen of the skies!
Gen, any “close shaves” with nature you have had during
your flying career? What was the lesson learnt from this
Yes. Mostly flying the Dakota in the winter months in the
South Western Cape with high winds and low freezing levels.
There were also some operational night sorties in Namibia
and Angola with heavily laden C160s and the King Air. The
lesson one learns at an early age: respect nature,
understand your personal and aircraft limitations and never
stop learning from every sortie that you fly.
Sir, what, in your opinion, are the makings of a military
pilot/what characteristics should a career pilot have?
A burning passion to fly, to be hard working and
professional in all you do, to have icy self-discipline, to
be committed, dedicated and respectful of the environment in
which you fly.
As you know, the SAAF has lost, and is still continuously
losing a lot of critical expertise due to resignations and
even the mobility exit mechanism (MEM’s)? In your opinion,
what solution do you foresee could bring back the balance of
skill and continuity in the organization?
This would be very difficult in the short term. It must
however be borne in mind that there are still many skillful
members left in the Air Force. The gaps that open up when
people leave, provide growth opportunities to many others
that in turn releases potential and new energy into the
SAAF. One area that is being utilised very effectively is to
utilise many of the senior members that leave as Reserve
Force members to mentor and coach the more junior members.
Sir, do you have any children? If so – can you tell us
about them? Eg., where are they now and what type of
professions they pursued in life? Did they perhaps follow
the “like father, like son/daughter” concept?
I have a daughter who is a teacher and a son that is in the
insurance and music industries. My daughter is passionate
about military aircraft and desperately wanted to fly but
when she finished school in 1995, the Air Force did not
afford the opportunity for females to be trained as pilots.
One of her majors is geography, her closest link to
aviation! As a youngster my son was interested in flying but
as he progressed in school, computers took over and this
lead to music and today he is happy with his career.
Sir, moving on to your spouse, having supported you all
these years, in your career (you know the saying, behind
every successful man, there’s an equally, successful woman).
What was her first words/reaction to you when you told her
of your intention to retire?
Like any good relationship, we have planned this together
over the last few years. She has been a teacher her whole
life and retired at the end of last year after a very
fulfilling career. We are both looking forward to move back
to our “roots” in the lovely Western Cape
What are your hobbies?
I love the outdoors, gardening and cooking. I also love
fishing and playing golf.
Sir, after such an illustrious career of 39 years of
Service in the DoD, what would your message be for the young
aspiring SAAF member?
Enjoy the SAAF with a passion, remember it is not a job, it
is a calling.
Sir, what do you intend doing the following year?
I am joining the Air Force Reserves and will fly at 35 Sqn
in this capacity for as long as my health will permit. I
will also be involved with the Soccer World Cup 2010 as a
Reserve Force Officer. Further to that, I will get involved
with Ground School lecturing at flying clubs in the Western