South African Airways was formed in February 1934, when the government of South Africa tookover Union Airways. Prewar equipment was largely German but postwar Avro Yorks gave way quickly to DC-4s.
In 1950 four Constellations arrived and only two years later SAA was using jets when it leased a pair of Comet 1s from BOAC. The Comet's failure saw a fallback to DC-7Bs in 1956, but at least these had the range to operate from Johannesburg to London with only one stop (in Khartoum). Fortnightly service to Perth (via the Cocos and Mauritius) began in late 1957. Viscounts took up short-range routes and the real jet age arrived in July 1960 with 3 707-320s.
During the 1960s South Africa was facing isolation due to its Apartheid policies. Most Afican neighbours closed their airspace to SAA forcing the airline to fly long detours over water around the bulge of Africa with stops at the Ilha do Sal in the cape Verdes.
SAA's piston engine fleet was also needing replacement and fortunately for them Boeing was making the perfect aircraft in the 727-100, which not only had the range but also great hot and high performance. These replaced the DC-4s, DC-7s and Connies.
Five aircraft arrived from March-October 1965, with four more arriving from June 1967-February 1971. ZS-DYP ‘Oranje’ was the fourth aircraft and as with the others was reregistered in 1968. As ZS-SBD she served until the end of 1981 when she was sold to Pan Aviation as EL-AIZ. In May 1984 she was exported to Colombia as HK-3133X for Avianca. Retired in 1991 she was moved to Costa Rica and eventually converted into a 2 bedroom suite (minus wings and horizontal stabilisers) on the edge of a National Park.
South African was an early customer for the A300 ordering four all of which were delivered in 1976 and enabled the replacement of SAA’s 707s. Three A300B2s joined the fleet new from 1981 whilst a pair of second-hand B4s were also added giving a 9 strong fleet by the mid 80s. SDB was originally F-WUAU with Airbus and then named ‘Gemsbok’ with SAA. She had a long career with them operating the airline’s final A300 revenue flight in 2001. In November 2001 she was sold to Onur Air of Turkey and became TC-ONY. She was withdrawn from use at Istanbul in June 2006.
The last 707 was retired for good on Boxing Day 1980 whilst the 727s gave way to 737s by 1983.
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I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: