Many years ago there was a garage in Johannesburg that had a Vickers Viking on it’s roof. I kid you not, it was one heck of a landmark and everybody knew about it, but nobody could really tell you where it was! Somewhere near “Uncle Charlies” was the closest you could get to a reply. The fact remains though; the garage, situated in what is now Devland had this vintage Vickers Viking on it’s roof, and in 1987 that aircraft was removed and taken for “restoration” and replaced with a vintage Avro Shackleton.
I recall as a boy seeing the Viking but naturally no adults would stop the car and let you out so that you could go explore it, so it is just a vague memory. In 2010 however I decided to go find this Shackleton and see whether it still existed, and what it looked like now, so many years after the fact. Google Earth was duly consulted and the co-ordinates are: 26° 16.644’S 27° 56.683’E and you can actually see the aircraft on the satellite view. However, finding the garage was a different ballgame so I asked the kind lady in the GPS to take me there. “Turn left” was all she said (as she always does). Eventually I spotted my target in the distance and “turned left”.
The aircraft has been in a number of liveries as far as I can see, from her original SAAF colours, right through to a red livery and of course the current one, and probably a few other permutations along the way. These images may not reflect the livery and condition of the aircraft as it is now.
But what about the Viking? According to http://aircraftnut.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/of-shackletons-and-vikings.html: She was “built at the Vickers-Armstrongs factory in Weybridge, England, c/n 121 first took to the air on 30 August 1946, registered as G-AHOT with British European Airways and was used in the 1948 Berlin Airlift. On 26 September 1954 she was sold to Trek Airways, registered ZS-DKH and operated in Protea Airways colours, a second airline of Trek, and for many years, transported hundreds of passengers on leisurely and scenic flights between South Africa and Europe. She even starred in the film, “Kimberly Jim” with the late Jim Reeves. After 13.881 flying hours she was disassembled and transported by road to Armadale south of Johannesburg, where, in January 1963 she was lifted on to the roof of the Vic de Villiers “Vic’s Viking Service Station” where she became a famous, if forlorn, landmark.”
Now the name Weybridge rings a bell, because Weybridge is also home to Brooklands Museum which I visited in January 2015 and they too have a Vickers Viking under restoration.
This particular aircraft is G-AGRU and there is an interesting footnote to the information sheet situated at the aircraft.
I can neither confirm or deny what the state of ZS-DKH is, the website that used to have information about her is giving me a 403 error. I have heard rumours that she was due to be taken to Rand Airport, but I will believe that when it actually happens. (or has it happened?)
As for our lonely Shackleton, she is SAAF 1723 and has been grounded since 22 November 1977.
Sadly, this lonely bird will never fly again, and in at some point she will be either stolen, dismantled or stripped for scrap metal.
However, if you do want to see a Shackleton in her original glory then take a trip up to Swartkops AFB where sister aircraft 1721 is kept.
Although often described as “a hundred thousand rivets flying in close formation” these aircraft kept watch over our seas, and today these two examples are just some of the few remnants of a unique aircraft that performed it’s job and has become an icon.
Vic De Villiers may have swapped out one old aircraft for another, but his foresight has kept this aircraft from becoming yet another image in a book or on a website. Hopefully one day that Viking will emerge too, and take her place in a museum.
Now if only I could find Uncle Charlies? Lady in the GPS where are you??
DRW. © 2016-2020. Retrospectively created 06/06/2016