- South African Airway's fleet first took to the skies in 1934.
- Almost 86 years later, it has gone from being an award-winning airliner to business rescue in 2020.
- These pictures show how SAA's fleet evolved over the last 86 years.
- For more, go to BusinessInsider.co.za.
Airliner South African Airways (SAA) took to the skies in 1934. It started with a mere contingent of 40 staff members and a fleet of three Junkers F13s, one DH60 Gypsy Moth, one DH80A Puss Moth and a leased Junkers F13 and Junkers A50.
It now has more than 54 aircraft and almost 6,000 employees, flying to 35 destinations around the world.
But the airline is currently in business rescue and its future is in the balance, with reports that it may suspend flights on Saturday due to a cash crunch.
These pictures show how SAA's fleet evolved over the last 86 years:
South Africa Airways was born on 1 February 1934, when the South African government took over the assets and liabilities of Union Airways, which was founded by Major Allister Miller in Port Elizabeth in 1929 and contracted to fly airmail.
It consisted of 40 staff members and three Junkers F13s, one DH60 Gypsy Moth, one DH80A Puss Moth and a leased Junkers F13 and Junkers A50.
Having survived WWII, the end of the 1940s was a period of modernisation for airline. SAA introduced in-flight services and entertainment with air hostesses on domestic flights and a cinema on the direct service between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
In 1953, SAA operated BOAC Comet took off from Johannesburg en-route to London, becoming the first airline outside the UK to operate jet aircraft.
1960 saw the arrival of the Boeing 707 Intercontinental jet aircraft. Not only was it a more comfortable flight but it could also accommodate some 150 passengers. SAA also extended its orange tail insignia across the entire fleet. In 1968 they made an inaugural flight from Johannesburg to Rio de Janeiro using a Boeing 707. In the 1968/1969 financial year, SAA carried more than a million passengers for the first itme.
The 1970s saw the arrival of the Boeing 747B, ZS-SAN 'Lebombo' and Airbus 'Blesbok'. At the same time, SAA purchased 12 Boeing 737s, three Boeing 747SPs and four Airbus A300s for the domestic and regional routes.
Due to economic sanctions, many international flights were suspended including to New York and Australia.
The dawn of a new democracy saw the skies once again open for business. Economic sanctions against South Africa were lifted, and flights to New York and Australia resumed.
A SAA Boeing 747, captained by Laurie Kay, flew over the Rugby World Cup final in Ellis Park in 1995. In March of 1997, the plane unveiled its new logo.
South African Airways embarked on an extensive fleet renewal programme and appointed Airbus as its supplier. They also launched an online check-in system and a self-check-in kiosk. In 2005 SAA became the first non-Saudi airline allowed to fly to Medina to carry Muslim pilgrims going on Haj.
Airbus A319- 7
Airbus A32 -10
Airbus A330- 11
Airbus A350 XW -4
Boeing 737 - 2
Total - 50
Compiled by Bombi Mavundza and Jay Caboz
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