The Rooivalk helicopter that had its maiden flight on the day Mr Nelson Mandela’s was released from prison in 1990 will be handed over to the SA Air Force Museum on his 94th birthday.

 Mike Kgobe, the CEO of Denel Aviation says the Rooivalk combat support helicopter represents the best in South African design and manufacturing, demonstrating the country’s ability to produce a world-class, home-grown aircraft.

 “By displaying the first Rooivalk in public we are giving South Africans the opportunity to see this remarkable helicopter up close – and we are also honouring the legacy of Mr Mandela by commemorating the link with his life,” says Mr Kgobe.

Denel Aviation is the design authority for the Rooivalk and was responsible for the development of the aircraft from its inception in 1984, through its design, industrialisation and manufacturing phases. The helicopter now standing at the SAAF Museum in Valhalla, Tshwane is the Rooivalk Prototype (XDM) that first took to the sky on February 11, 1990.

Since then it has attracted world-wide attention for its unique design and capabilities and have been displayed at major international air shows in England, Dubai, Malaysia and Cape Town.

In April 2011 the first fully- upgraded Rooivalk was handed over to the SAAF for operational deployment at 16 Squadron in Bloemfontein. There are currently eight helicopters flying with the remaining three to complete their upgrades before the end of the year.

Mr Kgobe says the Rooivalk represents a true reflection of the South African Defence Industry’s capability and Denel Aviation is proud to have been in the forefront of such developments.

This aircraft carries significant memories and history towards the establishment of a world class defence industry for South Africa,” he says.