Taking the helm of All SANParks Air Services, chopper pilot Ndabenhle David Simelane has been appointed as the new SANParks Chief Pilot, SANParks announced.
SANParks’ first black chief pilot is dubbed by some as the “Black-Blackhawk,” and is a “skilled professional pilot with solid management and leadership skills with approachability and strength of character to boot,” SANParks Chief Operating Officer Lize McCourt said.
Simalane is an experienced pilot, flying in locations such as Madagascar and Sudan on top of being a director at Grand Central airport-based chopper company Ultimate Heli and as an operations manager at Alpine Aviation.
During his year since joining the SANParks air wing, he has improved the relationship between the unit and the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).
The Air Services wing forms part of SANParks newly created Area Integrity Management unit (AIM) which is responsible for carrying out special operations, conducting environmental crime investigations and environmental compliance.
This unit is mandated to coordinate safety and security in SANParks reserves which have come under increasing pressure from well-organised poaching gangs, particularly in Kruger National Park.
SANParks air wing plays a crucial role in the fight against poachers, allowing for rapid deployment of rangers to follow and tracking of poachers after incidents.