The following was sent in by Steyn Maritz.
As promised, I've managed to corner my dad, Nico Maritz, about ZS-DIW. [Please note that I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information below. I am merely re-telling what I have been told and heard.]
ZS-DIW was the flagship and first DC-3 for this airline. The other DC-3s, such as ZS-EDX, were acquired some time later. Apparently ZS-EDX was bought for a ridiculously low price (± $1,000.00) as it was in very poor condition and it had to be rebuilt/refurbished to flying condition.
It all started when a charter company called South West Air Transport received a government contract to transport personnel between Grootfontein and Oranjemund. It was for this reason that the DC-3 was purchased. Also, round about this time, a small charter company called Oryx Air, whose total fleet consisted of two Piper Tri-Pacers, met with disaster. One of their aircraft was destroyed (blown over by the wind) in Oranjemund. As a result, Oryx Air was absorbed by SWAT and the company was renamed to Suidwes Lugdiens.
Acquiring a DC-3 was just the first step. Next step was solving the problem of getting DC-3 rated pilots. At that stage their fleet mainly consisted of a few Navions and Piper Apaches and a dozen or so pilots. Thus entered Capt. Manie Maritz (My Uncle) onto the stage.
Manie Maritz was a veteran of WW2 flying mainly Lancaster and B24 bombers and flying with the RAF Pathfinders at the end of the war. Only after the war he got to fly the DC-3 (C-47) and DC-4 (C-54) and participated in the Berlin Airlift. After demobilization, he worked for KLM flying the Lockheed Constellation. After this he worked for a few years for the South African Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) (and earned a fearsome reputation among SAA B707 crews).
He was appointed chief pilot of Suidwes Lugdiens. The strategy that was adopted by the Lugdiens was to train DC-3 pilots in-house rather than hiring DC-3 pilots from the outside. Pilots were selected from the ranks (if they were considered worthy) and trained by the Capt. Thus ZS-DIW (and her sisters) were responsible for training pilots such as Jan Lategan, Davie Uys, etc. (at this point my dad rambles off a list of names, too quickly for me to remember them all. I seem to remember a few more, but fragmented names such as L. Rautenbach? Rassie Erasmus?, Claasen? Hans Schubert (ex Luftwaffe Me262). Perhaps fellow avcom members can add to this list).
In those days Suidwes Lugdiens was a stepping stone for young pilots. Minimum entry requirements were CPL with 200 hours. From this stock, pilots were progressed onto twins, instruments and ultimately ATP, ending up in the left hand seat of a DC-3, or DC-4 if they persisted. (Note: In those days there were no CPL/ATP but Senior Pilot Certificate or something like that. (I'm using the CPL/ATP terms as equivalents for whatever they were called in those days.)
The training was not free; pilots had to pay for any training they received, but this was deducted as a percentage from their salary rather than cash having to be handed over. These pilots could expect to fly between 60 to over a 100 hours a month. They flew from Monday to Friday and on Saturdays the pilots had to help service and maintain their aircraft -- Manie Maritz firmly believed that his pilots had to be intimately acquainted with the technical aspects of their aircraft.
Suidwes Lugdiens was as much an Airline as it was a professional pilot training academy. SAA actively recruited Suidwes pilots simply because of the excellent pilot stock that was produced by the combination of actual route flying, training by a harsh and uncompromising teacher and -- last but not least -- the DC-3.
These DC-3s of Suidwes Lugdiens, besides being the workhorse(s) for that airline, also served to train many pilots, some who are today venerated grey-haired pilots of the South African aviation community.
Text: Steyn Maritz
13 August 2009