Waterkloof Air Force Base (FAWK/WKF) is one of the primary bases belonging to the South African Air Force (SAAF). It was established in 1938, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, and has been in use ever since. The base is located to the south of South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria, near to the city of Centurion. It is an easy 30 minute drive from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International and a 40 minute drive from Lanseria Airport, meaning that it is quite centrally located to the two main spotting airports in South Africa.
WKF is home to the SAAF’s VIP 21 Squadron, operating ZS-RSA, known as “Inkwazi”, the presidential BBJ, along with 3 Dassault Falcon 50s and a Falcon 900. The base is also home to 28 Squadron, operating C-130BZ Hercules. 41 Squadron, with Caravans, King Air B200s and PC-12s, as well as 44 Squadron with CASA 212s, are also based at WKF. This, however, does not mean that the base is extremely busy, with some days seeing only a small handful of movements. On a regular day, a visit to this base is definitely not worth it unless you have information of an interesting visitor either arriving or departing. This does happen on a fairly regular basis, so you may be in luck when visiting South Africa. The base only really becomes busy when there is a state visit, an airshow, or some other special event happening such as a presidential inauguration. Regardless, this guide will come in handy for those who are keen to come to South Africa for the biennial Africa Aerospace and Defence Airshow that happens every even-numbered year. That event happens in the third week of September and the week preceding the airshow is when the base is a hive of activity. Also, for a few days after the show concludes, you will be able to shoot some departures.
Chances are that you will be coming to visit the base from either JNB or HLA, so the directions that will be given to each of the spots will be from Solomon Mohlangu Drive, the exit that you will take off the R21 Highway to get to the base.
Written by Tim Brandt (local spotter). Last update November 2019.
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|01/19||3.353m (11.001 ft) Asphalt|
|06/24||1.920m (6.299 ft) Asphalt|
|Terminals||There is one for all flights.|
|Ladder||Not needed and not allowed either.|
|Car/Public Transport||A car is most definitely needed. No public transport at all around the base.|
|Restrooms||No restrooms at any location except for spot #3.|
|Drinks/Food||At spot #3, you can purchase food and drinks. Otherwise nothing at any of the other spots. There are a few fast food restaurants relatively close to the base.|
|Hotels||Due to this being a military base and not a civilian airport, there are no hotels nearby. The best option would be to stay at a guesthouse in the Waterkloof Ridge area (beware of the prices as this is an extremely wealthy area), or just to stay at a hotel close to JNB and drive to the base when necessary.|
|Season||In autumn/winter from April to September you are more or less guaranteed to have sun. It is the best season both weather and light wise.|
|Security||PLEASE BE CAREFUL DURING YOUR STAY IN SOUTH AFRICA. HERE ARE SOME GENERAL TIPS:|
– DON´T SPOT ALONE. ALWAYS HAVE A BUDDY WITH YOU
– STAY NEXT TO YOUR CAR WHILE SPOTTING
– DON´T DISPLAY YOUR EXPENSIVE CAMERA EQUIPMENT, TABLET OR SMARTPHONE FOR A LONG TIME.
– AT NIGHT, DON´T GO OUT BY FOOT, EVEN IF YOU JUST HAVE TO WALK A FEW METERS. ALWAYS USE YOUR CAR.But therefore there are no extra problems here although WKF/FAWK is a military air base. We never had any problems neither with military, nor normal police, but we never took pictures of the facilities themselves yet! Normally the staff here is quite chilled and allow spotting (sky shots) as long as you play fair as well! Please ware this opportunity and adjust the “rules” at WKF/FAWK!
|01/19||Main runway for arrivals and departures. Runway 01 is in use 90% of the time.|
|06/24||Crosswind runway barely ever used.|
|Spot #1: Theron Street: Morning runway 01 arrivals and 19 departures|
|WHERE||From the Solomon Mohlangu Drive exit on the R21 highway: Turn right onto Solomon Mohlangu Drive, drive up the hill and turn right at the traffic lights onto Van Ryneveld Avenue. Follow Van Ryneveld Avenue for about 2.5km, then turn right onto Theron Street. (There is an Engen petrol station at this intersection so you can buy some food and drink as well as use the bathroom if necessary). Follow Theron Street for about 1.5km and as the road bends to the left, turn off the street and park where it suits you. There is lots of open space around here for you to select the angle you would like.|
|WHAT||Morning arrivals onto runway 01, as well as departures off runway 19.|
|TIME||From sunrise to 12:00.|
|MISC.||There is nothing around here, so take what you need with you. As mentioned above, there is an Engen petrol station less than 2km away where you can buy the necessary supplies.|
IL76 forward ¾: 180mm; IL76 side on: 90mm / Falcon 900: 150mm / C-130 departing: 250mm
|Spot #2: Theron Street: Afternoon runway 01 arrivals|
|WHERE||From Spot #1, follow Theron Street another 650m. The road will bend to the right and you will drive past the approach lights for runway 01. Drive another 100m after the bend and pull onto the kerb on the left hand side of the street. Park your car here (be careful of obstructing the road as it is rather narrow) and cross the street to the small open patch of land. You will take your photos from here.|
|WHAT||Afternoon arrivals onto runway 01.|
|TIME||From 13:00 until sunset.|
|MISC.||There is nothing around here, so take what you need with you. As mentioned above, there is an Engen petrol station just over 2km away where you can buy the necessary supplies.|
B744 = 50mm / A343 = 60mm / Tu-160 = 65mm / KC-135 = 100mm / A310 = 105mm / A319 = 120mm / Little trainers (like PC-12, Hawk, PC-7) = 275-300mm
|Spot #3: Dastek: Morning runway 01 departures and runway 19 arrivals|
|WHERE||From the Solomon Mohlangu Exit on the R21 highway. Turn left onto Solomon Mohlangu Drive and head up the road for 1km. You will get to an intersection, if you turn left you will drive through the main entrance of the base. If you turn right you will see a Sasol petrol station as well as Dastek, a car mechanic shop. Turn right at this intersection and park at the Sasol or outside Dastek. There is ample parking available.|
|WHAT||Morning departures off runway 01. Arrivals onto runway 19 should also be possible here but it is very rare that this happens so unfortunately there are no example photos of that.|
|TIME||From sunrise to 12:00.|
|MISC.||You can buy food and drink at the Sasol petrol station. There are also toilets available so no need to worry about facilities here.|
C-17 = 140mm / BBJ = 200mm / C-130s = 230mm / Hawk formation = 200mm / PC-7 formation = 240mm
Photos of single fighters like Gripens will require +-400mm for a full frame shot on a crop sensor camera.
|Spot #4: Trichardts Road: Afternoon runway 01 departures and 19 arrivals|
|WHERE||From spot #3, turn right at the intersection onto Solomon Mohlangu Drive. This road shortly becomes Trichardts Road. Follow this road for about 1.1km, and pull off on the left hand side of the road. Otherwise continue driving until the next set of lights and perform a U-turn, backtracking along Trichardts Road and then pull off on the left hand side of the road.|
|WHAT||Afternoon departures off runway 01 and arrivals on runway 19.|
|TIME||From 13:00 until sunset.|
|MISC.||There is nothing here so take what you need with you. The Sasol petrol station at spot #3 is the closest place for food, drink and toilets. Also please note that this spot is not often used, so there are very few example photos.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||100-300mm. The An-124 was flying overhead to join to land on runway 19, and was shot at 180mm. If it was side on from where I was standing on finals for runway 19, it would have been about 120mm.|
|Spot #5: Klapperkop Nature Reserve: Overview of the ramp at the base as well as approach shots on runway 19|
|WHERE||This spot is a long way from the base itself. Continue driving along the R21 highway past the Solomon Mohlangu Drive exit. Follow the road for another 4.8km. You will get to a small intersection with a sign describing Fort Klapperkop. Follow this sign and turn right onto Johann Rissik Drive. This road takes you into the Klapperkop Nature Reserve. Follow this road for about 2km or until you can see the base in the distance. Position yourself accordingly to see the aircraft parked on the ramp.|
|WHAT||Here you will have an overview of the ramp at WKF. It is good for the spotters who may have missed a particular aircraft flying into the base and need to log it. It is also possible to shoot arrivals onto runway 19 due to you being rather elevated from here. Just position yourself accordingly to have the sun on the correct side as the spot can be used in both the morning and afternoon, depending on where you stand.|
|TIME||Ramp view: From 09:00-15:00|
Approach: All day, just move as the sun swings around.
|MISC.||There is nothing around here so take what you need. Also beware that you are in a nature reserve with wild animals here, including zebra and wildebeest. These animals often walk along the road. If you see them on the road, stop your car and wait for them to pass before driving on. Do not aggravate the animals, especially the wildebeest. Keep a wide berth if possible.|
There is also a lot of heat haze for ramp shots as you are about 5km away from the base.
C-130 on approach: 125mm / Ramp shots: 300mm+