Back to top

Selwyn “Scully” Levin

The Order of the Baobab in

Selwyn “Scully” Levin Awarded for:
His immense contribution to and achievement in aviation and in the piloting field, and for being an excellent ambassador for South Africa as a top pilot and internationally recognised trainer of up-and-coming pilots.
Profile of Selwyn “Scully” Levin

Captain Selwyn “Scully” Levin was born in Polokwane in Limpopo on 29 September 1946. He began his flying career in 1964 and graduated as the top pupil pilot on his course. He joined South African Airways (SAA) in 1971 as a second officer on the Boeing 707 and rose through the ranks until he became the airline’s chief training captain.

From the beginning to the end of his career, Captain Levin showed great enthusiasm and distinction in his work. Over the past 48 years, he has amassed 26 500 hours of flight time on over 180 different types of aircraft – an equivalent to almost three years of continuous flight in the air, a record rarely paralleled around the world.

Captain Levin served as a key member of the team that pioneered the introduction of Crew Resource Management (CRM) to SAA in 1988. CRM is a highly effective safety-oriented flight operations protocol for which SAA pilots are world-renowned. He also assisted with the development of SAA’s Risk Management Model. He played an active role in the selection, mentorship and development of trainee cadets from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. Part of this responsibility included the selection of flight-training facilities for the SAA Cadet Pilot’s Programme, which involved exhaustive international search.

He has flown impressive and innovative displays in jet airliners at many local and international shows. He has also pioneered displays which have been emulated by only a handful of pilots worldwide, one of which is his famous feat of landing a Piper Cub aeroplane on top of a moving truck. First accomplished in 1982, he has done this act over 120 times.

In 1995, he was the first African to participate in the annual National Air Racing Championships at Reno in the United States of America where he won both the races that he competed in. In addition, Captain Levin has flown as a member of the giant airliner three-ship formations that SAA put into the sky over the Union Buildings for the inauguration of South African presidents in 1999, 2004 and 2009, and also for the World Cup Cricket Final and the Star Alliance Launch in 2006.

He played a role in conducting a thorough audit of SA Airlink’s flight operations after its unfortunate spate of accidents and his recommendations helped ensure that the airline maintained full flying status.

As one of the country’s famous pilots, during his career, Captain Levin brought worldwide recognition and acclaim to South African aviation in general, and to SAA in particular, mastering a diverse array of aircraft to the point of displaying them at air shows.

Captain Levin commanded aircraft on all of SAA’s local, regional and international routes for over 38 years. He is admired by millions of aviation enthusiasts and fellow airline crew, as well as air-show pilots locally and abroad. He has worked and collaborated on numerous publications covering display flying, aerobatics and flight safety.

During the 1970s, he was a three-time winner of the South African National Aerobatic Champion title. Other honours include the Don Tilley Award for significant contributions to air safety, which he received in 1984 and the Pilot of the Year Award made by the Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa.

Most notably, Captain Levin is the sole winner so far, of the SA Flyer “Lifetime Aviation Achievement Award”, which he received in 2009. He is a designated examiner for the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), and the holder of a Class 2 Test Pilot’s Rating. He served as a member of the SACAA’s General Aviation Safety Initiative, which was set up to design strategic measures to improve flight safety in South Africa.

Since his retirement from SAA, Scully has continued to make a valuable contribution to the South African airline industry as consultant and display pilot.