Dakota 'shouldn't have flown in bad weather'

2012-12-07 09:41
The wreckage of the C-47TP-Dakota which crashed in the Drakensberg. (Jack Haskins, The Witness)

The wreckage of the C-47TP-Dakota which crashed in the Drakensberg. (Jack Haskins, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - The SA Air Force Dakota that crashed in the Drakensberg on Wednesday was not equipped to fly in bad weather conditions, a civilian Dakota pilot says.

The wreckage of the C-47TP-Dakota was found near Giant’s Castle on Thursday. All 11 on board were killed.

Pilot Chris Briers, who has extensive experience with Dakotas, told Beeld the flight must have been a nightmare. 

"Dakotas are not pressurised, so they can’t fly as high as planes that are. They fly at a limit of about 12 000 feet, and the Drakensberg is 11 000 feet.

Little room for error

“That leaves very little room for error. Something must have gone horribly wrong. From the last radio contact you can deduct that their sight was nil and they only had the plane’s instruments to help them. The fact is, they should never have been there in those conditions,” he said.

“In a thunderstorm, ice on the wings and turbulence are the biggest problems in a Dakota. The ice makes the plane heavy and unresponsive. It also struggles to maintain or reach heights.” 

He explained that there could be nasty surprises during a storm, like hail that could smash the windscreen.

Pilots are safety conscious and wouldn't have taken unnecessary risks, he added.

There was initial speculation that former president Nelson Mandela's medical team may have been on board the doomed plane. This was denied, but a consignment of medicine was believed to have been on board, and this may be the reason the plane flew. The SANDF later denied that Mandela's medicine was on board.

The five passengers on board were a relief team to replace the security personnel guarding the Mthatha Airport.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  air crashes
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