Dakota 'shouldn't have flown in bad weather'

2012-12-07 09:41

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.

  • janice.mcmaster.92 - 2012-12-07 09:49

    Who authorised the flight then?????

      Jeremy - 2012-12-07 10:08

      It's not about who authorised the flight, but why the pilot decided to continue in such bad weather conditions. Presumably the weather came down very suddenly, but then I'd be interested to know what kind of weather radar the SAAF Dakotas carry....

      darryl.maze1 - 2012-12-07 10:31

      Was it another unqualified pilot??

      JManAtheoi - 2012-12-07 10:42

      @ D_Man - no, not at all.

      mlucejko - 2012-12-07 11:24

      I cannot think of any other Airforce in the world that is flying 60 year old planes ?? Something is seriously wrong with Military Planning in this country !!

      lsfreak - 2012-12-07 12:12

      And... I heard that these aren't new planes so therefore have been flying over the Drakensberg for a few years now :/ It was a accident and they do tend to happen even with such "new" planes. Prob pilot error or the likes :/ Still sad though ;'(

  • tonyzr2tx - 2012-12-07 09:53

    Security personnel for the Airport? Do they not have people in Umtata?

      cliff.slabbert - 2012-12-07 10:18

      What has that got to do with anything?????

      Deon - 2012-12-07 10:18

      They were guarding a plane that ended up in a ditch, after a poor landing.

      en.gineer.359 - 2012-12-07 10:30

      Umtata airport is run by the SANDF. So it's not your regular Chubb Security types who guard certain parts of it. Hence the 5 guys from Waterkloof could have been relieving others....who knows.

  • christopher.m.lowe - 2012-12-07 09:53

    I hope they find out why the plane was allowed to take off and what it was doing over the Drakensberg in those conditions.

  • thomas.g.loeser - 2012-12-07 10:27

    a crew of 6 to take 5 security guards??? sounds like a nice little jollie patrollie at a bit of a cost? The flight costs alone would have equated to the total sum of the guards annual salaries plus? - who were probably supplied by the connections labour brokers? ( thats where the urgency comes in - it's bonus/xmas time ) Another decision made without even condireing cost ( sounds like e toll's ? )

      en.gineer.359 - 2012-12-07 10:42

      What is the typical crew number on a Dakota? Was it ONLY 5 people without additional supplies to be off-loaded? What makes you think those guards weren't part of the air force, so why bring in labour brokers? Did u just post this comment because you honestly wanted answers, or were you just trying to be controversial?

      ladyfenyx - 2012-12-07 11:08

      This comment is actually for en.gineer - to my knowledge the typical crew on a Dak is four: a pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and loadmaster. At least, that's the crew I had on both the Dak sorties I've been on.

  • drishworth - 2012-12-07 10:39

    Sad incident. May those who lost their lives R.I.P. Deepest condolences to their families.

  • tin.boya - 2012-12-07 10:46

    This Dakota has paint markings that indicate it was attached to the Silver Falcons . check out Gooney bird silver falcon

      ladyfenyx - 2012-12-07 11:01

      Yes, it was the official support aircraft for the Silver Falcons. She was painted by 2ASU at Ysterplaat.

      thaluki.malema - 2012-12-07 11:36

      It was a beautifull airoplane, it flew at the Zwartkops & Waterkloof Airshows.

  • tin.boya - 2012-12-07 10:52

    This aircraft is attached to the Silver Falcons see the underwing marking on you tube Silver falcon gooney bird

  • fanie.essgee - 2012-12-07 10:55

    Should, would could, it did you morons, it did, and people died as a result, training training training and common sense should prevail, surely the pilot has a say..... clearly not....

  • louis.botha.9250 - 2012-12-07 11:07

    Dakotas are some of the safest planes and have been flying in bad weather for ages. Possible wrong reading settings(QNH) can also ,according to me, result in an accident

  • louis.botha.9250 - 2012-12-07 11:09

    dakotas are some of the safest planes and have been flying in bad weather for ages. Possible wrong reading (QNH) setting can also,according to me,result in an accident.

  • Annelize Buitendach-Roesch - 2012-12-07 11:10

    It is tragic! Heartfelt condolences to the loved ones, family and friends. I sincerely share in your sadness and my thoughts and prayers are with you. RIP Hamba Kahle.

  • sipho.zipi - 2012-12-07 11:13

    First a SANDF dakota crash-lands at mthatha airport, and not much is said. Then another one crashes and kills people on the way to mthatha airport. Is there any coincidence between the two events.

  • corinne.m.cordiergoodrich - 2012-12-07 11:18

    Its a pity that entire families now have to suffer through this xmas season!

  • arthur.salvado - 2012-12-07 11:20

    RIP. sad accident, sad story. Wow, then along come the ugly people making ridiculous comments. Guys, it was a fu$king accident. It unfortunately happens and for those with negative comments regarding "new pilots" "training" and other assumptions, I bet that although not important or relevant, the pilot was likely white. Who cares, unfortunate accident. Condolences to all the families and friends

  • freddie.jones.58367 - 2012-12-07 11:24

    "The civilian pilot' that is quoted is rather ignorant. Many unpressurised military a/c fly above 10,000 feet, but the occupants wear oxygen masks. During WWII it was very common for unpressurised a/c to fly above 20,000 feet.

      tigra.aeris - 2012-12-07 12:39

      And when I went skydiving in Gauteng, we jumped out at 11000 feet above ground level (not feet above sea level which is much lower) in an unpressurized aircraft without masks. Skydivers at coastal dropzones regularly jump from heights up to 16000 feet above sea level in unpressurized aircraft without masks. So yes - the civilian pilot they quoted isn't really a pilot at all and is probably laughing at them for believing him right now. Perhaps a Whackhead prank...

  • richard.young.1253236 - 2012-12-07 11:39

    I have flown (in the back) in a SAAF Dakota in 1976 from Rundu to Ondangwa. It was a very scary thing, unpressurised, everything shaking and rattling, vomit from those puking in the front running down the floor, excrutiating ear pain. But I caught my vlossie from Ondangwa to Grootfontein to Waterkloof. The Dakota is (was) a very excellent aircraft. But now the aircraft are 37 years older, albeit with new turbo engines and some airframe refurbishment. I think it's time for new ones with a commensurate allocation from the Special Defence Account for navigation aids, fuel, spare parts, pilot training and instrument flying. Crew and Passengers : RIP.

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