The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Air Wing has lost nine aircraft and six personnel to air crashes over the past 10 years, the government has revealed.
Addressing parliament during a question and answer on BDF needs and conditions of service, Defence, Justice and Security minister Shaw Kgathi said all aircraft were lost in the accidents.
Six personnel were injured in the aerial mishaps. The minister said follow-up investigations revealed that six crashes were caused by pilot error, while three are still under investigation.
“All air crashes and aircraft mishaps were investigated with a view to determine the causes, and plan for appropriate interventions to prevent a repeat of similar incidents,” Kgathi said.
He said in the BDF, the safety of soldier and air assets are paramount and to that end, aircraft accident investigations are done regularly to maintain high operational and safety standards.
“Regular preventative maintenance operations and inspections are done on the BDF fleet, either on a calendar basis determined by days or months, or after a certain number of hours of operation, as defined by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and in line with the BDF Air Staff Instructions (ASI) to ensure air worthiness at all times,” the minister explained.
To achieve world-class aerial combat and aircraft safety capabilities, the BDF provides regular on-the-job training and skills upgrades for air crews and aircraft maintenance technicians.
These include aircraft conversion programmes for pilots and technicians, which are offered by the BDF Flight Training School and the BDF Technical Training School, respectively.
Recent BDF aircraft losses include a CF-5 fighter jet (out of 15) which crashed and killed the pilot during a training mission in Gaborone on 27 April and a CASA 212-300 Aviocar transport aircraft which crashed soon after take-off from Thebephatshwa Air Base in February 2017. All three crew members died in the accident.
The C212 has subsequently been replaced by a second hand C212-400, which was purchased from the United States. It entered service earlier this year.