Drakensberg C-47TP crash investigation completed and reviewed


The investigation in the crash that claimed the lives of 11 SA Air Force (SAAF) members and the loss of C47TP (tail number 6890) more than five years ago was completed 11 months after the crash in October 2013.

The board of inquiry completed its work and was reviewed by the SAAF Aviation Safety Board in March 2014.

This answer was given to defenceWeb by Brigadier General Hilton Smith, Director: SAAF Corporate Staff Services, more than three months after it was posed. The question was prompted by an approach made to the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence minister Kobus Marais by the family of the flight crew who died.

Marais said he had been approached by family of pilot Captain Zack Smith and co-pilot Major Kurt Misrole in January because they “felt let down” by the SAAF.
“Indications are no final information about the crash was ever given to the families,” he said adding he would take the matter further and ask why Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) had not had sight of the report of the SAAF board of inquiry into the crash.
“It is important for the families to get closure and for the SAAF to ensure similar incidents do not happen in future,” Marais said.

He can now follow the same advice given to this publication by Smith, that of lodging a request for access to information for a summary of the crash in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act or table a question for response by the Minister at a JSCD meeting.

The C-47TP crashed in the Drakensberg mountains in bad weather while flying from AFB Waterkloof to Umtata and was the worst non-combat accident recorded in 50 years of South African military flying. In 2015 SA National Defence Union (Sandu) national secretary Pikkie Greeff said a preliminary report stated the flight deck crew were forced to fly in poor weather after they indicated the weather was bad and recommended the flight be aborted. Greeff said the officials who ordered the flight were not court martialled as they should have been.

Last week defenceWeb reported that 35 Squadron, which operated the final, ill-fated flight of aircraft 6890, was grounded. This was based on the response to a Parliamentary question.

An airworthiness directive with regard to control cables on all eight of the more than 70-year-old C-47TP aircraft operated by the AFB Ysterplaat-based squadron had apparently been complied with by the end of last week. Two military aviation enthusiasts in Cape Town reported a pair of the aircraft flying.

The C-47TPs were grounded during September/October last year leaving the SAAF with no dedicated maritime patrol ability.

The squadron has five aircraft in maritime configuration at its disposal along with two transport configured and a single electronic warfare outfitted airframe. Smith said problems reported with engine cradles on the C-47TP were due to normal “wear and tear” and currently do not influence serviceability.