SAAF names Agusta crash pilot

The South African Air Force has released the name of the Agusta A109 light utility helicopter pilot killed with his crew in an accident on Tuesday.
Captain Bongani Mdluli, 34, was from 17 Squadron, based at Air Force Base Swartkop in Pretoria.
He died after his helicopter (pictured) smashed into the Woodstock Dam near Bergville in the Drakensberg just before noon on Tuesday.
His body was recovered from the dam`s depths yesterday afternoon by SA Navy and police divers. The helicopter`s mangled wreckage was also raised from the dam`s floor, where it was stuck in thick mud.
Mdluli was from Riverlea in western Johannesburg. He joined the SAAF in 2000 and received his pilot wings in 2003. He is survived by his sister, LR Mdluli.  
Funeral arrangements will be announced once they have been confirmed by the family.    
The SAAF says the search for the other aircrew continues.  
The Witness newspaper reports Mdluli`s remains were located around 4.20pm.
The paper identified the crew as Captain Wayne Bongani Mdluli, Lieutenant Simon Lehlohonolo Baloyi, 27 and Flight Sergeant Mone Izak Zuidmeer, 32.
The Italian-designed A109 has served the SAAF for just over three year. The first of 30 aircraft was delivered to the SAAF on October 19, 2005. The rotorcraft, acquired under Project Flange, cost R2.4 billion, according to Treasury figures.
Mdluli`s aircraft, #4022, took part in Saturday`s flypast marking President Jacob Zuma`s inauguration and was one of the last to be delivered to the air force.
Although the cause of the accident is still unknown and a Board of Inquiry has been convened to investigate, the Pretoria News reports the helicopter was seen trailing smoke and flames from its tail rotor at the time of the crash.
The aircraft was in formation with two other A109 en route from Swartkop air base in Pretoria to Dragon Peak Park in the Bergville area to take part in a scheduled week long mountain training exercise.
“It is believed that the multi-million rand helicopter, whose cruising speed is 285km/h, was travelling at nearly full power above the dam when it crashed,” the Pretoria News adds, saying the formation was flying “nap-of-the-earth” (following contours) at the time.
Editor`s note: The editor by chance photographed the rotorcraft on the final assembly line at Denel Aviation during a media visit on January 15 last year.