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Air crash: Parents believe explanation doesn’t make sense

Date: 7 June 2015

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The following is a very rough translation of an Afrikaans article that appeared in the Rapport newspaper:

The Air Force told them only God has the answers why their son died in an airforce aircraft accident and that they should accept that.

But every month they still receive a reminder for R16 000 that the Air Force "overpaid" their son. The Air Force even wants to claim from his estate story the cost of the flight suit he was wearing at the time of his death.

"It only gets worse - not better," said Malcolm Smith of Mossel Bay to Rapport last week.

His son, Capt. Zack Smith, was one of two pilots of a C-47 Dakota that crashed in the Drakensberg on December 5, 2012 was en route from Pretoria to Mthatha, taking medication to former president Nelson Mandela.

The air force refuses to disclose the findings of the accident report to the families. The full report is apparently classified as secret.

"Lieutenant-General Zakes Msimang (Chief of the Air Force) sat in our home a few months ago and said that the Air Force did not have answers for us. We want to know why. We want to know what happened,"said Malcolm.

"We know they couldn’t take off the day before the accident because the weather was too bad. The next day the weather was even worse, and when they were forced to fly.

"Zack's last words on the radio was that they were in a terrible storm and flying only on the on board instruments. Why are not told them to turn around?"

Malcolm believes the report was classified as secret "to cover something up". According to his wife, Jackie, Msimang also asked them not to discuss possible action against the Air Force with the families of the other victims.

"We heard there were even threats against the families who made enquiries. There were apparently problems with the aircraft before the flight, but this must surely be in the accident report,' she said Friday in tears. She said she was "tired agonized".

Despite several earlier promises that the findings will be made known, the Air Force and Msimang last week, for the umpteenth time, did not responded to requests for comments.

Reliable sources pointed out to Rapport that the Air Force investigation team found 17 management issues at 35 Squadron in Cape Town, where the plane and its crew were stationed.

Among other things, apparently the squadron has not kept proper training files. The flight crew’s logs were apparently not up to date and there were no maps should the onboard navigation equipment fail.

Most squadrons at that time had no maps because apparently there was no money to buy it.

The C-47 Dakota's crew had to rely on old navigation equipment in extremely bad weather to fly over the Drakensberg to fly. Spatial disorientation of the crew may have contributed to the accident.

Maj Kurt Misrole, the second pilot on the flight, was also at the time of the accident medically unfit for duty.

Repport also understand that the crew initially refused to fly due to the inclement weather and the limitations of the aircraft, but that a higher authority forced them to fly.

The aircraft flew above the highest peaks in the Giant's Castle area (about 3,300 m above sea level), but was now above its highest flight level and crashed.

Everyone on board - two pilots, a flight engineer, three load masters and five security guards - were killed.

 

 


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