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Pilot chopper had been weak in flight school

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:

By Erika Gibson

The pilot of an Agusta 109 Air Force helicopter that crashed two years ago in the Kruger National Park with four soldiers on board, had already struggled during his basic flying training to get understanding of certain aspects of flight.

He was allowed to fly in difficult and unfamiliar conditions far beyond his "limitations as a pilot," and the senior officers who, aware of his poor flight ability and operationally deployed him, is complicit in evil.

These are the findings of an Air Force investigation after the accident that was leaked to Rapport after it has been sent to various squadrons so that the findings can be applied.

The Air Force, despite repeated requests to release the preliminary findings last week, was still silent.

Capt. Phil Chabalala was the pilot of the Agusta helicopter that crashed in the national park in March 2013.

The accident happened shortly after sunset when Chabalala, with two members of the special forces, Captain. Jakes van Rensburg and Sgt. Paul Ndishishi and L Cpl. Bheki Cele Petros, a medic, and Sgt. Gene Rider, the flight engineer.

According to a senior air force officer, who had sight of the report, state investigators found that Chabalala was already struggling with some aspects of flying during his basic flying training.

Despite continuing problems, he was operationally deployed to the park where he had to operate entirely on his own.

In the 72 hours before the accident, he also flew more than he was supposed to, having flown from Durban, where he was stationed, to the park and had to immediately engage it the operation.

Among others, he struggled with night flying. The night before the accident, he also flew but not in the pitch dark.

Shortly before the accident, he was supposedly disorientated when he used a bright landing light to pick up the soldiers, which led to night blindness when he switched it off. He flew straight into the ground. His ongoing training was also lacking and he was allowed to do work for which he was not qualified.

The investigators found that all these factors combined had contributed to the fatal accident.

Helmoed-Romer Heitman, a military analyst, says accidents like this should not happen in a professional air force.

 

 


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