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The Death of Pelican 16 (Video/DVD)

Reviewed By: Dean Wingrin

Few SAAF enthusiasts will forget that fateful day in mid-July 1994 when we awoke to the news that a SAAF Museum Shackleton (serial 1716) had crashed in the Western Sahara desert. Even more worrisome was the fact that the reviewer had personal friends on board and had been at the airport a few nights previously to see the aircraft off. In what can only be described as a miracle, the entire crew of 19 survived against almost insurmountable odds.

The Avro Shackleton was acquired by the SAAF in 1957 and served until 1984 when the last examples were retired. But who was Pelican 16? To answer that question, I'm going to unashamedly copy from the video sleeve:

‘In 1993, a Shackleton enthusiast had the ambitious plan to restore one of these now decommissioned aircraft and turn it into a flying museum. The name of this aircraft: Pelican-16. In mid 1994, after ten years on the ground and two years of restoration work this last Shackleton flew again. Following an invitation to take part in the 1994 summer air-show circuit in the UK, Pelican-16 and its crew of 19 took off from Cape Town and headed north. But then in the dead of the blackest night, high over the Western Sahara the unthinkable happened; two engines on the starboard side failed within a period of just ten minutes. The aircraft and its crew went down.'

It was pitch black outside, no stars in the sky and not even a light on the ground. With two windmilling propellers on the starboard side, it was a given that the aircraft was about to crash. But where? It was impossible to see anything outside. It was only through the professionalism and skill of the crew that they all survived with hardly a scratch. If that were not enough, they were now marooned in a warzone!

This video tells the story of Pelican 16 vividly and accurately. Using actual footage of the restoration and events that fateful night and the days that followed as they unfolded, the viewer is held spellbound as the dramatic story unfolds.

As in many cases where a small group of people faced death together and survived, they developed a strong bond and continue to celebrate the anniversary every year with a dinner. Every man still has an incredibly strong love for the aircraft, a feeling that perhaps did not come across as strongly as it should.

The production is professional and top quality. In fact, my only critisim is that the mayday message broadcasted was not supported by subtitles to make it easier to understand. Not only is it an excellent video, but a contribution is made to the SAAF Museum with every copy sold, so go get your copy now!

90 minutes, PAL VHS Stereo (Also available on DVD)

Purchase this video or DVD at The Airforce Shop!

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