A South African National Defence Force Douglas C-47TP Dakota 6840 crashed in bad weather near Giants Castle in the Drakensburg Mountains of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on December 5th, resulting in the loss of life for all eleven people who were aboard.
The machine was flying a transport mission from Waterkloof AFB, Pretoria, to Mthatha Airport in Eastern Cape Province. Operated by the 35th Squadron of the South African Air Force (SAAF), the Pratt & Whitney PT6A turboprop-powered machine had just recently returned to service following an overhaul. It was based at Ysterplaat Air Force Base, Cape Town, in the dual roles of general military transport and as a support aircraft for the South African national aerobatic display team, The Silver Falcons, in whose color scheme the Dakota was painted. This particular aircraft served the South African military for 68 years. The plane started out as C-47A 43-48050, for delivery to the RAF as Dakota III KG767 in July 1944, but was immediately transferred to SAAF in August 1944. The aircraft served on the African continent and in the Mediterranean Theatre during the Second World War, and in the early 1990s was modified to C-47TP configuration, which included the fitting of the PT6A engines and a four-foot fuselage extension, and was subsequently used for maritime patrol work off the South African coast.
Shortly before the crash at 09:45AM local time, the crew reported that they were flying on instruments only at 11,000 feet under “instrument meteorological conditions.”
The SAAF is one of the few remaining air forces in the world still operating the venerable Dakota.
A board of inquiry has been convened to investigate the circumstances surrounding the cause of this tragic accident.
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