WINDHOEK – An unsuccessful forced landing in mountainous terrain after an engine seizure in flight was the cause of a fatal accident on the sunny morning of March 5 this year which claimed the lives of Namibian pilot Mike Berry (39) and internationally-acclaimed South African filmmaker Richard Mathews (60). The aircraft was consumed by the post-impact fire that erupted after the crash.
In an accident report released this week by the Ministry of Works and Transport, chief investigator Magnus Abraham and co-investigator Oscar Plichta say the crash took place because the pilot flew the plane even though it had engine cooling problems. “Correspondences on record indicate that the engine cowling was modified at Sesfontein Lodge in order to increase the air flow over the engine as well as the area of the cooler. This happened while high ambient temperatures of about 40 degrees Celsius prevailed in the area at the time, which had a profound effect on engine cooling,” the report states.
The investigators also found that the presence of the right wing mounted camera, which was of a substantial size and weight, had an effect on the flying characteristics. It caused a substantial amount of drag, which required the engine to work even harder. They also cited strong wind conditions of some 30 knots during flight as a contributory factor since the aircraft’s controllability was affected.
The plane crashed in the mountainous area north-east of Puros in the Kunene Region. The investigators say the pilot, who had more than 4 500 hours of flight experience and the photographer, who wanted to film the Kabere Mountains, continued to fly the aircraft, a two-seater Rally 105 with the South African registration ZU-EWR, even though they were experiencing difficulties with high engine oil temperature and cylinder head temperature.
The report recommends that proactive measures be put in place by the Namibian authorities whereby foreign registered aircraft that want to enter the country’s airspace flying for recreational purposes meet the guidelines/requirements as required by the Directorate of Civil Aviation as well as homeland security.
“In most cases these types of aircraft will enter another country/neighbouring state without filing an official flight plan. It is of utmost importance that all intended aviators adhere to these procedures and clearly specify their intended routing, should an official search for an aircraft be required. The aeronautical rescue co-ordination centre should be in a position to allocate resources to commence with an official search in a clearly demarcated area,” according to the report.
By Deon Schlechter