Taking Photos Caused Plane Crash

Investigations into the Aircam 1999 plane crash that killed One Africa Television founder and chairman, Paul van Schalkwyk, revealed he lost control and crashed because he was concentrating more on capturing pictures. Flying the aircraft became a second priority at the time of the crash.

Van Schalkwyk (59) who was an award-winning photographer and businessman died on March 8 this year some 75km from Ondangwa airport near the Etosha national park.

The businessman who was alone in the aircraft left Eros airport on March 8 for a low level flight to Ongava Lodge in Etosha to go and take pictures. The aircraft never arrived at Ongava as the deceased diverted to Outjo.

Speaking to New Era in an interview yesterday, Thomas Herman, the investigator-in charge who compiled a report of the accident for the Ministry of Works and Transport, said: “He was concentrating more on taking pictures and flying became second priority, while his aircraft did not have auto-pilot. The pictures on his camera show that moments before the crash the pilot was flying too low while taking pictures of an elephant in line with a thunderstorm in the distance. Taking pictures while flying this type of aircraft severely affects the ability to maintain a safe flight.”

Further, the information obtained on his camera relating to the position of the aircraft to the elephant and the timing show that the pictures were taken during “a lot of steep turns made in close proximity to the ground”.

Although Herman could not determine the exact altitude Van Schalkwyk was flying, he said the minimum height allowed to be flown in Etosha is 1 000m.

“He was however flying below 1000 metres while concentrating more on taking pictures. And in the process he lost flying situational awareness,” Herman explained.

The aircraft, Herman said, was flying in a steep bank of about 45 degrees and impacted the ground with the right wing first followed by the forward section.

From the last impact the aircraft accelerated 6.3m forward, turned 180 degrees to the direction of flight and came to rest.

“The right wing was destroyed and found detached from the empennage. The forward section was destroyed by the impact, the right main under carriage was damaged and the wheel was found around 40m from the wreckage and because of the wobbling effect the tail section was found broken upward,” he said.

The three propellers on the right engine were also found broken off and one piece of the propeller was found around 70m in the direction of flight from the wreckage.

The investigation into the place crash started on March 10 and ended on June 3.

Other shocking revelations were that the camera he used was heavy and can normally only be handled with both hands during a phographic session.

“Which means that the pilot had to leave the flight control column to operate the camera which in turn makes the flying a second priority,” the investigator observed.

The investigation also found out that the pilot (deceased) did not hold a micro light pilot licence but merely a private pilot’s licence.

There was no reported communication failures between the pilot and the air traffic controller who handled the flight from Eros airport.

Source : New Era