November 1987 - South
South African Airways Flight 295 was a commercial flight that suffered
a catastrophic fire and crashed into the Indian Ocean near Mauritius
on 28 November 1987, killing everyone on board. The flight prompted
conspiracy theories that the South African government was using the
aircraft to smuggle arms. However, the actual cause of the fire was
Flight 295, a Boeing 747-244B Combi, registered ZS-SAS, called the
Helderberg and flying in the aircraft livery and colours of South African
Airways, took off from Chiang Kai Shek International Airport (now known
as Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport), on a flight to Johannesburg
via Mauritius. Dawie Uys served as the captain of the crashed flight.
The Boeing 747-244B Combi is a variant of the aircraft that permits
the mixing of passengers and airfreight on the same deck according to
load factors on any given route. Flight 295 had 140 passengers and six
pallets of cargo on the main deck. The master waybills stated that 47,000
kilograms (100,000 lb) of baggage and cargo were loaded on the plane.
A Taiwanese customs official performed a surprise inspection of some
of the cargo; he did not find any cargo that could be characterized
At some point during the flight, a fire developed in the cargo section
on the main deck. The crew's checklist advised the crew to initiate
recirculation of the air in the cabin and to open the cabin doors to
let toxic gases out of the aircraft. However, the checklist operated
under the assumption that the fire had been extinguished. Since the
fire was probably never extinguished prior to impact, the recirculation
fed smoke and toxic gases to passengers, and the opening of the door
allowed in oxygen that fed the fire. A crew member went into the cargo
hold to try to fight the fire, but he left behind a charged fire extinguisher
either because he could not access the fire, or because it was too hot
to stay in the hold. Investigators later found molten metal on the fire
At 23.49h the crew reported Mauritius Approach control they had a fire
on board. An emergency descent to FL140 was carried out. Mauritius ATC
cleared the aircraft to FL50, followed by an approach clearance. The
captain's response was the last radio contact with SA295. The aircraft
had somehow lost control, broke up and crashed into the Ocean.
VOICE RECORDER AND ATC TAPE:
CA = Captain
FE = Flight Engineer
MA = Mauritius ATC
CA: Er, good morning, we have, er, a smoke problem and we are doing
an emergency descent to level one five, er, one four zero.
MA: Confirm you wish to descend to flight level one four zero?
CA: Ja, we have already commenced, er, due to a smoke problem in the
MA: Eh, roger, you are clear to descend immediately to flight level
one four zero.
CA: Roger, we will appreciate it if you can alert, er, fire, er, er,
MA: Do you request a full emergency please? A full emergency?
CA: Affirmative, that's Charlie Charlie
MA: Roger, I declare a full emergency.
CA: Thank you.
MA: (asks for a position report)
CA: Now we have lost a lot of electrics. We haven't got anything on
the aircraft now.
MA: (asks for an ETA and positions updates)
CA: (gives both)
MA: (advises that both runways are available)
CA: Er, we'd like to track in er, on, er, one three.
MA: Confirm runway one four?
CA: Charlie Charlie.
MA: (gives clearence and asks to report passing FL050)
CA: Kay. [Last radio contact with ATC]
[fire alarm bell sounds, followed by interphone chime]
FE: What's going on now - cargo?
FE: It came on now afterwards.
[loud click sounds]
??: Say again?
FE: Main deck cargo...then the other one came on as well. I've got two.
CA: (calls for checklist to be read)
[sound of movements with clicks and clunks]
CA: ****. It is the fact that both came on, it disturbs one.
[intercom chime while CA is speaking]
??: Aag!, ****
CA: What's going on now?
[sudden loud sound & rapide changes tape testtone]
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