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28 November 1987 - South African 295

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 never determined.

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 as suspicious.

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 extinguisher.

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.


Legenda CA = Captain
FE = Flight Engineer
MA = Mauritius ATC

23:49h UTCCA: 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 airplane.
MA: Eh, roger, you are clear to descend immediately to flight level one four zero.
23:50h UTCCA: Roger, we will appreciate it if you can alert, er, fire, er, 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.
23:51h UTCMA: (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.
00:03h UTCMA: (gives clearance and asks to report passing FL050)
00:04h UTC
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 & rapid changes tape test tone]

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