Fatal Convair Crash at Pretoria

20 Jul 18 5 Comments

On the 10th of July 2018, a Convair CV-340 crashed at Pretoria Wonderboom airport in South Africa. There were three crew and 16 passengers on board (reports vary but these are the numbers as confirmed by the South African CAA). One crew member, an engineer, died in the impact, as did a person on the ground. Both pilots were severy injured and apparently in a medically induced coma. All of the passengers survived but have suffered injuries of varying severity: one passenger underwent a double amputation.

The aircraft, registration ZS-BRV, was manufactured by General Dynamics in 1955 as the C-131D-CO Samaritan (the military version of the 340) and flew with the US Air Force until 1992. It was registered in South Africa as a CV-340 in 2001 when it was purchased by African luxury charter airline Rovos Air.

Convair 340 ‘ZS-BRV’ at Wonderboom Pretoria in 2014 – taken by Alan Wilson

The Convair 340 is effectively a slightly larger 240, with an expanded wingspan and lengthened to include four extra seats. First flown in 1947, the twin engine airliner was initially designed by Convair as a replacement for the Douglas DC-3 and was extremely modern for its time, with cabin pressurization and a ventral airstair.

Rovos Air donated ZS-BRV to the Nationaal Luchtvaart-Themapark Aviodrome, a large aerospace museum at Lelystadt Airport (previously at Schiphol) in the Netherlands. Aviodrome paid €350,000 to restore the aircraft to airworthy condition and have it painted in the livery of Martin’s Air Charter, a Dutch cargo airline founded in 1958 (now Martinair).

The flight crew were planning to fly the renovated aircraft to the Netherlands the following day (11 July) where it would be part of an aviation display on the 23rd.

On the 10th, the aircraft departed Pretoria Wonderboom airport for a short flight to Pilanesberg. The passengers on the accident flight were those who had worked on the aircraft to return it to service; an opportunity to see it in action.

One of the reasons I am highlighting this crash is that the flight and the aftermath were filmed at various points from a number of different angles. Be warned, though, the following footage, especially the last video, may be disturbing to watch.

The take-off was filmed by two different people. There is already evidence of smoke in the left engine here although the propellor is turning and the engine seems to be running normally (no veer or yawing).

Here is another video of the take-off taken from the road:

Smoke was seen from the ground as the aircraft appeared to struggle to climb away. The flight crew turned for a right-hand downwind for runway 29 to return to the airfield. As the aircraft turned final, it crashed into a warehouse about 6km (3 nautical miles) east of the airport. Three people in the warehouse were injured, one died in hospital the following day.

The following video was taken by a light aircraft in the local area who flew behind the Convair in an attempt to see what was happening:

Here is an aerial view of the point of impact:

And finally, here’s a hard-to-watch video recovered from the impact site, filmed from within the Convair by one of the passengers:

The following was posted by an anonymous source as a comment on Aviation Herald’s summary of the incident

The inside story from my AMO who is doing the investigation is that a fuel line fractured on the carburetor avgas radial left engine. Fire then burned through the oil lines. Loss of pressure prevented them from feathering the prop. They turned right downwind to avoid crashing into built up areas. I.e. Against the live engine. They set it down on base but hit a single story steel and brick warehouse tearing chunks out and bending the i beams at right angles. Probably with an engine. This effectively broke their speed. Landed straight ahead with both wings separating and burning.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) have confirmed that the aircraft had a valid certificate of airworthiness and that they will release a preliminary report within 30 days.


  • Some strange similarities with a crash of a DC3, operated by the Dutch Dakota Association. in the 1990’s The PH-DDA (in old-style KLM livery) was on a flight with staff of Rijskwaterstaat, a department of the Dutch government concerned with management of canals, dykes, waterways etc. On a flight from the island of Texal to De Kooij, a formal Navy Iar Base, it had engine problems. The prop of that engine kept coming out of feather. The crew were highly experienced airline pilots, doing this as a kind of hobby. The became so fixated with the feathering problem that they forgot to maintain proper airspeed. The aircraft was over sandbanks, the tide was low. A controlled crash would have saved everyone but the DC-3 stalled, and came down hard in shallow water.
    One passenger initially survived, even stood up at the arrival of the SAR helicopter but died on his way to hospital. All other occupants died, including a cousin of mine.

    Martinair originally was a passenger charter airline It started in 1957 as an air advertising company and started passenger chargters and sightseeing flights from Schiphol with a De Havilland Dove and a Cessna 172 (PH-MAF), later augmented by a DC3 and eventually it became a “bucket-and-spade” charter airline with DC-9, Fokker F28 and two Convair 580. These were converted CV340 (or maybe 440 “Metropolitan”?). They were converted with Allison turboprop engines and used mainly for cargo.
    Martinair expanded with DC10 and eventually focused on cargo operations. They were incorporated into KLM as their air cargo arm.

  • The PH-DDA accident had a lot to do with poor VMC conditions, in combination with basic instruments layaout on the Dac.
    Combined with perhaps a crew that was used to a much higher instrumental layout, interface, limited DC-3 time.

    The Convair seems to have had a RIGHT engine problem as primary trigger for the problem, with Left engine seemingly also having performance problems perhaps (look at the constant left aileron input during remainder of flight)?
    Anyway, terrible accidents both, We ‘analists’ are always commenting in hindsight from the comfortable ground.

    Good luck with the investigation.

    an old, not bold pilot.

  • I’m surprised the pilot could not feather the prop when there is an accumulator which contains oil just for that purpose of an emergencies. Sad to say the least!

  • I do not find old aircraft to be unsafe, but when a pilot only flies it 40 hours a year, there might be a problem.

    With the crash of PH-DDA both pilots had flown it less than 50 hours during the last year. The same thing is likely to be the case with this Convair and also the JU52 in Switzerland. At the Shoreham Crash, the airline pilot was taking a Hawker Hunter up for display, despite minimum experience and recency on type.

    The older aircraft needs to be flown by experienced pilots, who have respect for the old equipment – and also have sufficient recency.

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