Fatal Convair Crash at Pretoria
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.
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.