360° at 100 feet
Last week, “Captn Al” called out poor decision making in a video of an 727 doing a low-level 360° when he found the runway occupied by a light aircraft.
In a week where there have been videos of poor decision making below MSA, sadly here’s another one. Accidents just don’t happen, they are caused! #flying #safety #planesafetypodcast pic.twitter.com/yG9Yh8XjWT
— Captn Al (@airbus_al) December 2, 2019
Of course, I had to find out more.
Here’s the fullsized video:
I also found a second video of the same flight taken from the beach:
The aircraft is a Boeing 727 registration FY-MWM (previously N446BN) which has a long and interesting history. Here’s the final paragraph:
In 2014, Ship N446BN was stored at an unknown location in Africa. In addition, the aircraft was listed on several jet freighter available lists as being available for service. The aircraft was eventually sold to Astral Aviation sometime after 2014. However, as of February 2019, the aircraft is currently operating for Astral Aviation of Nairobi, Kenya. Ship N446BN was reregistered in Kenya as 5Y-MWM.
So that’s our plane.
The airport in the video is Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.
Here’s an old plate from the airport which was posted to the Professional Pilots’ Rumour Network. Note the no-fly zone:
Here’s the modern approach which still clearly keeps all traffic away from the land.
Somalia has been ravaged by armed conflict for almost three decades and violent attacks are a part of daily life in Mogadishu. Flying circles at 100 feet above the water in a 50-year-old plane sounds pretty frightening but one poster makes the comment that the 727 is less of a target doing a 360° off-shore than following the missed approach over a surface-to-air missile detail.
Air Force Veteran Scott Bateman adds some context to the decision to circle at low level:
I first came to Mogadishu just before Xmas ‘92. It was dark and we landed at the airport the evening before the US Navy Seals were caught by CNN coming up the beach just to the north. It’s was then, and still is, a challenging place to aviate into.
Weapons are plentiful and when combined with the use of narcotics they are often fired randomly at anything, including aircraft. So it’s worth avoiding flying over any built up areas, period.
You will now understand why all #aircraft flying into here would want to remain over the water at all costs. A standard go around has the potential to be problematic. They always land & depart over the water, this avoiding risks from small arms fire.
The last time I landed at Mogadishu, I was wearing body armour and also sitting on a flak jacket to protect my “jewels”. Whilst the 727 manoeuvre is unconventional and probably risky, I wouldn’t judge as I have no idea of the current threat from ground fire or similar.
The pilot of the aircraft was apparently recognised on the Professional Pilot’s Rumour Network with one poster posting that Niel was jailed for over a year in Zimbabwe as the pilot of the Boeing 727 seized by Zimbabwean authorities in 2004. It sounds like this isn’t the man’s first time in a conflict zone.
Based on that, I found this YouTube channel by Niel Steyl including a video of him flying a 727-200 into, you guessed it Mogadishu, Somalia with Van Halen playing loudly in the background. It seems pretty likely that this is the same man.
Niel Steyl is a South African pilot who was indeed held for 17 months in a maximum security prison in Zimbabwe after being accused of having stopped to pick up weapons to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea.
Watching the video, I have to admit I’m impressed to watch the flight crew was acting as a team, the captain briefing before he starts the turn and the first officer looking out and watching. At the start and then again as they come back around, you can hear the callout of 100 feet — Steyl completed that 360° without losing an inch. I don’t think I’d want to be in that aircraft but I have to concede that he’s one hell of a pilot.