Date: April, 20th 1968
Type: Boeing 707-344C
Operator: South African Airways
Where: Windhoek, Namibia
Report Date: -
This is not an accident investigation report.
Extract from "Fields of Air" Triumphs, tragedies and mysteries of civil aviation in
Southern Africa. By James Byrom. Publisher: Ashanti 1993.
"Smith's vision was such that he would have had difficulty in reading the
instruments clearly at night and that the particular pair of glasses that he
was wearing at the time were not adequate to correct that deficiency. It is
certain that his eyesight had deteriorated as a normal consequence of his
age and that the glasses he was wearing might have made it necessary to
strain at times, and perhaps to lean forward to get a better view of the
instruments, and perhaps to need brighter cockpit lighting at times.
Among the "probable" causes the board considered, was that the take-off was
into total darkness with no visual external references: that is, there were
no lights visible on the ground and no discernible horizon that would have
given warning of the loss of height. The board also considered that there
was an inappropriate alteration of stabilser trim, spatial disorientation,
and that the crew were preoccupied with checks after take-off.
There was the possibility that the captain and his crew failed to
co-ordinate their efforts becuse of two very significant facts: this was
the first flight overseas by a C model aircrat by all the crew members, and
none of them had flown together before.
For the pilots it was a new aircraft. They had flown it for an hour for
their conversions, and for the time it had taken to travel from Jan Smuts to
Windhoek. When they took off at J G Strijdom (Windhoek) "flaps up" might
have been selected at 400 ft. The minimum height then prescribed was 700
ft, but in the A model flaps were reduced from 30 degrees to 20 degrees at
400 ft, whereas in the B and C models flaps were at the time fully
retracted from 14 degrees to 0 degrees at 700 ft. Premature selection of
flaps to 0 degrees at 400 ft, with reduction of engine output to climb
power, would have tended to bring the nose down. The altitude of the
Pretoria never exceeded 650 ft - so were the flaps retracted too early? Did
the pilots momentarily forget the difference between the A and C models?
Another possibility considered was that the first officer was doing the
take-off. In view of his previous experience with 727's which required a
considerable reduction of nose-up trim after take-off. he might have applied
excessive reduction of nose-up trim."
The inquiry, while carefully considering and weighing a mountain of
evidence, still did not find a satisfactory reason for the accident, and the
Airline Pilots Association of South Africa was distressed that wrong
inferences could be drawn from the report."