Wonderboom plane crash: It was a ‘thank you’ flight


The 65-year-old Convair CV340 that crashed in Wonderboom, Pretoria on Tuesday afternoon was on a “pleasure flight” and test run, an aviation enthusiast has explained.

Two people were confirmed dead. One was a technical engineer and the other was on the ground at the time of the crash.

On Wednesday, the cause of the crash was still unclear.

The plane, built in 1954, was expected to depart to the Aviodrome air museum in the Netherlands on Wednesday.

Brought into the country in 2001

Former aviation journalist and aircraft enthusiast Morné Booij-Liewes, told News24 that it was one of two planes brought into the country in 2001 by luxury train company Rovos Rail.

“They (Rovos Rail) were using it to ferry their passengers from Victoria Falls. So, you would get on the train one way and fly back the other – or vice versa.”

The two planes had been standing in storage since 2009 and were up for sale. 

According to Booij-Liewes, one of the planes was bought by an Australian group called the Historic Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS). 

HARS is a big museum in Australia that has a collection of planes that are of historical significance in the country. The planes are also recovered and restored to flying condition and maintained there.  

He said the aircraft was “fixed-up” and was flown to Australia in late 2015. 

Deal fell through

The ZS BRV that crashed on Tuesday, remained behind.  It was apparently supposed to be sold to a Swiss collector, but the deal fell through the cracks. 

“The aircraft had been repainted and got a lot of maintenance done at Wonderboom. When the deal fell through late last year, the aircraft stood there.”

The 65-year-old Convair CV340 aircraft after it was repainted. (Credit: Timothy Connor Brandt‎)

Brenda Vos from Rovos Rail told News24 that the company had donated the aircraft to the Dutch museum.

The aircraft was repainted into the red and white colours of Martin’s Air Charter in recognition of its historic past. 

Martinair denied reports that the aircraft belonged to them. 

“The aircraft was painted in Martin’s Air Charter (retro) livery, but is not operated nor owned by Martinair,” an Air France – KLM press officer said in a statement.

“Martinair wishes to send it’s sympathy to the passengers and crew and all others involved in this accident.” 

The crashed plane. (Supplied)

Engine runs were done

Booij-Liewes said “some engine runs” were conducted on Friday. 

The flight is believed to have been on its way to Pilanesberg. 

“I think what they wanted to do was just to go out and see that everything was working well. It was just sort of a pleasure flight, sort of a thank you flight.”

Aviation expert Guy Leitch told News24 that there were reports from ground observers of problems with the left engine and possibly the propeller on take-off.

When asked what might have been done differently to avoid the crash, Leitch said it was hard to tell at this stage. 

“With hindsight one might say that it should have had more full power runs to check the engine performance and reliability. Also, perhaps a lighter take off with fewer people on a cooler day.”

“But by all accounts, the pilots did a good job trying to get it back to the airfield.”

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