Plane wreckage found in Drakensberg

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dakota dec 6 INLSA A Dakota, similar to the one pictured above, went missing in the Drakensberg on Wednesday during a shuttle flight from Pretoria to Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. Picture: Brian Spurr

KwaZulu-Natal - The SA Air Force military plane carrying an estimated 11 people that went missing en route from Pretoria to Mthatha in the Eastern Cape on Wednesday has been found.

According to SAAF spokesman Brigadier-General Xolani Mabanga, the wreckage was found in Giants Castle in the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mabanga said they would not reveal the number of people on board.

“There was a pilot and crew on board but we cannot reveal the numbers at this stage,” he said.

According to reports, the plane was carrying former president Nelson Mandela's medical team. The route is used weekly by the medical team looking after Mandela's health in Qunu.

The SAAF has confirmed that the plane - an SAAF Air Force DC3 or C-47TP aircraft of 35 Squadron known by the nickname “Dakota” - might have encountered problems but said there were no details about what happened.

However, It is believed that bad weather conditions may have contributed to the craft’s disappearance.

Mabanga said the plane’s last known location had been in the Ladysmith area in KwaZulu-Natal. However, other reports said it was last in radio contact in the Giants Castle area.

According to a statement made on the SAAF (unofficial) online forum, the Dakota was flying from Waterkloof in Pretoria when it encountered severe weather.

“Unconfirmed reports state that the aircraft last communicated with Air Traffic Control when above Giants Castle in the Drakensberg, stating that they were at 11 000 feet and flying in Instrument Meteorological Conditions due to the bad visibility. The aircraft never arrived at Mthatha Airport,” the statement said.

The forum’s administrator, Dean Wingrin, said that an Oryx helicopter crew was tasked with searching for the missing aircraft, but had to abandon the search due to the bad weather.

Wingrin, who is a reporter for the Defence Web, said the Dakota operated regular flights in that region and would on most occasions carry military personnel between airports.

IOL, The Mercury

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