Cape Town – 131023 – A light aircraft crash landed short of Stellenbosch Airport this afternoon next to the R44. Authorities reported that one person died. Reporter: Murry Williams. Photographer: Armand Hough

Cape Town - A witness has described how the pilot of a light aircraft on Thursday took off from the Stellenbosch airfield and then desperately tried to turn and land again. Instead, he crashed and died.

The drama unfolded just south of the Stellenbosch airfield on Thursday at around 1.30pm.

A witness told the police the plane took off, but that he had heard “strange noises”.

“They saw the pilot trying to turn the plane, but he did not succeed and the plane crashed to the ground at Brakersdal Farm on Annandale Road, and caught fire.”

Police spokesman FC van Wyk reported that ambulance and firefighting teams had rushed to the farm, but the pilot was declared dead.

The plane lay where it had crashed, facing the landing strip it had taken off from, among hygroponic berry-farming tunnels - its cockpit area melted around a gaping hole.

Sources at the scene corroborated the police report.

The pilot was identified to the Cape Argus as Moritz Conrad, understood to be a German who owns a “romantic vacation getaway” for tourists in the famous Biedouw Valley between Clanwilliam and Wupperthal.

Staff at the farm said they had not been authorised to make any official comment, but knew of the crash.

The aircraft was identified as a Russian-made Vlakovlev Yak-18-T, a four- or five-seater “aerobatic utility” aircraft.

Cape Argus