The CAA Viking Crash, Tanganyka, 1953

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An aircraftWednesday 3rd June 2009

The tragic crash of the French aircraft two days ago brought vividly to mind a similar crash which occurred in 1953 in Tanganyika - now Tanzania.

My late husband was a pilot with Central African Airways and we were stationed in Salisbury (now Harare) in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

He had flown this particular aircraft as co-pilot twice that week – once to the Victoria Falls and once to Johannesburg.

The longest trip for pilots at that period was a flight to Nairobi, which took, if I remember correctly, seven hours. The crew night-stopped in Nairobi and flew back the day after. It was generally a weekend flight, and it was frequently used by passengers who were going to fly on to Europe as Salisbury at that time did not have any international flights landing at Belvedere Airport.

Whilst flying home on the Sunday, this aircraft, which, as I have already stated, my late husband had flown twice that week, experienced the first case of metal fatigue known in the history of aviation. The effect of the quite difficult flying conditions in the area apparently caused some defect in the Viking aircraft and the aircraft lost a wing, and of course plummeted down to earth, resulting in the loss of all the passengers and crew.

All Vikings in service world wide at that time were immediately grounded until the cause of the crash was discovered. It took quite a long time. I am intrigued, because once again the first official cause of this present day tragic accident appears to be as a result of turbulence. This time of course, there is no chance of being able to do the extensive enquiries which were done on the Viking way back in 1953. On that occasion the crippled aircraft was able to be studiously examined structurally.

Obviously all of us who knew all the crew members who lost their lives in this accident grieved with the wives and families of the commander of the aircraft, Perry St Quinton – a veteran pilot in the RAF during WW2, and Terry Rossiter, a pilot who had trained in South Africa.

My sympathies obviously go to the passengers, but so seldom now is notice paid to the very brave crew members who fly us all around the world and face tremendous strain and real danger enabling us to live in the 21st Century and to get to any part of the world, literally within a few hours.

I would like to offer my sympathy to the family members of the French aircraft which was lost so suddenly in the Atlantic two days ago. They gave their lives doing a job which I am sure they loved but which, nevertheless, is still is a dangerous occupation.

Rest in Peace.

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