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Last updated: 26 October 2021
Date:Wednesday 5 December 2012
Time:ca 09:45
Type:Silhouette image of generic DC3T model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Aero Modifications AMI C-47TP (DC-3T)
Operator:South African Air Force - SAAF
Registration: 6840
MSN: 13866/25311
First flight: 1944
Crew:Fatalities: 6 / Occupants: 6
Passengers:Fatalities: 5 / Occupants: 5
Total:Fatalities: 11 / Occupants: 11
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Aircraft fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Giant's Castle, Drakensbergen range (   South Africa)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Departure airport:Waterkloof Air Force Base (WKF/FAWK), South Africa
Destination airport:Mthatha Airport (UTT/FAUT), South Africa
The Douglas C-47TP turbine transport plane was destroyed when it crashed near Giant's Castle in the Drakensberg mountain range in South Africa. All 11 on board were killed.
The aircraft belonged to the South African Air Force's 35 Squadron and operated on a routine flight from Waterkloof Air Force Base to Mthatha. The normal route was to fly towards Ladysmith, then on to Estcourt at FL110 and then descend to FL100 and turn towards Kokstad and Mthatha. The pilots apparently turned on a bearing of about 210 degrees and flew into the mountains near Giant's Castle, which is at some 13800 feet. Since no pre-flight briefing had taken place, it was not noticed that the flight plan contained too low an altitude for the surrounding terrain. Clouds and fog were present in the area, so the flight crew failed to observe the terrain elevation in relation to their altitude. Additionally, the aircraft was not equipped with a Ground Proximity Warning System.
The on board weather radar included a mode showing weather as well as terrain, but was apparently not used.

encountered severe weather conditions. Unconfirmed reports state that the aircraft last communicated with Air Traffic Control when above Giants Castle in the Drakensbergen mountain range, 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 wreckage was later found in Giants Castle in the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal.

Probable Cause:

Cause: The crew filed a flight plan with an incorrect flight level (FL) and routing. Contributing causes are given as the weather and lack of situational awareness among the aircrew. The inquiry further found the lack of an aircrew pre-flight briefing was a key issue and that unnecessary time pressure and insufficient flight planning also played a part. The aircrew did not adhere to standard checks and procedures and failed to do a proper risk assessment.

Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) - Mountain

» 2012 C-47TP Drakensberg crash was avoidable - Inquiry (, 11 Oct. 2017)
» Unofficial SAAF website
» FlyAfrica Forum
» SANDF media release


photo of AMI-C-47TP-6840
accident date: 05-12-2012
type: AMI C-47TP
registration: 6840
photo of AMI-C-47TP-6840
accident date: 05-12-2012
type: AMI C-47TP
registration: 6840

This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from Waterkloof Air Force Base to Mthatha Airport as the crow flies is 635 km (397 miles).
Accident location: Global; accuracy within tens or hundreds of kilometers.

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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