Date: April, 20th 1968
Type: Boeing 707-344C
Registration: -
Operator: South African Airways
Where: Windhoek, Namibia
Report No.-
Report Date: -
Pages: -

This is not an accident investigation report.

Extract from "Fields of Air" Triumphs, tragedies and mysteries of civil aviation in Southern Africa. By James Byrom. Publisher: Ashanti 1993.

"Smith's vision was such that he would have had difficulty in reading the instruments clearly at night and that the particular pair of glasses that he was wearing at the time were not adequate to correct that deficiency. It is certain that his eyesight had deteriorated as a normal consequence of his age and that the glasses he was wearing might have made it necessary to strain at times, and perhaps to lean forward to get a better view of the instruments, and perhaps to need brighter cockpit lighting at times.

Among the "probable" causes the board considered, was that the take-off was into total darkness with no visual external references: that is, there were no lights visible on the ground and no discernible horizon that would have given warning of the loss of height. The board also considered that there was an inappropriate alteration of stabilser trim, spatial disorientation, and that the crew were preoccupied with checks after take-off.

There was the possibility that the captain and his crew failed to co-ordinate their efforts becuse of two very significant facts: this was the first flight overseas by a C model aircrat by all the crew members, and none of them had flown together before.

For the pilots it was a new aircraft. They had flown it for an hour for their conversions, and for the time it had taken to travel from Jan Smuts to Windhoek. When they took off at J G Strijdom (Windhoek) "flaps up" might have been selected at 400 ft. The minimum height then prescribed was 700 ft, but in the A model flaps were reduced from 30 degrees to 20 degrees at 400 ft, whereas in the B and C models flaps were at the time fully retracted from 14 degrees to 0 degrees at 700 ft. Premature selection of flaps to 0 degrees at 400 ft, with reduction of engine output to climb power, would have tended to bring the nose down. The altitude of the Pretoria never exceeded 650 ft - so were the flaps retracted too early? Did the pilots momentarily forget the difference between the A and C models?

Another possibility considered was that the first officer was doing the take-off. In view of his previous experience with 727's which required a considerable reduction of nose-up trim after take-off. he might have applied excessive reduction of nose-up trim."

The inquiry, while carefully considering and weighing a mountain of evidence, still did not find a satisfactory reason for the accident, and the Airline Pilots Association of South Africa was distressed that wrong inferences could be drawn from the report."