Tuesday, November 20, 2012

■■ MOZAMBIQUE: Search for missing South African pilots to end Friday.

Mayday[UPDATED 20 NOVEMBER 2012] The search for two South African pilots who went missing on 27 October as they flew home to South Africa is to be called off Friday. 

Bryan Simms, 60, and his son Robert, 22, from Midrand, Johannesburg, were flying back to Lanseria airport, Johannesburg in a Beechcraft Baron 58 (MSN TH-737 | ZS-JPG). They had departed Lilongwe, Malawi en route to Lanseria when contact was lost around 45 minutes from Beira airport, Mozambique.

The lost Baron ZS-JPG
The lost Baron ZS-JPG (KBark)
The aircraft had been on contract to the Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies in Sudan when hostilities broke out again and work for the plane ceased.

The plane had a full fuel tank but no other cargo when it developed engine trouble after flying over Tete in Mozambique. 

Since then, a team of the Mountain Club of South Africa, and the voluntary communication group Hamnet were dispatched to Mozambique to help in the search. The South African Air Force also assisted with the search using a Cessna Caravan. Another Caravan and a C-47TP transport aircraft later joined in but to no avail.

The Search Area
The Search Area

As if that wasn't enough bad luck, a recent decision by Afonso Dhlakama, the 59-year old leader of the main opposition party in Mozambique, the National Resistance Movement (RENAMO) also known as MNR, has set up a new base  in his former stronghold, Gorongosa, in the central part of the country (where the aircraft is believed to have gone down), and has threatened peace within Mozambique, leading the Government to curtail the search for the downed aircraft.

Richard Maier, the head of the search for two South African pilots said a USD5'000 (£3,000) reward would remain on offer.

[UPDATE 20 NOVEMBER 2012] According to the above links, the wreckage of ZS-JPG has been found. In the thread on Avcom, the plane was found yesterday by a villager at 17 58.04S, 33 33.94E, "in a concession known as 'Quartardo 13' on a track between Catandica and the south western border of the Gorongosa reserve in Mozambique."

There were no survivors sadly.