Pilot killed in crash
A KWAZULU-NATAL businessman was killed yesterday when his business jet crashed south of the N2 between Caledon and Swellendam.
Kobus Dicks, 57, was flying to Cape Town from Lanseria International Airport near Johannesburg when his Eclipse-EA500 jet lost radio contact over the Riviersonderend area, cruising at an altitude of 11.43km at 10.15am.
According to the SA Air Force, its airforce command posts at Overberg Airforce Base and Ysterplaat Airforce Base were alerted.
A search and rescue operation was launched by both 35 Squadron with a C47-TP Dakota and a 22 Squadron Oryx.
Meanwhile a Gripen fighter jet was sent from Overberg Airforce Base to intercept the missing jet and 25 minutes later it spotted the aircraft. The Gripen pilot tried unsuccessfully to establish radio contact with the jet, which was dropping altitude and hurtling towards mountains below in a spiral. The plane eventually crashed in a narrow ravine 8km south of the N2 between Caledon and Swellendam.
According to the SA Airforce, the plane disintegrated on impact and no fire was observed by the Gripen pilot. The Overberg Airforce Base fire and rescue service was yesterday dispatched to the scene of the crash where they assisted the rescue team.
Meanwhile, the air traffic control at Ysterplaat Airforce Base followed the business jet’s radar tracks until all contact was lost at 10.55am – 40 minutes after the search was initiated.
Last night, Air Traffic Navigational Service spokesperson Percy Morokane confirmed the crash and said the Department of Transport’s Air Crash Investigative Unit would investigate the incident.
Dicks, from Vryheid in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, had interests in several businesses, including companies trading in property, transport and meat.
His brother, Hennie Dicks, said he was too distraught to speak, only confirming the death.
According to several websites, Dicks was the first person to take ownership of the Eclipse-EA500 in South Africa and the continent when he purchased the plane in 2013.
Dicks was quoted at the time as saying: “I am extremely pleased with the efficiency and speed of my Eclipse. My business takes me throughout the country on a weekly basis and I’m able to visit multiple facilities in a truly advanced singlepilot aircraft that has wholly surpassed my expectations.”
Police spokesperson Andre Traut confirmed police were on the scene of a plane crash in Swellendam, but referred media enquiries to the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), which was responsible for the investigation. SACAA spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba said the cause of the accident was under investigation.
“The aircraft crashed into the ground in an area between Swellendam and Bredasdorp. The aircraft’s last point of departure was Lanseria International Airport and the point of intended landing was Cape Town International Airport, he said.
“The pilot, a South African, was the sole occupant on board. He was fatally injured during the accident. The aircraft, an Eclipse-EA500, was privately owned.”
A report, released by the SACAA during its National Safety Seminar in October, indicated that between April 2014 and March 2015, aircraft accidents declined from 144 to 120, a 17 percent decrease.
The number of fatal accidents decreased from 27 to 16, a 41 percent reduction while the number of deaths declined from 41 to 26, a 37 percent decrease.