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20 July 2011

Former SAA pilot sheds light on Helderberg plane crash

A former South African Airways pilot has come forward claiming to have crucial information which could shed light on what happened in the Helderberg plane crash.

The SAA Boeing crashed near Mauritius in November 1987, killing all 159 passengers and crew, after a fire started on board the aircraft.

Crucial tapes recording communication with the aircraft famously went missing or were recorded over.

The Margot Commission and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission both investigated the cause of the crash but conspiracy theorists and critics still maintain the plane was carrying unstable flammable substances for the Apartheid government.

Retired pilot Clair Fichardt said a now deceased colleague at SAA, James Deale, confessed to him that he was ordered to give the infamous ZUR tapes to the airline’s Director of Operations Mickey Mitchell in the presence of the CEO Gert van der Veer.

“In the office with him at the time was Gert van der Veer,” he said.

Helderberg expert David Klatzow said this resolves the question of what happened to the tapes.

“It puts the final piece of the jigsaw into exactly what happened because we always knew that Mickey Mitchell had given that on to Gert van der Veer and this now makes it beyond doubt,” he said.

Van der Veer told the TRC he could not confirm or deny receiving the tapes and has refused to comment about the latest claim.

Several veteran SAA pilots said Fichardt’s claim must be examined carefully because he may have a vendetta against the airline and that it came just three weeks after Mitchell’s death.

Click here to read full statement.

(Edited by Lisa Bartlett) - EyeWitnessNews