• FR172F Reims Rocket
    FR172F Reims Rocket

Date of Accident: 10 December 1999
Time of Accident: approximately 1410Z
Aircraft Registration: ZS-OGC
Type of Aircraft: FR172F Reims Rocket

Licence Type: Private
License Valid: Yes

Flying Experience
Total Hours: 58.7
Total Hours on Type: 4.4

Type of Operation: Private
Last point of departure: Nelspruit Airport
Next point of intended landing: Private Airstrip near Thabazimbi
Location of the accident site: approximately 24 nm West of Nelspruit on a mountain side
Meteorological Information: Overcast with a cloud base varying between ground level and approximately 1000 ft. Visibility was poor and the temperature in the vicinity approximately 23°C.
Number of people on board: 1+3
No. of people injured: 0
No. of people killed: 1+3


On 10 December 1999 at approximately 1342Z, the pilot and three passengers took off from Nelspruit Airport on a VFR (Visual Flight Rules) flight (private) to a private strip in the Thabazimbi area. At approximately 1410Z, on 10 December 1999, the aircraft crashed into a mountain, fatally injuring the four occupants. There were no known witnesses to the accident.

The pilot held a valid Private Pilot’s Licence and a valid medical certificate with no restrictions.

Although the pilot departed from Nelspruit in VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions), it would appear that adverse weather conditions prevailed in the surrounding areas at the time of the accident. The investigation suggests that all flight- and engine controls were serviceable prior to the accident.

The aircraft was serviceable prior to the impact and all the aircraft documentation was in order. The aircraft had sufficient fuel on board as it was filled to capacity prior to take-off from Nelspruit.

The FR172F Reims Rocket is a version of the Cessna 172 licence-built in France. It has a 210 HP Continental engine fitted with a constant-speed prop and handles differently to a standard C172.

Jim’s Analysis

Folks this is a very difficult one. We have a 172 with full tanks and four-up taking off at a density altitude of around 4000 ft, flying into an area where the cloud base is on the ground less than 25 nm from the point of departure. Oh, and the pilot has done four-and-a-bit hours on type, and has a total of 58.7 hours. My question to you is one that I often use when analysing an accident, “Would you happily be sitting in the back of that aircraft?”

I hope the answer is a pretty resounding “NO WAY!”

But my problem is that at least six people thought he was safe. The pilot, three passengers, who didn’t know the right questions to ask before getting into a light aircraft with a brand new pilot. This alone should be the subject of a future article. But we also have the flying instructor responsible for training this pilot. And the designated examiner who must have flown with him within the last few days.

So why did everyone think this was a safe pilot? Because the flying instructor and the testing officer said so?

Folks, there is something very wrong here.

This pilot’s confidence far exceeded his ability. And whose fault is that? Well, a good flying instructor is taught how to deal with this sort of pupil. Basically you give him fairly difficult tasks, and then you don’t hold back on your criticism when he can’t perform them perfectly.

Yep, flying seems to attract “A” type personalities whose self-assurance is difficult to control. But there is no way it should be this far out of kilter with his ability so soon after getting his license. Hell, the pilot would have been able to see the clouds and the mountains on his track within minutes of takeoff. What goes on in his head that he should press on with his three unsuspecting pax – and kill everyone?

Put it this way, if this pilot was a product of my flying school I would go round the back of the hangar and shoot myself in the head. The designated testing officer may not have witnessed this vast overconfidence in his short flight with this pilot, but his instructor surely got to know the guy and should have had the ability to influence even the
A-est of A personalities.

comments powered by Disqus