David Klatzow is a South African forensic scientist who investigated the Helderberg air disaster of 1987.

The Boeing 747 known as the Helderberg
The Boeing 747 known as the Helderberg

South African Airways (SAA) Flight 295, named the Helderberg, was a commercial flight en route from Taiwan to South Africa on 28 November 1987.

It was a combi, meaning that it carried both passengers and freight.

What happened?

The aircraft experienced a catastrophic in-flight fire in the cargo area, causing it to the crash in the Indian Ocean near Mauritius.

The Helderberg's flight path
The Helderberg’s flight path

All 159 people on board were killed.

The search for the wreckage took several months due to the depth of the ocean and when the flight recorders were finally recovered, the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) was found to have stopped recording just before the crash (because of the failure of the aircraft’s electrical systems).

The official investigation concluded that a fire had started in the right rear main deck cargo hold, but the exact cause of the fire could not be definitively determined. The cargo on board included computers, electronic equipment, and a variety of other goods.

The final report stated that packaging in the cargo hold had not complied with international standards.

Yes, but…

David argues that the aircraft had also been carrying illegal weapons or hazardous materials, which makes sense, given South Africa’s international isolation at the time due to its policy of apartheid.

And there is supporting evidence.

The Helderberg was carrying dangerous military cargo

He suggests that an “event” occurred, such as the aircraft possibly falling apart mid-air, hinting at a plausible theory that the plane was shot down, either intentionally or accidentally.

It’s a persuasive position and, instead of me typing more, I recommend listening to David below.

It’s absolutely fascinating.

Not only is this a major South African aviation catastrophe, I would argue that it’s one of the most significant aviation disasters ever.


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