On November 27th 1987 at 14:23, SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS flight SA295, a Boeing 747-244B Combi of South African Airways, departed from Taipei’s Chiang Kai Shek Airport for Mauritius’ Plaisance Airport with 159 persons on board. In the main deck cargo hold 6 pallets of cargo had been loaded. Some 9 hours out and some 46 minutes before the estimated time of arrival at Plaisance the flight deck informed the approach control at Plaisance that there was a smoke problem In the aeroplane and that an emergency descent to flight level (FL) 140 had been Initiated.
The last radio communication was at 00: 04 on November 28th 1987.
At about 00: 07 SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS flight SA295 crashed into the sea. The wreckage, consisting of thousands of fragments, sank to the ocean bottom at depths of the order of 15 000 feet (about 4,5 kilometers), although many of the lighter materials floated away on the currents.
Some of the latter Items were recovered from the sea, or from the sea-shores where they had been washed up far from the scene of the crash. Months later one such Item was found on a beach In Natal, over 2000 nautical miles away. There are clear
Indications that a fire developed In the right hand front pallet in the main deck cargo hold, that the fire got out of control and that it eventually led to the crash.
There were no survivors.
The State of Registry, the Republic of South Africa (RSA), was notified of the accident by Plaisance Air Traffic Control (Mauritius) at 01: 15 on November 28th 1987.
As the accident had occurred outside the territory of any State, the Investigation of the accident was conducted by the State of Registry In terms of paragraph 5.3 of Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation. This was agreed to by the Government of Mauritius.
The State of Manufacture of the aircraft, the United States of America (USA), was notified of the accident on November 30th 1987 at 08: 10 and was requested to participate in the investigation, in response to which request an accredited representative was appointed from the NTSB. The accredited representative was accompanied by representatives of the FAA and The Boeing Company respectively. All the representatives had full access to all the phases of the investigation about SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS flight SA295 and all the available information. They were most helpful and co-operated fully with the investigator-in-charge.
The Operator provided advisers and all possible assistance and logistic support needed in all the phases of the investigation. It also had full access to all available information. Full co-operation was given to the investigator-in-charge.
The representatives of the Operator, The Boeing Company and the NTSB, undertook to provide the investigator-in-charge with all the available information that might be required for the investigation of the accident. The investigator-in-charge provided the factual report to the representatives of the participating parties for information and comments.
The State conducting the investigation (RSA) appointed an Accident Inquiry Board in terms of section 12 of the Aviation Act 74 of 1962. The Board comprised one member from each of the States of Japan, the Republic of China, Mauritius, the UK and the USA, and three members, including the Chairman, from the RSA. The members from japan, the Republic of China and Mauritius, were appointed by their respective governments. The members of the Board, by name, were Mr justice C S Margo, DSO, DFC, FRAeS, of the RSA, (Chairman), Mr justice H Goburdhun, of Mauritius, Mr George N Tompkins junior, of the USA, Mr G C Wilkinson, CBE, FRAeS, of the UK, Dr Y Funatsu, of ANA, japan, Mr J J S Germishuys, of the RSA, Dr J Gilliland, of the RSA, and Colonel Liang Lung, of the Republic of China.
- The accident followed an uncontrolled fire in the forward right pallet on the main deck cargo compartment. The aircraft crashed into the sea at high speed following a loss of control consequent on the fire
- In terms of Section 12( 1) of the Aviation Act, No 74 of 1962, as amended, the Board is required to determine not only the cause of, but also responsibility for, the accident (compare paragraph 3.1 of Annex 13). There is, however, no basis in the evidence from which the Board would be justified in assigning responsibility for the accident to any person or body, and, therefore, the Board is unable to do so.