Air Force probes plane crashes

File pic: Crushed plane

THE Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) has established a board of inquiry to probe circumstances surrounding this month’s plane accident.

An AFZ SF260 aircraft went down during routine training near Gweru early this month, killing two members of the force, and sparking off concerns over safety, sources said.

Group Captain Ben Munyanduki and Wing Commander Daniel Manyenga died in the accident, which saw the aircraft crash into a power line.

Josiah Tungamirai Airbase, formerly Thornhill Airbase — a major facility for AFZ — is based in Gweru.

Sources close to the probe, which comes in the wake of a string of other accidents before it, said the investigation would revolve around bolstering AFZ’s operational efficiencies to minimise casualties.

It is standard procedure across the world for a country’s military to launch an investigation in the aftermath of an accident that occurs during operations.

Sources said the inquiry seeks to ascertain what led to the accident.

Multiple sources familiar with the investigation told the Zimbabwe Independent that AFZ was determined to assert its guiding motto.

“In conducting the probe, AFZ was determined to assert its guiding motto that ‘Our Wings are the Fortress of the Nation’, while minimising accidents that claim human lives and destroy critical equipment.

“Usually what happens in cases like these is that a board of inquiry constituting experts in the military is assembled. A detailed report from the scene of the accident is compiled, usually originating from the airbase involved (Josiah Tungamirai),” a source told the Independent.

“That report is then forwarded to the Air Force headquarters at Josiah Magama Tongogara barracks (formerly King George VI). At that stage, the report is assessed and additional recommendations are recorded before it is submitted to the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Valerio Sibanda. The investigation underway will likely follow that procedure.”

Another source said the duration of the investigation was dependent on several factors including the severity of the accident and the process of gathering evidence from multiple sources.

“An investigation can be concluded in a short space of time. But it can also take longer. The duration of the probe depends on several factors,” the source added.

The composition of the board of inquiry is normally not disclosed to allow members to conduct their work without undue interference, the sources noted.

In June 2021, a crew of AFZ pilots averted a major accident by undertaking an emergency landing of their Mig-23 gunship helicopter after it had reportedly developed a technical fault. No casualties were recorded.

During the same year in April, four people died, including two pilots and an engineer died after an AFZ Augusta Bell 412 (AB412) crashed in Mashonaland East.

A year before (2020), an AFZ aircraft SF260 Genet trainer was involved in an accident, which claimed the lives of an instructor and trainee pilot on board.

Away from accidents involving AFZ aircraft, last week, a light plane owned by mining firm, Murowa Diamonds force-landed at a farm in Beatrice.

The aircraft, a Piper 31 Navajo had five people on board.

No deaths were recorded.

Investigations into the cause of the accident are still underway though preliminary indications point to a possible engine failure.

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