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3rd of February 2000

A TAAT Boeing 707-351, ST-APY, was operating a charter flight on this day in aviation history in 2000. It was positioning from Khartoum, Sudan to Mwanza, Tanzania. At Mwanza, the aircraft was to be loaded with 38 tons of fish, destined for Brussels, Belgium. Onboard 5 crew.

The aircraft floating in lake Victoria (© unknown, from public domain)

Just before 17.00 while descending from FL370 to FL250 the crew contacted Mwanza tower. ATC informed the crew that due to a power outage they would have to enter a holding pattern until the back generator was being started.

After 10 minutes in the holding pattern, the generator came online and the runway light came on. A visual approach to runway 12 was flown, and when the crew reported turning final they were cleared to land. Over the touchdown zone, a go-around was initiated by the crew as they seemed to be high. (As stated in a written declaration by the commander left in the Mwanza control tower)

The estimated flight path, as recorded in the Tanzanian Accident investigation Branch

ATC queried if there was a problem, to which the crew replied "no problem" adding that they would fly another approach. ATC then offered runway 30 as that runway had approach lighting, with calm winds the weather was no issue. The crew elected to fly another approach to runway 12.

According to the ATC controller, he observed the aircraft descending very low over the lake while still far from the threshold. He issued a caution to the crew over their height but not received a reply, a few seconds later the aircraft fell into the lake. Approximately 4 kilometers from the runway. The commander later reported that they were slightly right off the extended centreline the aircraft hit something and came to a standstill after a lot of noise. The aircraft was substantially damaged and leaked fuel into Lake Victoria, the initial accident report by the Accident Investigation Branch of the Tanzania Ministry of Communication and Transport (available by clicking here) lists the following damages;

  • All four engines, with their respective pylons torn from the wings

  • Damaged wing leading edge structures

  • Extensively damaged flaps

  • Damaged main gear

  • The nose landing gear was torn from its mountings Nose section Close up (from public domain)

  • Belly aft of the nose landing gear ripped off

  • Extensive damage to the electronic bay and its equipment

Later investigation found that the commanders and copilots altimeters were indicating different altitudes;

  • Commander side - 4100 feet

  • Co-pilot side - 3720 feet (the correct elevation for Lake Victoria)

The co-pilot reportedly warned the commander not to descend anymore during the second approach, shortly after the copilots warning the aircraft hit the water.

The aircraft floating in lake Victoria (© unknown, from public domain)

An interesting fact from this accident is that 2 of the crew swam to shore, 3 were rescued (with their bags) from one of the wings by fishermen. All crew members were not available for the Tanzanian investigators when they arrived to investigate the accident. The operator later contacted the Tanzanian authorities that the crew was available for interviews and that a date could be arranged via the operator for the interviews to take place. Another interesting fact is that the aircraft remained afloat and in 18 hours following the accident drifted to a position 11.6 kilometers from the runway. The aircraft was later towed closer to shore.

The aircraft being towed to shore (source Tanzanian Accident investigation Branch)

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