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9th of February 1977

A Saab 91D Safir (Safir is Swedish for sapphire) owned and operated by the Rijks Luchtvaart School (National Aviation School from the Netherlands, operating

from 1945 -1991) was on a training flight on this day in aviation history.

The aircraft being recovered from the lake (Source www.hdekker.info)


A part of the flight was a low-level flight over a lake (the IJsselmeer, a 420 sq mi / 11oo km2 lake). During the flight, a low-level fly-by of a fishing boat was performed. The fisherman saw the aircraft pass and watched it continue its flight, they noticed it slowly lost altitude and just over 1/2 a mile ( 1 kilometer) from the fishing boat the propellor hit the water.

Recovery under supervision of a police boat (left) and the aircraft wreck on the deck of the recovery vessel (right), the source for both pictures; www.hdekker.info


Instantly the aircraft was pulled up and a turn was initiated to the shore in an attempt to reach land. However, the propellor was damaged to such a degree that the aircraft started to lose speed and slip. The pilot managed to level the wings but the speed had dropped so far that it is was impossible to maintain lift. The vertical speed increased and the aircraft hit the water in a slight left wing down attitude. The pilot in the left seat managed to open his canopy and evacuate the aircraft. The pilot in the right seat evacuated the aircraft through the righthand side window, w.hich was knocked out by the force of the impact. Only a short while after both occupants had left the aircraft it sank to the bottom of the lake. The only thing left floating was a seat cushion which the pilots used as a support. They were in serious trouble as the temperature of the water was only 3º Celsius (37.4 F), hypothermia would set in fast. Luckily for them, the fisherman had seen them crash into the lake and had immediately set course for the crash site and took both men on board.

It was later determined that the pilot had determined his position and altitude based on visual reference to a ship in the distance. This resulted in a gradual loss of altitude and the aircraft hitting the water.

The aircraft wreckage in a hangar after recovery (source www.hdekker.info)

The aircraft was recovered from the lake bed, however, the damage was so extensive that the aircraft was considered Beyond Economical Repair. On the 21st of February 1977, the registration was cancelled from the Dutch Civil Aircraft Register. Click here for more information on the Saab 91 Safir.

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