The report below was sent by the Air
Attache in Rio de Janeiro to the Air Ministry in London on 15th April 1947
following the accident to Avro York G-AHEZ in Dakar on 13th April. It was
compiled by three Panair Captains and is particularly scathing of the
facilities at Dakar which were believed to be a contributory factor in the
A full description of this accident appears in the book.
REPORT ON B.S.A.A. ACCIDENT AT DAKAR
The following has been compiled by the Air Attache from reports by Capt. Jones, Capt. Biggers, and Capt. Chase, all of Panair do Brazil. Capt. Jones is Chief Instructor to Panair do Brazil and had taken off from Dakar shortly before the York’s arrival; Capt. Biggers is another instructor and arrived over Dakar in a Constellation ten minutes after the B.S.A.A. York and had to wait over two hours until the York had landed, circling the field, and listening the whole time to the entire R/T conversation between B.S.A.A. and the tower; Capt. Chase is Technical Adviser to Panair do Brazil. All three are experienced American pilots, and this report can safely be graded A.1. The conclusion is that of these officials.
2. The French girl tower operators are worse than useless, and have no idea of how to give correct winds or anything else. They get excited and shout instructions to pilots. Overheard for example - Tower girl instructed the pilot to make three contacts - overhead - downward leg (sic) - and final approach, when all that was required was emergency clearance for as many approaches as he wanted. Another typical conversation: The co-pilot of the York requested the tower girl to refrain from unnecessary conversation 'You are only confusing us, give us landing conditions and leave us alone, we only have 200 gallons of gas left'. The tower girl replied 'You are already cleared to 200 feet'. (What did this mean?)
3. Conditions at the time were fog and dust, half mile visibility, no alternatives - Roberts Field three hours flying away, only clear field. At Dakar the long main runway was under repair, necessitating the use of the short runway which is miserably underlighted (sic), and which was dead across wind.
4. The York pilot made over a dozen approaches, trying to hit off the end of this poorly lit runway, and finally running out of petrol apparently tried to ditch in the field area off the runway near a cluster of lights, having cut switches etc. Unfortunately he hit a stone fence and then a tree, but owing to precautions taken, the aircraft did not catch fire.
5. The organisation and emergency procedure at Dakar is as follows:-
i) There is none.
ii) Flares were not produced until the last moment, when weather was appalling, and even then they were released when the York was on the downwind leg and were out by the time the pilot returned to make a landing. This happened every time until all flares were expended in this fruitless manner.
iii) Only radio aid is D/F station, poorly located in remote location for a landing pattern on 04 runway, the one in use, and was of no practical use to the pilot on this occasion.
iv) No S.B.A.
v) U.S. Radio Range not maintained by French and unusable.
vi) There was no useful cooperation from the tower, and in fact after the crash nothing was done, and the first indication of the accident was the arrival at the tower on foot of the co-pilot covered with blood.
6. Field Marking
Daylight: With restricted visibility the colour factors of the runway and the surrounding terrain so blend as to make it extremely difficult to distinguish the surrounding runways.
Night: The main long runway (320degrees) lighting is not by any means first class, and has no bright approach marker lights. The short runway (040degrees), in use on this occasion, is dangerously underlit and also has no bright approach marker lights.
Until the following action has been taken it is recommended that Dakar (Yoff) should not be used by international airlines, at any rate during the three-months period - which has just commenced - of very reduced visibility at Dakar due to dust storms, fog, haze and torrential rains.
i) Tower Operators - These inexperienced girl operators should be removed at once and replaced by experienced personnel. Only a few days before this accident there was a mid-air collision between two Air France Junker (sic) aircraft in the Yoff area, due to lack of traffic control by the tower.
ii) Emergency procedure - This should be set up immediately, including properly trained personnel to fire flares correctly, light and place flare paths, and generally be prepared to assist aircraft in distress. A system of signalling should be evolved between tower and emergency ground crew.
iii) Daylight Operations - Five feet wide white paint stripes to define each runway, on each side of the runway, should be provided immediately.
iv) Night Operations - High intensity marker lights at ends of runways should be provided. Runway lighting intensity should be maintained at proper strength. The particularly bad lighting on the short runway should be brought up to the same standard.
v) The D/F station and the U.S. Radio Range Station which lines up with the main runway 320degreesM should be put into proper operation.
vi) S.B.A. should be provided.
Every effort should be made to arrange for the use of SAL Island in the Cape Verdes instead of Dakar, which should be permanently eliminated on the grounds of weather and the complete incapacity of the French to operate the field. Sal Island has excellent all-year weather, it is on a more direct route, the terrain lends itself to unlimited extension of present airfield, and by its use the Yellow Fever zone would be eliminated.
The following air companies are extremely interested in the Sal Island project :-
Panair do Brasil
Capt. Chase, Technical Adviser of Pan Am to Brasil is visiting Sal Island in approximately ten days time to investigate and make preliminary arrangements. Negotiations are apparently being left in the hands of the Brazilian airline, as they have reciprocal arrangements with their old mother country - Portugal.