Account of Kilwa Incident by Tommy Turk




Tommy was the First Officer on this flight and his unpublished account of the incident appears below.  Tommy later went on to become a a Training Captain on the Comet 4 and a Senior Captain on the Super VC10.


"This story MUST start with why Captain Brokensha flew this, the second sector of that day's trip, which by normal custom, would have been flown by the FO.  Checked proof of this fact was that the flight log had been made out by me for this sector, which was always filled in during the flight by the non-flying pilot, and records also showed that I, as the non-flying First Officer, had done the radio communications.

"Captain.Brokensha, together with about 70% of the DC3 Captains, was a South African (SA). There had been, what we shall call an 'incident', in Dar-es-Salaam at the Government Hostel, where, at that time, all the crews stayed when flying the Southern Tanganyika routes.  The 'incident' revolved around a  New Zealand FO and an African air hostess. The 'incident' was reported to the Chief Pilot of the fleet by an SA  Captain, who in turn was informed, that what the crew did when off-duty was none of the Chief Pilot's business. 

"The SA Captains then decided to go on an anti-British FO campaign.  ALL, except one FO, with a Kenya passport, were targeted. This included me, despite having lived in Kenya all his life and being a Hungarian.  As a result of this harassment, many First Officers resigned.  This led to the SA Captains being told by the operations manager to quit their harassment or resign. Some resigned their career in protest - would you believe?

"The harassment consisted of the SA Captains giving away NO flying and made the First Officers do air plots on longer sectors, which was not easy on DC3. The Captains also did their own on-ground and in-flight checks and totally ignored the rest of the crew, except when it was absolutely necessary for them to be spoken to.

"So back to the flight . . . .  The second sector was  now captained by Gene Brokensha.  The approach was normal, right in the middle of the only runway and into the wind.  A perfect three point landing, main wheels and tail wheel touching together,  was then performed by the Captain. 

"In all the DC3  training, it had been drummed into the pilots, that they must never do a three point landing, as the characteristics of the DC3 might cause the tail to swing, if there was even a hint of a cross wind, or if the aircraft did not touch down absolutely straight, or if the runway was cambered.  This swing would be difficult, if not impossible to control. . . .  Was the Captain simply showing off?  Probably..

"The aircraft swung to the left.  The Captain applied right brake to bring the aircraft back to the centre line, but very soon after that, the drum brakes faded from overheating.  This particular aircraft had not yet been upgraded with  the new, and, much more efficient disc brakes. The Capt then applied power to his side engine, to assist the fading brake, but by then the left wheel was running along the rough ground, off the runway. There was a water table about a metre below the ground, off the edge off the runway, at that position.  As a result, here the sand was extremely soft. This then caused a tremendous drag on the left wheel, and, despite massive power being applied to the left engine, the plane was dragged off the runway, until both wheels were completely OFF the runway.   Within seconds, the aircraft came to a sudden stop, as both wheels sank in the soft sand,  the aircraft belly touching the ground.

"Due to he impact, the Captain was thrown forward. As his hands were already on the throttles, the levers were both pushed to full power.  The  left engine revved up to full power.  There was a crashing sound in the cockpit, with glass flying, and then . . . total silence.

"The Captain's seat had collapsed.  I thought it was from the impact, but, it had actually been destroyed by the propeller.  The Captain. was in a huddle on the floor, at an odd angle, holding his elbow, saying 'my arm, my arm'. The arm had almost been totally severed, just above the elbow.  At that time I had no idea as to what had caused this particular injury.   The Captain had been holding the control column right back, with his left hand, the propeller had found its mark there.  Blood was spurting out from the injury. I thought, quick, apply pressure on the artery and stop the flow, I leaned over to pull the Captain up towards him so he could better apply pressure to the artery.  Only then did I notice that the Captain's  body had been sliced in half by the propeller. Within seconds the Captain lost consciousness and died from the massive blood loss.

"Still somewhat surprised at the chain of events, and not yet knowing what had caused this catastrophe I stood up in his seat, looked out of the cockpit windscreen, down the runway. About 80 metres away, in the middle of the runway, sat a propeller.  Its blade tips bent back, and still attached to the massive reduction gear.  'Strange,' he thought, 'that shouldn't be there.'  I looked out to his side engine:  the propeller was still there. He looked out to the  left engine,  no propeller   no reduction gear, just a messy ripped open engine.  I looked around the cockpit and saw the finest cut mark, from the propeller blade.  It had neatly sliced, through the cockpit from overhead, all the way down to the left, shattering the Captain's side window. Only then did it dawn on I what had transpired.

"On inspection of the runway the next day, the aircraft tracks showed that the plane had in fact started to come back onto the runway, despite one wheel running OFF the runway.  But then the tail wheel had struck a cement runway edge marker, only a few inches high, which had again deflected the aircraft off the runway.

"The DC 3 flight manual states that in the event of a planned forced landing, the Captain must land the aircraft from the right hand seat, the  First Officer's side, and that the First Officer must go back into the passenger compartment. The propeller 'walking' into the cockpit, after a crash, was a well documented fact.

"I went to  the passenger cabin, and found that the African stewardess had fainted from the sight of bright red hydraulic fluid running down the cabin floor, from the sliced open damaged spare tin of fluid, carried near the cockpit, plus the Captain's blood.  I disembarked the passengers with no steps necessary: they simply stepped onto the ground from the aircraft. 

"After the crash I was advised by many pilots to get back in the air as soon as he could.  Dutifully he went to the Aero Club, and flew around in the Tiger Moth, his initial trainer.  Two weeks later . . . he went back on the line . . . more experienced, more hardened,

"Would this story have had a different ending had I flown that second sector, as was the norm?  I believe so, as he would have done the mandatory 2 wheeled  landing.  He  also he  believes his flying was up to standard. as he went on to become a training Captain on the Comet 4, and later became a Senior Captain on VC 10s.  He  resigned in 1973, after being warned of the airline's imminent collapse, and had, by then, done  6000 flying hours in ten years with EAAC."

Thomas "Tommy" Turk  (Vienna 2004)

East African Airways