The Times of Tanzania
Eastern Africa News Network, Breaking News Tanzania

Titanic on Mount Kilimanjaro: In search of the plane which crashed on the Mawenzi Peak Iceberg

Where is the wreckage of the East African Airways place which crashed on Mount Kilimanjaro around this time, 70 years ago?

In August 2024, London City will host a reunion of former and surviving employees of the East African Airways, the now defunct airline which was owned by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

The meeting which will also be attended by relatives or associates of the airline staff, is going to be a follow-up to the previous gathering of 2022.

The development comes just as reliable reports from aviation history museums around the world are considering tracing and possibly restoring the wreckage of the East African Airways plane which crashed on Mount Kilimanjaro.

The Wreckage of Flight EC104 plane was discovered on Mount Kilimanjaro on May 22, 1955. Since then it is not clear what happened to the salvaged fuselage.

There were 20 people aboard the EAA Douglas DC-3 plane, 16 passengers and 4 members of the crew. They all perished in the fateful crash on the Mountain.

Historians and Aviation enthusiasts now want to restore the plane and transform it into some sort of a mountain titanic, as it is the only aircraft in history to crash on Africa’s highest peak and the world’s tallest free standing mountain.

The East African Flight EC104 with registration VP-KKH departed from Dar Es Salaam (DAR) at 10:39 for the last leg of a flight to Nairobi where it was to land at Wilson Airport.

Last position report was at 11:56 on May 18, 1955 when the pilot reported over Lake Jipe in visual flight on top of the clouds at FL105.

Nothing more was heard from the flight. The wreckage was to be discovered on May 22, 1955 on the south-east slope of Mawenzi.

Mawenzi is the rugged one out of the two main peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro and which is difficult to climb, protruding at an elevation of 15200 feet.

The Aviation report which came out later revealed the possible cause of the crash as being the pilot’s decision to proceed on the direct track to Nairobi, and this consideration is not affected even if he intended to divert in the vicinity of Kilimanjaro.

The meteorological conditions were marginal and his first mistake occurred in not discussing the weather with the meteorological forecaster.

If the pilot had done so, he might well have decided to proceed via Tanga.

However, in making this decision he might have been influenced by the fact that there were no specific instructions regarding any possible alternative route.

It must be remembered, however, that he was fairly new in the Corporation and he might have thought it impolite to diverge from normal practice.”

The Airframe

The aircraft was constructed by the Douglas Aircraft Company, Santa Monica, California, U.S.A., in 1944, and was operated by the Royal Air Force under No. KP 266 until the beginning of 1952, by which time it had completed 954 hours 15 minutes flying.

The aircraft was then purchased by Eagle Aviation Limited in the United Kingdom and sold to East African Airways Corporation without further flying.

A comprehensive overhaul was carried out in the United Kingdom, a Certificate of Airworthiness No. A. 3656 was issued on 10th December, 1952, valid until 9th December, 1953.

This Certificate of Airworthiness was validated by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation on behalf of the Directorate to cover the delivery flight and upon arrival in Nairobi the Aircraft was registered in the name of the East African Airways Corporation with effect from 15th November, 1952.

A Kenya validation certificate No. 115 was issued dated 17th December, 1952 and valid to 9th December, 1953.

This validation was subsequently renewed and was valid until 9th December, 1955.

The time flown -by the airframe prior to the last complete overhaul was 5,259 hours 20 minutes and the number of hours flown since the last complete overhaul was 1,940 hours 40 minutes.

The Engines

The engines were manufactured by the Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Corporation, “Vest Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A., and were of the Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp R. 1830-90D series.

The port engine, No. 488834, had completed a total of 5,172 hours 25 minutes.

It was installed in VP-KKH on 3rd  February, 1955, since when it had been maintained in conjunction with the airframe.

 This engine had flown 505 hours 30 minutes since its last complete overhaul which was carried out in the workshops of the British Overseas Airways Corporation at Treforest, UK.

The starboard engine, No. 56512 had completed a total of 595 hours and 5 minutes. This engine was installed in VP-KKH on 20th March, 1955, since when it was maintained in conjunction with the airframe.

It had completed a total of 267 hours 15 minutes since its last complete overhaul which was carried out by the Grand Central Aircraft Company, Glendale, California.

The Propellers

The propellers were manufactured by the Hamilton Division of the United Aircraft Corporation, East Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A., and were three-bladed, fully feathering type 23-50-473, an approved propeller type for fitment to Dakota aircraft fitted with Pratt and Whitney R. 1830-90D engines.

The port propeller completed a total of 2,637 hours since the last complete overhaul.

An official accident investigation team reached the scene of the accident on the morning of 25th May, 1955. The aircraft was found to be in a very broken up and scattered state, obviously having Suffered very severe impact and fire.

The fire seems to have been concentrated around the area of the fuel tanks in the centre section.

It appeared that the aircraft had hit the ridge at a height of 15,200 feet above sea level, and following an instantaneous explosion had disintegrated.

The nose of the aircraft had bone the first impact. The aircraft then turned over on its back, falling vertically into a ravine. 

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