Port Elizabeth of Yore: Crash of Impala Mark 1 in 1982

The Impalas based in Port Elizabeth after 1975 formed part of 6th Squadron which over its operational life had been disbanded several times. On 5 July 1952 the squadron was reformed as a citizen force unit, flying Harvards from Port Elizabeth but was again disbanded in 1959. It was resurrected in May 1961, again flying Harvards; from 1973 to 1976 the squadron flew a single Cessna 185. In March 1975 it began receiving Impala Mk Is which remained as the operational aircraft until the unit’s final disbandment in October 1990.

Prior to the crash of Impala Mark 1 serial number 550 in 1982, Port Elizabeth had only experienced two crashes by SAAF aircraft subsequent to WW2; being a Ventura Bomber on the 4th December 1959 and a Sabre on the 15th July 1960.

Main picture: Impala Mk 1

According to Col (Ret) Graham du Toit, the following is the sequence of events on the 6th May 1982 when Impala Mark 1 Serial number 536 crashed south of the airport.

06 May 1982: 82702705PP Lieutenant Raymond Roderick Hughes from 6 Squadron was killed near Port Elizabeth while approaching to land in Atlas MB326M Impala Mk 1 Serial number 550 on returning from a routine training flight. Bad weather and poor visibility caused Lt. Hughs to mistake the airport hanger and perimeter lights for the runway lights and both pilots only ejected once the aircraft started hitting the trees to the south of the Port Elizabeth airport. The instructor Captain Rob Turner survived due to his parachute snagging on trees and slowing down his fall but Lt. Hughes unfortunately fell along an open pathway and had nothing to break his speed as they ejected with a downward vector that was outside the envelope of the zero-zero ejection seats. He was killed instantly when his seat impacted with the ground. He was 25 years old.

Thanks to Col (Ret) Graham du Toit for the information supplied

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