Dr JEFF RAMSAY
On this day, 34 years ago, the Presidential jet, OK1, was shot down over Angola. Fortunately the plane was able to successfully make an emergency landing at Cuito Bie airstrip.
In addition to the President, Sir Ketumile Masire, the plane, which had been en-route to Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC) summit in Luanda, was carrying the then Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, the Chief of Protocol, Bashi Ikitseng, the President’s Senior Private Secretary, Mogolori Modisi and Mmegi journalist Douglas Tsiako.
Also on board was its principal pilot, Colonel Albert Scheefers, apparently a BDF co-pilot and accompanying engineer (identities unconfirmed), as well as training Captain Arthur Rickets, a civilian pilot who had been seconded by the British Aerospace company. Rickets presence was due to the fact that the Presidential Jet, a British Aerospace BAe125-800A, had only recently been purchased by the government, a move designed to end the states embarrassing and costly dependency on South African Charters for regional trips.
According to reports, OK 1 had been flying flying over south-central Angola at 900km/h when a missile ripped off its right engine after Angolan MiG-23 fighter jet had fired two R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) missiles at the plane. One missile hit the no. 2 engine, causing it to fall off the aircraft. The second missile then hit the falling engine. The plane had also apparently been targeted by surface to air missiles. At the time the Angolan Government put many conspiracy theories to rest by apologizing for the mistake which was almost certainly caused by a breakdown in communication.
By sheer luck the passengers had suffering relatively modest injuries. A piece of shrapnel from a fan blade had in fact struck Masire barely missing his spinal column, while Bashi Ikitseng, who was the most injured, received emergency medical treatment upon touchdown. In this respect a team of Cuban doctors stationed at Cuito Bie had been rushed to assist. Both Masire and Ikitseng subsequently received follow-up care in Britain.
Sir Ketumile and members of his delegation subsequently returned Gaborone aboard Angolan President Dos Santos presidential jet.
The clear heroes of the unfortunate incident were the BDF flight crew and Captain Rickets who were able to get oxygen to the cabin while successfully manoeuvring the shattered plane’s safe descent.
Addressing a crowd upon his safe return Masire observed that: ‘it was through the power of God, that everybody was safe and well’