In a statement, the South African National Parks (SANParks) announced that one of their pilots sustained minor injuries following a crash of the Airbus AS350B-3+ (Squirrel) helicopter during takeoff at Cape Town International Airport over the weekend.
“The aircraft is based in Cape Town to assist with aerial law enforcement and conservation management operations in the Table Mountain National Park and surrounding areas,” the SANParks Acting Head of Communications, Rey Thakhuli says.
Via his social media Chief Pilot Jaco Mol addressed some of the discriminatory comments made towards the organisation as well as to the pilot who was allegedly steering the helicopter. In December, the pilot was announced as SANParks’ first black game capture rated pilot.
“Accidents, unfortunately, does happen, but to blame any of our pilots, especially our newly appointed pilot, Mr Simelane for an accident that happened 2000 km from where he is flying daily to serve and protect our natural heritage is not only prejudiced but outright racism. Mr Simelane is a highly respected and valued member of our team with many years experience and many 1000’s of flight hours to his credit,” Mol says.
“Each and every one of our pilots undergo regular recurrency training and flight tests. The fact that this is the first serious helicopter accident SANParks has had in over 10 years and 20,000 flight hours in our dynamic and high-risk flight environment is testament to the skills, experience and professionalism of all our aircrew,” he adds.
SANParks says that the pilot had received medical attention.
An investigation into the crash will be launched by the South African Civil Aviation Authority as well as other relevant law enforcement officials.
Earlier last month SANParks introduced the aerial patrol resource to Table Mountain National Park as part of the attempt to address crime and security in the Park. The green and yellow SANParks helicopter patrolled over the park, including the Rhodes Memorial, Hout Bay and Tokai areas.
SANParks remains open as per strict level three regulations.