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Plane Crash Diaries

Episode 26 - VOR confusion in 1986: The Tupolev crash that killed Mozambique President Samora Machel

Plane Crash Diaries
Plane Crash Diaries
This is episode 26 and we’re focusing on one of the most conspiracy-theory speckled accidents in history, the October 1986 crash of a Tupolev TU-134 jetliner that was carrying Mozamibican president Samora Machel. 37 of the 43 aboard died.
To say that the accident is shrouded in controversy is a bit like asking if Vladimir Putin thinks he’s Catherine the Great.
This is one of those incidents where correlation does not prove causation unless of course you’re prone to conspiracy theories.
A lot that could go wrong during a flight did on the Tupolev that day and it led to the death of a man who was a symbol of post-colonial rebellion. This amplified the conspiracy theory avalanche of course and has driven folks into paroxysms of perpetual pontification.
The plane deployed to transport Mozambique’s president that October day was a Tupolev manufactured in 1980 – registration C9-CAA. It had flown about 1,100 flying hours since it rolled off the production line and had undergone its last major inspection in August 1984 in the Soviet Union.
The number of flight crew on the deck was substantial and they were all Russian.
The Tupolev operated with a crew of five, which on the night of 19th October 1986 included 48 year old Captain Yuri Viktorovich Novodran, co-pilot 29 year-old Igor Petrovish Kartamyshev, flight engineer 37 year-old Vladimir Novolesov, navigator 48 year-old Nikolaevich Kudryashov and 39 year-old radio operator Anatoly Shulipov.
The crew was experienced in Africa aviation as had logged many landings at Maputo Airport both day and night.
Judge Cecil Margo chaired the six member body and the hearings were public between January 20th and 26th 1987. He’d soon chair another investigation into the crash of South Afrcan Airways flight 295 in 1988 – the Heidelberg accident we heard about in an earlier episode.
The Machel inquiry rapidly threw out any suggestion of a bomb causing the crash and found that the 37 degree turn was initiated by the navigator using the autopilot’s Doppler navigation mode. That’s crucial.
He did so because he saw a VOR signal indicating that the aircraft had intercepted Maputo’s VOR 45 degrees radial which is its compass direction from Maputo which the crew needed to intercept in order to approach to land on runway 23.
Plane Crash Diaries
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