Ex-SAA pilot with 100% safety record died because his passenger was too heavy

Stewart Lithgow flew everything from military aircraft and jumbo jets to aerobatic biplanes, and in 25,000 hours at the controls he never had an accident. That changed when the retired SAA captain took a tourist for a 30-minute flight around Plettenberg...

2021-06-12 04:33:00 PM

Stewart Lithgow flew everything from military aircraft and jumbo jets to aerobatic biplanes, and in 25,000 hours at the controls he never had an accident. That changed when the retired SAA captain took a tourist for a 30-minute flight around Plettenberg...

Stewart Lithgow flew everything from military aircraft and jumbo jets to aerobatic biplanes, and in 25,000 hours at the controls he never had an accident. That changed when the retired SAA captain took a tourist for a 30-minute flight around Plettenberg Bay in his motorised glider.

Image:Garden Route GlidingStewart Lithgow flew everything from military aircraft and jumbo jets to aerobatic biplanes, and in 25,000 hours at the controls he never had an accident.That changed on December 2 2019, when the retired SAA captain took a tourist for a 30-minute flight around Plettenberg Bay in his motorised glider.

COVID-19 in SA: Fourth wave looms China's Wuhan to test 'all residents' as COVID returns Private funeral for Shona Ferguson | Citypress

This photograph of Stewart Lithgow featured on the front of his funeral order of service.Image:SuppliedAnd the error that cost the 67-year-old veteran flyer his life was chilling in its simplicity: his client was too heavy.The 57-year-old passenger, Johannes Dormehl from Midrand, tipped the scales at 134kg when he was weighed during a post-mortem examination, according to an accident report compiled by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Had Dormehl been a “standard” male passenger, Lithgow's Scheibe SF25D Falke glider would still have been slightly above its maximum operating weight when it crashed.But crash investigators said the fact that it was 68kg (11.6%) overweight contributed to the aircraft stalling as it made its approach to Plettenberg Bay Aerodrome at 4pm. headtopics.com

“A close circuit television (CCTV) camera ... captured the motorised glider on final approach in a wings-level attitude, then the right wing dropped and the glider pitched nose down and remained in a steep nose-down attitude until it impacted the ground,” said the accident report.

“The pilot failed to maintain flying speed and, most probably, the glider entered an inadvertent stall due to the wind gradient which the pilot underestimated.A still from a Plettenberg Bay Aerodrome close-circuit TV camera shows Stewart Lithgow's motorised glider shortly before it hit the ground on December 2 2019.

Image:Civil Aviation Authority“As the wing loading increases, so does the stalling speed. The wing loading depends on the glider’s flying weight at the time. In this case, the all-up weight of the glider ... would have had a direct effect on the stall speed.

“The glider was operated with a centre of gravity position that was outside the forward limit. This situation contributed to the loss of control.“The passenger, who also had a private pilot licence, was overweight and his physique could have limited optimum control stick movement, especially when aft control stick inputs were made.” headtopics.com

More Pietermaritzburg residents converge on the few remaining shopping centres unaffected by the unrest | Witness Watch | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's UCT lecture - idolatry of theory: a defence of storytelling | Citypress Google to build its own chip for new Pixel smartphone

A table from the accident report shows how the weight of Stewart Lithgow's glider was calculated by investigators. The aircraft was 68kg heavier than its maximum operating weight.Image:Civial Aviation AuthorityThe accident report said the CAA-approved operating manual for Lithgow's glider “contained several inaccuracies, especially regarding the glider's maximum all-up weight and the mass and centre of gravity”.

It added: “The flight and operations manual for the glider that was located on site was not an approved document by the SACAA, however, the operator was allowed to continue to fly commercially.”The report recommended an audit of Lithgow's company, Garden Route Gliding, “with specific emphasis on the operations manual and the weighing of passengers prior to each flight”.

It said four sources examined during the investigation gave three different maximum weights for the Scheibe.“Several contradictions are noted ... regarding the weights of the occupants, which are critical to every flight, especially in cases where an aircraft can only take two occupants.”

Lithgow's flying career began in the SA Air Force and he became an SAA captain and a member of The Flying Lions aerobatic display team before retiring to Plettenberg Bay in 2012 and offering training flights in one of his two aircraft.Interviewed by headtopics.com

retiresuccessfully.co.zain 2017, he said flights in the glider he had owned since 2003 were slow and relaxed.“We take off from Plett airport, fly over the Robberg Peninsula, where we often see great white sharks and even whales in the season. Then past the Beacon Island Hotel and Lookout Beach, where we sometimes drop right down to wave level, and then onto Keurbooms and even as far as Nature’s Valley.

“On the way home, I switch off the engine and we glide home for the landing. I give passengers the opportunity to handle the controls and they fly the aircraft if they want to.”The wreckage of the glider in which pilot Stewart Lithgow and passenger Johannes Dormehl died.

Sabotage in KZN | Damage estimated at R2bn FEEL GOOD | Kindness of strangers: Stellenbosch student has university debt paid off | News24 Cele, Zikalala to give an update on situation in Phoenix

Image:Civil Aviation AuthorityCrash investigators said it was not clear who was in control of the 50-year-old glider before it crashed at Plettenberg Bay Botanical Estate, but the combined weight of Lithgow, in the right-hand seat, and Dormehl was 226kg, which was 26% over the limit for the two occupants.

“The glider was equipped with dual flight controls. There was no evidence to indicate that the passenger, who had paid for the flight, was not manipulating the controls of the glider during this flight,” said the accident report.“Furthermore, it could not be determined if maximum aft control stick movement (used in order to pitch the nose up of the glider) was possible, noting the passenger’s weight.”

The report said Lithgow should have conducted a weight and balance form before the flight. “No such document for this flight was made available to the investigator,” it said.“The glider was operated with a mass that exceeded the permissible take-off weight limit. The forward centre of gravity limit was exceeded ... at the time of impact. These shortcomings represent a factor that systemically contributed to the accident.”

TimesLIVE Read more: Times LIVE »

Taxi violence: Golden Arrow bus driver struck by stray bullet in his ankle

A Golden Arrow bus driver was hit in the ankle by one of the bullets fired at a minibus taxi at the Borcherds Quarry drive this morning.

He died because he allowed someone not suited for the flight to fly with him. Pilot error Going into trade with out having the proper education is very risky thing to do, that's why I recommend SilverAustinefx he's got all the help you need 👌💯follow SilverAustinefx I noticed a crowd of people giving testimony about Miss LouiseConway57 Faith helping them earn a huge amount of money from trading. So I decided to give it a try and to my surprise my first investment was just $300 and I received a profit of $3,950 A very reasonable amount

What an incredible story. Poor guys. Obesity kills, in many ways apparently I just want to say a big thank you to LISAMARKDONALDT I was nobody until a friend of mine introduced me to you it has been nothing but financial success for me , I will continue to share your good name ma’am

SAA 2.0: Equity partnership has 'a decent chance' of succeedingThe deal sees government become a minority shareholder in a partnership that remains subject to due diligence.

Government relinquishes majority holding in SAA, as private consortium invests billions to revive carrier | CitypressGovernment has agreed to sell its majority stake in SAA to a local jet leasing company and private equity firm, ridding itself of an entity that has long been a drain on state finances. Maybe we can see efficiency in the entity now so Jambandas is on a mission to privatize our SOEs. Smallernyana research

SAA has a new strategic partnerSA Airways has a new strategic partner that will own 51% of the airline. Anyone with profile of this Takatso Consortium. Are you celebrating? Mmm you say strategic partner beautifying it lena mara SAA is minority is gone and Eskom will follow also and you are busy praising your corrupt Bosses

Gordhan unveils sale of 51% stake in SAAHarith General Partners and Global Airways make up Takatso Consortium, which has been selected as the preferred strategic equity partner for the airline Not sure who would want to buy it. Poor investment. I would really like to know who the members of this consortium are and what the government connection is! This will be News when we know when the remaining 49% will be sold as well.

New majority shareholder for SAAA strategic equity partner will now hold the majority share of the newly relaunched SAA. Was tender procedures followed or a tender advertised Mxm, the major shareholder might be having black name but rather remain sceptical 'cause blacks never benefit anything from this cabal thing by being fronted as professionals with zero or menial responsibilities & without profit, skills sharing 'cause that's how racists roll? 🤮

BREAKING NEWS: Gordhan confirms that 51% of SAA will be soldHarith General Partners and Global Airways make up Takatso Consortium, which has been selected as the preferred strategic equity partner for the airline Eskom is next So as a private company, it should go bust with the current model Overdue....