South African Airways Flight 295 was a scheduled passenger/cargo flight from Taiwan to South Africa, operated by a Boeing 747-200 Combi.
The aircraft suffered a fire in the cargo hold and crashed off the coast of Mauritius. Unfortunately 159 people onboard died. The cause is still unknown, and many theories have been made over what created the fire, and exactly why the aircraft crashed after suffering a fire. The 747 Combi was designed to last through fires in the cargo hold, but in this scenario it did not.
- Aircraft caught alight
- Emergency descent carried out
- Approach clearance set - ATC misunderstood what was said by the captain (still unrelated to crash)
- Onboard systems fail - An estimated 80 circuit breakers were triggered, including that of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (investigators were left with just the sounds of alarms on the recording)
- Tracking signal is lost
- Aircraft crashes off Mauritius
- Investigation is started - investigators were led to the wrong part of ocean because of the miscommunication between ATC and the pilot
- 24hrs after the crash parts of the airframe were discovered off Mauritius
- Sonar detectors that were not suited for the job were sent in to scan the ocean for the recorders
- Recorders not found after 2 months, when the recorders would have stopped sending signals
- Professional brought in to find the recorders - Cockpit Voice Recorder found 5km underwater
- Recordings only show alarms sounded in the cockpit
- Parts of the cargo hold fuselage were reconstructed, showing fire damage only on the walls and ceiling
Since we are almost into the 30th anniversary of the crash and it is still unsolved, I would like to hear your theories. Why did something in the cargo hold catch fire? Why was the fire able to spread from the cargo hold? Why did the aircraft become fully uncontrollable? These questions still remain with us today, and it is almost certain that the accident will not be solved - all investigations involving the incident have ceased. It is known that the fire most likely started from the front-right cargo pallet. The cargo fire did not burn lower than one metre above the cargo floor. The walls and ceiling of the cargo hold received severe fire damage. It is known the aircraft disintegrated due to pieces of the aircraft that were found scattered 10km apart in some areas of the ocean. Theories known that started the fire (please choose two options):
- Rocket fuel/parts were secretly being carried aboard the aircraft
- Lithium batteries in computers caught alight
- Sparklers triggered a fire of the packaging
- Short circuit of damaged wires in the cargo hold
And theories as to why the aircraft crashed (please choose up to 3 options):
- Cargo hold ceiling was penetrated by the fire
- Cargo exploded and disintegrated the aircraft
- Some type of terrorism act involving the cargo occurred
- Fire spread to the cabin and the aircraft disintegrated
- A fire started/moved to the cargo hold after the aircraft’s electrical systems malfunctioned and caught alight
- A mechanical failure occurred and the aircraft caught alight
The aircraft was loaded in Taiwan with faulty sparklers/batteries/rocket parts etc. and they caught alight. All the controls and communications equipment were working until the fire burnt through the electrical wires in the cargo hold (although I don’t think those wires were already faulty). The aircraft lost control and plunged into the ocean off Mauritius.
As @SAA_A346 kindly stated below, the investigation was not allowed to continue to its full extent due to the South African Government covering up parts of the incident and not allowing access to some key information about the crash (South African Airways is government owned).