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Sat, Sep 23, 2006

L-29 Down In Table Bay South Africa

Exhibition Aircraft Pilot Is Killed

A privately-owned Vodochody L-29 Delfin jet trainer (file photo below) went down in Table Bay near Milnerton South Africa on Friday. Authorities haven't released the name of the pilot who was killed in the crash. Police believe he was the sole occupant.

The aircraft was participating in the African Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition in Cape Town. Authorities told the Independent Online that the pilot was conducting a "validation flight" in connection with the exhibition.

The L-29 is the first Czechoslovakian designed and built jet aircraft. Designed in the late fifties, the Delfin (Czech for Dolphin) weighs approximately 7500 lbs and has a reported top speed of nearly 350 knots.

Eyewitnesses reported two groups of four planes practicing formation. One flew too low and hit the water raising "a huge spout of water."

Witnesses also said a helicopter had tried to rescue the pilot shortly after the accident, but that attempt failed because rescue divers were unable to untangle a deployed parachute. It's not known if the pilot was alive at that time.

Cape Town harbor police arrived on the scene an hour later and pulled the pilot's body from the bay into a boat.

The exhibition flying was to be part of an air show opening today at Ysterplaat Air Force Base near Table Bay. In what's being billed as the major attraction of the Africa Aerospace and Defense 2006 trade exhibition, the airshow usually attracts thousands.

The L-29 is described by Globalsecurity.org as a robust aircraft able to operate from unimproved runways. Around 3600 copies were made with the majority going to the Soviet Union for use as jet trainers.

According to Warbirdalley.com, the L-29 has become popular on the jet warbird market, mostly in the US, but also in England, Italy and South Africa.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority is already on the scene and has begun its investigation.

FMI: www.caa.co.za

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