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Antonov wreckage discovered in remote DRC forest

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Antonov wreckage discovered in remote DRC forest

Old 28th Feb 2013, 13:40
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Antonov wreckage discovered in remote DRC forest

Here is an interesting account of what is purported to be an Antonov crash site deep in the rain forests of DRC. Text pasted below; here's the link with some photos.

Searching for Bonobo in Congo » In Congo, the Forest Claims and Buries Its Carcasses and Wrecks

Would be nice to have more details, but in the meantime a nice story which I expect will elicit some comments, especially about the "black box."
____________
In Congo, the Forest Claims and Buries Its Carcasses and Wrecks

The wreck of an Antonov claimed by the forest long before it was discovered from a remote hunting camp.
At the south end of Obenge village I noticed a length of narrow-gauge train track strung between two posts by the side of the trail. Maurice noticed me looking. “That’s the bell for the Catholic church, over there, behind the soccer pitch.”
“Where did it come from? Were there trains around here, back in the day?”
Maurice shook his head. “No, that came from Opala (a town down river, more than120 km as the crow flies). There was never any infrastructure like that here. Everything like that came from somewhere else.” He paused. ” Washi told me he found a plane in the forest once.”
“Really? What kind? Was it old?”
“It was old. He didn’t know what kind.”
A few days later, I asked Washi about the plane he’d found. (Washington is one of the park team workers.) Maurice translated for me.
“How big is it”
“He says there are pieces scattered over a large area.”
“Are there cylindrical parts? How big is the largest piece?”
“He says about from him to you.” So, about ten feet.
“What part of the plane was it from?”
Washi shrugged bashfully. Maurice laughed. “He says it’s difficult for him to know, since he’s never seen a plane close up, only far overhead.”
A week later we set out to look for it. Pablo, Maga, Obadi, Washi, the park-guard lieutenant and I walked fast on small trails through the forest for about 6 kilometers to reach the hunting camp where Washi had been staying at the time. From there Washi led us out along a ridge and down a slope to a small stream about a kilometer from his camp. He pointed into the mud. Small plastic bottles lay strewn in the leaf-mire.
“That was the first thing I saw,” he said. Just upstream there was a neat bonobo handprint in the fine clay of the riverbank.
We crossed the stream and went up the slope on the far side. A small rosette of shredded metal lay on the track we were following. I snapped a picture of it. As the rise flattened out Washi pointed. “There.”
It was a slab of aluminum, about as big as a dining room table, covered in a drift of leaves and small twigs. We brushed it off, stood it upright and pondered it. Definitely part of a wing, or a tail. There were characters stenciled on it, hidden under a green algal film. I spat on them and rubbed with my thumb. Cyrillic.

A first bit of wreckage
“Why is it in Russian?” I said.
“It must be an Antonov.” said Pablo. “Most of the cargo planes here are old Antonovs”
An Antonov is a big plane.
“Where’s the rest of it? Washi, did you look for more of it?” He shook his head.
We decided to fan out and see if we could find other pieces. Almost immediately, looking up, Pablo noticed a small wedge embedded deeply in a branch about twenty feet above us. We moved back down the slope, angling away from where we’d crossed the stream. Other pieces were spotted. They were larger, still slabs of what looked like wings. We crossed the stream again and ascended the slope, into thicker, thornier forest. Maga whistled, and we came running. A big slab of wing, about twenty feet long and ten deep. Washi dug around the torn surfaces, pulling out clumps of wire. He smiled. “Useful!” I pulled a slab of green glass from a shattered lamp-housing and put it in my pocket.

Looking for something still of use in a bit of old wing
We moved on, finding more pieces as we went. The stump of a wheel-leg, ailerons, something like a radiator, big slabs of bulkheaded aluminum paneling with thick sheets of rubber attached.
We crossed back through the river, sloshing through the mud, Washi now dragging coils of wire and a length of yellow-painted pipe. We found a propeller, with five-foot blue blades, bent and chipped and sunk in the stream mud.

Pablo (in blue) with hand on propeller and elephant tracks behind him
Then we found fragments with paint on them. Blue and white. The fragments were torn and shredded with unbelievable violence. We realized that slabs of metal were bound up with smashed portions of the trees they’d taken down as they careened to earth. Returning to the stream-bed, which seemed to follow loosely the trajectory of the crash, we realized that it was easier to walk if we just stepped on the half-submerged fragments of the aircraft. The forest was closing in, and it was becoming more difficult to move through it. Thorns caught in our clothes and ripped our hands. Rounding a sort of corner, we found another pile of metal, and a motor. We paused to drink.

We followed the debris along the stream.
“There’s still a lot missing.” I said. “Where’s the fuselage?”
I hopped across the stream, waded out into a grove of waxy Marantaceae leaves and looked down the course.
“There it is.”
About fifty meters away a huge pile of metal could be seen, vaguely, through a green cloak of vines and leaf. As we approached, it loomed over us, an incomprehensible mangle of big aluminum slabs, flipped and twisted and bent around each other. To one side was a strange bubble-shape, which looked like a gun-turret and had incongruously unbroken slabs of glass framing it.

It was clearly from an Antonov.
Maga and I went around to the right, carefully ascending the torn planes of metal. Every edge was ragged and sharp. The mass had come to rest against a small slope, where the river turned. At the top of the slope we entered the curve of the fuselage.
Inside the small space it was dark. There was a wheelset in there, jammed up against another propeller. Webbing spilled from bent surfaces. Coils of wire stretched taut through the airspace. We all piled in and stood in silence for a moment or two, flipping random switches labeled in Russian on boxes of machinery that hung loosely in midair.

Photo-op in a bit of fuselage
As we circled the mass we were constantly stymied by webs of wire and torn metal bound together by vines, grown through by woody stalks, and balanced crazily against big smashed timbers and slabs of savaged metal. It was impossible to approach, impossible to comprehend. There was no coherence to the shape, no cockpit visible. And it was abundantly clear that noone had been here since this plane fetched up against this gentle slope. There were no machete marks anywhere. We were the first to see this.
We withdrew, stunned, to eat our lunch. Sweat bees tormented us, settling in clouds on any exposed surface of skin and tickling gently with tiny legs. Their flight was slow, and gentle. We all pulled our heads inside our shirts to eat our rice and sardines.
As we were leaving, I noticed a yellow sphere sitting by itself away from the fuselage. It was made of two halves, held together by rusted bolts with thumb-nuts on them. Maga beat the bolts loose with the back of a machete. Inside was an odd little box, with a magnetic tape head and two spools wound with ultrafine metal wire.
“Maybe it’s the black box,” said the Lieutenant.
We loaded it into the pack with Washi’s trove of webbing, wire, pipes, and rubber and clicked on the GPS. We started picking our way back through the forest towards Obenge.
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Old 28th Feb 2013, 15:37
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Seems like an An-12, looking at the tail.
I will get the GPS coords within a few days. Perhaps this will help determining which aircraft it was.
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Old 28th Feb 2013, 20:09
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Wreck geocoords

Lat: -1.393174
Long: 24.998275
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Old 1st Mar 2013, 00:52
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...an odd little box, with a magnetic tape head and two spools wound with ultrafine metal wire...

Definitely, it is a CVR, all An-12s are fitted with such MS-61B voice recorders.

http://rrl-museum.cqham.ru/poto_/magnitofony/mag2.jpg
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Old 2nd Mar 2013, 01:20
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I remember an AN12 disapeared about 5 years ago after departing Kisangani heading east in extremely bad weather.
Despite rumours that the aircraft fled it's Congolese operator due to payment problems, the families of Congolese who were on board the aircraft when it went missing dismiss this as they have had no word from their loved ones meaning if the aircraft did not crash they were killed and thrown out during flight????
Shame they did not photograph the registration on the tail or inside the cockpit nor were there any mention of bodies present at the crash site!
Maybe the author could answer this?

Last edited by Mobotu; 2nd Mar 2013 at 15:33. Reason: Correction...
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Old 2nd Mar 2013, 14:21
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It's very well possible that the airplane wreckage is that of 9Q-CZB, missing since 2007:

ASN News » Aviation Safety Network helps identify wreckage of missing Antonov in Congo

Last edited by Safe-T; 2nd Mar 2013 at 14:44.
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Old 3rd Mar 2013, 11:27
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Mobutu should be calm and patient. It seems he didn't pay enough attention to the article. People who found the aircraft debris are not aviation experts and five-year period in rainy jungle could not preserve human remains.

As CVR is recovered it is interesting to try to restore its records. I am not sure that CVR was serviceable in those days due to circumstances called "african flying" but who knows... btw if anyone comes to crash site again he should try to see aircraft registration mark (but where and how to see without digging?) or to find aluminium plate(s) with serial number attached to the wall in tail section or to another part(s) of the airframe similar to sample in link below. But... it may be very difficult or impossible.

http://www.polarpost.ru/f/uploads/350_aedea_aio-4.jpg
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Old 4th Mar 2013, 05:39
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I informed the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee on 1st March. They forwarded this information to the Congolaise MoT and to NTSB. Will wait for a result...
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Old 5th Mar 2013, 10:00
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that's the one

I've seen a photo of the recovered recorder and lacking an external site to which I can upload the photo and paste a URL into this reply, here is the key info:

Photo of reels matches exactly, and if you peek around corner on the mag2.jpg file you can see a data plate which looks just like the one on the recovered photo:

Data Plate reads
MS-61B (reading S for the Cyrillic)

Series 286
No 13
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Old 5th Mar 2013, 16:27
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Camp - I did pay attention to the article and to the film "Madagascar" and I remember seeing the registration on the DC-3 and the skeletons were still hanging in the tree - So I repeat my previous statement - SHAME they did not snap a photo of the cockpit or tail nor did they mention if any SKELETONS were present at the crash site.
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Old 6th Mar 2013, 01:48
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From the ASN site reference:

Although still operational in Africa, the airplane was considered unairworthy by the manufacturer, Antonov as of 25 May 2005. In July 2007 the aircraft was registered in D.R. Congo as 9Q-CZB.
Yup - no surprise there!
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Old 6th Mar 2013, 02:34
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I helped to find this plane

Hi, I was a part of the team that found this crash. I can try to answer some of your questions to the extent that's possible. There are no photos of the cockpit or of any part of the front of the plane because of the extreme violence of the crash.
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Old 6th Mar 2013, 09:08
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I always thought it was a DC-2 in the Film Madagascar.

Maybe someone should guard the AN-12 before the local wildlife fixes it up and uses it to escape
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Old 6th Mar 2013, 11:47
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Anyone with a link to the Madagascar film? Thanks
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Old 6th Mar 2013, 13:23
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TooSphexy, what is a destiny of CVR reels?
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Old 6th Mar 2013, 22:36
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Any Evidence

TooSPex was there any evidence of human remains and / or cargo of minerals the plane was said to be carrying. Am assuming your team were the first to discover the Antonov carcass.
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Old 6th Mar 2013, 23:09
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The wreck was too smashed to tell where the cockpit was. You can see most of my photos here on my Flickr page. The plane, as far as we could tell, was empty when it crashed, carrying only some boxes of skin-lightening lotion. It was really difficult to approach it, because it was thoroughly overgrown with vines and brush, and just completely torn to pieces. We found it spread out over an area of about a kilometer, in very dense forest. I have the Google Earth track of our search here.
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Old 7th Mar 2013, 21:21
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More to This

Thanks toospex hope to hear in the near future that this riddle is solved. I stil belive that there is more to this story than meets the eye. Cheers
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