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 Avro Shackleton 1716 forever missing-in-action

A tribute to the men who survived Pelican 16

By J.P. van Vuuren Photographs from Ad Astra Magazine, 1994

On the morning of 13 July 1994 the headline news in The Argus newspaper read “SAAF Plane Down in Desert”. Today, twelve years later and although she was found, Pelican 16 is for the records still “missing-in-action”.

Enough has been written in the past on Pelican 16 and her last resting place in the Western Sahara when she hugged the sand with her belly on the night of 13 July 1994 after an emergency landing when her number 3 and 4 engines on her starboard side ignited and burned. A documentary by Andrew S White told the story in great detail. The radio transmission that was made with military precision and efficiency are told to be used even today by the SA Air Force in their training as a text book example of how it should be done.

One can only begin to understand the legacy of, and the passion for this remarkable aircraft once you have heard for yourself the mighty roar of the four Rolls Royce Griffon engines. Everything else is only then put into perspective if you are lucky enough to touch the fuselage and ride the winds on the mighty wings of this Avro Shackleton MK3 called the “Pelican”. This aircraft to some is bigger than religion and greater than fantasy… Today a few survivors from the crash still believe that she should have been brought home years ago and others are of the opinion that it is significant to let her rest where she came to a halt. Be as it may South Africa is still very fortunate to have Pelican 22 still flying at Air Force Base Ysterplaat in Cape Town and to hear the four fabulous Griffons growl!

Remembering the 19 men who had to leave Pelican 16 behind:

Eric Pienaar (Pilot)
Peter Dagg (Co-Pilot)
John Balledon (2nd Co-Pilot)
Derick Page (Public Relations Coordinator)
Blake Vorster (Navigation Leader)
Horace Blok (2nd Navigator)
Frans Fourie (Flight Engineer)
Buks Bronkhorst (Aircraft Fitter)
JP van Zyl (Flight Engineer)
James Potgieter (Aircraft Fitter)
Lionel Ashbury (Telecom Operator)
Freddy Deutshmann (Radio Operator)
Chris Viviers (Radio Operator)
Pine Pienaar (Aircraft Electrician)
Spud Murphy (Radio Technician)
Ron Bussio (Museum Curator)
Gus Gusse (Aircraft Fitter)
Bobby Whitfield-Jones (Instrument Fitter)
Tony Adonis (Treasurer)

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