5Y AOT Crash!


by Oria Douglas-Hamilton

Date Published

Our most loved plane Alpha Oscar Tango, a Cessna 185, crashed in Samburu on Sept. 11th at 6:15pm when it hit a zebra on landing. Iain and his researcher David Daballen managed to scramble out of the windows and both got away with some minor cuts and bruises.

Everything happened so fast, but as Iain was flying back from Mount Kenya where he had been searching for “Mountain Bull” (who roams the forests on the eastern slopes) he suddenly saw a zebra flash past him on touch down and then the second zebra ran straight into the plane. Oscar Tango flipped upside down and came to a halt with a mangled zebra under its wing. It was such a sad sight, both for the plane and the beautiful zebra.

Iain and I bought AOT in 1983. She was already 14 years old, with hundreds of survey and across-Africa hours to her name and went on to fly with us for thousands more hours. So many of our friends and elephant supporters have been with us in that plane, searching for elephants in remote parts of Africa. It was a plane which never let us down, landing on beaches, on roads, on tiny strips in Sudan, Central African Republic, Uganda, Tanzania, Zaire, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Malawi and Rwanda and of course all over Kenya.

We have so often raced the sun, battled with poachers, roamed through storms, soared over great mountains, glided across shimmering lakes, skimmed above Africa’s forests and plains, always looking for signs of elephants and then carrying us safely back home. Then on this fateful day on a routine flight, Oscar Tango landed for the last time. We will miss her terribly, as she was so much a part of our lives. From far away, just a dot in the sky, I could always recognize the sound of Oscar Tango, as the sun was setting and Iain was returning from one of his many flights.

Even after thirty years of flying together, it was always a thrill to take off at dawn and land at sunset, to come back home in the bush or on the farm, to a big welcome, a hot cup of tea, a cold beer and with stories to tell. But life must go on and we will look for a replacement. It’s a beautiful time of the year with trees and bushes coming into full bloom, the sound of distant thunder bringing us rain and hopefully a new plane. click here for more pictures of the crashed plane through the support from our donors, we have been able to replace 5Y AOT with 5Y BDY. We say a big thank you to all those that have made this replacement possible!