Home DC-3 Individual Aircraft History C/N 12414
C/N 12414
SAAF 6830
ZS-DFB Tropic Airways
Ditched into the Mediterranean Sea on 27 July 1952. Captain was Denis Tribelhorn.

C/N 12414
ZS-DFB Tropic Airways
At Rand Airport
Photograph: Ken Fuller

C/N 12414
ZS-DFB Tropic Airways
Photograph: Will Blunt


The following story was submitted by Anne Nicolaides on 26 November 2017, then in her eighties!

In 1951 I had my first ever flight in an aircraft, and this was in a grand Dakota. My sister was married to a flight engineer who worked for Trek Airways, and my sister was a Stewardess for them on their Overseas flights. They kindly arranged for my mother and myself to have their annual free flight to London. My Mother however was not interested in going as far as London, but chose to fly to Entebbe airport in Uganda, which was a designated stop on the route to London.

One of my Mother’s favourite nephews and his wife Lawrie and Edna Smith had been living in Entebbe with their two children Mary and Michael for a number of years, and she was so anxious to see them all. Lawrie was Chief of Police for Uganda - troubling times were brewing - and not long after our visit the Mau-Mau rebellion broke out.

To return to that exciting journey for me, a thirteen-year-old school-girl, home from boarding school for the July School holidays. My sister and her husband drove us to the old Aerodrome (think it was called Palmietfontein) at 10 o’clock one evening, as the flight was only due to take-off at midnight. All in the interest of planning for a fourteen-hour flight, fuel-stops, temperature, etc. not to mention cheaper take-off fees.

Proudly parked side-by-side on the apron, stood two, not only one Dakota, gleaming under the bright lights of the somewhat primitive “airport”. While we all sat waiting in the lounge, I gazed with admiration at the aircraft before me, and wandered over to the window where I could have a better view. My brother-in-law Len Rundle, knew that from my early childhood that I had a passion for aircraft, and he came and stood beside me. With love and respect he described the incredible, endearing features of the Dakota. I hung on very word he uttered.

At last we were called to board the aircraft. My weary mother took the wrong queue and unbeknown to us, ----- no boarding passes in those days, we took our seats, were buckled in and a few minutes later an announcement was made over the intercom asking if Mrs. Smith and her daughter were aboard, as the plane due for take-off found we were not on board, and wondered if we were on the other plane parked on the runway. So we had to unbuckle, have the steps brought back and transfer to the Dakota waiting to take–off.

At last we were on board, and I was thrilled to hear the engines start, and the plane taxi to the end of the runway, slowly turn and with engines full-bore we took off and were airborne! The crew introduced themselves to us, then said “goodnight, sleep well, we will call you when we make our breakfast stop at Ndola.” Sleep? I was far too excited, and when the pilot Tom Meredith walked past he found me wide-eyed with excitement. Knowing my family, he invited me to join the crew in the cockpit. He suggested I leave a note on my seat in case my mother woke up.

So began a remarkable experience for me. I was invited to sit in the co-pilot’s seat. All the instruments and dials were shown to me, and demonstrated - didn’t matter as all the passengers were sound asleep as we decreased altitude, then climbed back to cruising altitude, made turns to port or starboard. The flight engineer showed me how they plotted their course, and I was even shown how one can navigate by the stars! How brilliantly they shone that night.

To my great delight I was asked if I would like to try and reach the “pedals” and handle the “Joy-stick” as I had related my experience of being allowed to fly a Tiger-moth. “Well let’s see what you can do with a big Dakota - and remember I’m right beside you to correct you” said the pilot. It was a thrilling few moments for me.

At one stage the plane was put into “George” mode, which meant the controls were set and fixed on course while the crew all enjoyed a coffee break.

Time passed quickly, and soon dawn was breaking. It’s quite different viewing it from that altitude, and from inside the cockpit.

The next thing I was shown was how to make a radio call. The pilot told me that we had to report to Lusaka aerodrome as we flew overhead and told me that I could make the call.

So we went through the procedure to make sure I would not falter and then he placed the head-phones over my head and gave me the signal to commence.

I have never forgotten - “Hello Lusaka, this is Zebra / Sugar / Dog / Fox / Baker / calling Lusaka.” - I had to repeat this. Then a reply from Lusaka - “Who’s the b-----y female on board???”

Not long afterwards it was suggested that I return to my seat before the passengers started to stir, and prepare for the landing for breakfast and refuelling at Ndola.

My mother had slept well and was not even aware that I had spent the time in the cockpit.

Breakfast was served in a hangar, and afterwards I ambled over to watch the refuelling before we took off for our next stop Entebbe, where we were to disembark and say farewell to the crew who had given me this wonderful experience. With a fond farewell, I took a photograph with my Zeiss Ikon camera of the crew standing beside ZS-DFB.


12414 ZS-DFB DC-3 Tropic Airways at Palmitefontein 1953 Anne Nicolaides-800C/N 12414
ZS-DFB Tropic Airways.

Photograph: Anne Nicolaides

12414 ZS-DFB DC-3 Tropic Airways at Palmitefontein 1953 with Tom Meredith from Anne Nicolaides-800C/N 12414
ZS-DFB Tropic Airways
Tom Meredith on the far right.
Taken at Entebbe in 1951.
Photograph: Anne Nicolaides







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