Douglas DC-3 and C-47 Operators and Owners in South Africa
Pan African Air Charter
By Ken Fuller
Pan African Air Charter
The Keyser and Cowan families owned P.A.A.C. jointly. Their Chief Pilot was Kurt Kaye a celebrated pilot who had been a fighter pilot during the First World War and served in the squadron commanded by Baron Von Richthofen. He was an aviator of the old school who loathed instrument flying and hated losing sight of the ground.
They operated mainly into the infant state of Israel and later became embroiled in the first Arab/Israel war. On one occasion one of their eccentric Captains who shall be nameless took off from Geneva bound for Malta. Arriving at Malta he was unable to land due to weather conditions so diverted to Rome. At Rome the weather was just as bad with cloud on the ground and thinking that the weather at Malta might have improved, he made up his mind to return there; but Malta was still closed with storms covering the entire Mediterranean area.
By now desperate he set course for El Adem near Tobruk in Libya. With a low fuel supply and doubtful if he could make it, a break in the cloud decided him to ditch the aircraft while he still had power.
A successful ditching was accomplished but a very surprised passenger who was first out dived into about two feet of water. The landing had been made into the shallows of a bay on the African coast.
The aircraft was ZS-AYB C/N 19584
The same Captain many years later was involved in an incident when he produced a revolver and fired two shots, one on each side on the then director of Civil Aviation whose department had suspended the Captains licence for some misdemeanour. In his defence he said he was a crack shot and if he wanted to kill him he would not have shot on either side.
Another one of Tom’s stories was at Juba in the Sudan where most of their northbound flights stopped. The airport Commander was an expatriate South African who for some reason took a delight in being obstructive and difficult as possible until one of their First Officers in full view of the passengers, chased the pompous official around the aircraft several times, threatening to kill him.
This had the desired effect for he kept well out of sight whenever his adversary landed at Juba. Tom left Pan African after refusing to take part in shady currency transactions on the part of the management and did some freelance flying for both Universal and Mercury before starting Tropic Airways in 1950.
Pan African did not last much longer, which is not surprising the way they operated.
Pan African Air Charter crew 1948
Second from right: Peter Urquhart, Third from right: Charles Carey
Pan African Airways
Photograph: Will Blunt