That Time a Suicidal Air Botswana Pilot Stole a Plane and Destroyed the Entire Airline Fleet

That Time a Suicidal Air Botswana Pilot Stole a Plane and Destroyed the Entire Airline Fleet

Find out why an Air Botswana captain boarded an ATR aircraft and performed an unauthorized takeoff before crashing it into the airline’s two other planes.

1999 Air Botswana ATR 42 crash

The 1999 Air Botswana incident occurred when Chris Phatswe, a Botswana airline pilot, killed himself by crashing a plane into the airport apron and a group of aircraft at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone, Botswana.

On 11 October 1999, Phatswe commandeered an Aérospatiale ATR 42-320, registration number A2-ABB, from the Air Botswana section of the terminal at Sir Seretse Khama airport and took off.

For two hours he circled the airport, radioing the control tower and announcing his intention to kill himself.

Officials in the tower attempted to convince him to land; efforts were led by General Tebogo Masire, then deputy commander of the Botswana Defence Force.

Phatswe threatened to crash it into an Air Botswana building, saying he had a grudge with the airline’s management.


He demanded to speak to Ian Khama, Botswana’s then vice-president and was about to be put through to him when the plane ran out of fuel.

Officials in the control tower told Phatswe that there were people in the Air Botswana building, whereupon he crashed the stolen plane into two other ATR-42s on the tarmac. All three planes were destroyed in a fiery crash, and Phatswe was killed. He was the only casualty.

The three planes were the only operational craft then in the Air Botswana fleet; a fourth plane, a BAe-146, was grounded due to technical trouble at the time.

Consequently, Phatswe’s actions effectively crippled operations for the flag carrier.

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