An Antonov An-72 cargo plane operated by the Congolese Air Force crashed near Punia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The aircraft was transporting logistical support for the president Félix Tshisekedi.
On October 10, 2019, the aircraft, registered A-72903, departed from Goma Airport (GOM), Democratic Republic of Congo, and was on a domestic flight to N’djili International Airport (FIH) in Kinshasa, the country’s capital. About one hour into the flight, ATC lost contact with the plane without any distress signal from the crew, according to a press release by the Congolese Civil Aviation Authority.
The wreckage was located the next day in a forested area near Punia, about 300 kilometers (185 miles) west of Goma. Four crew members and four passengers were on board, including the president’s main driver, a logistics manager and two bodyguards. According to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, the flight crew may have been composed of Russian citizens. None survived. The plane was also transporting the presidential car. The Congolese President had returned from Goma to Kinshasa on the same day in another aircraft.
The many incidents of Congolese Antonov planes
The last incident in the country dates back to December 24, 2018, when an Antonov AN-26, registered 9T-TAB, belonging to the Congolese Air Force, overran the runway of Beni Airport (BNC), with 72 people on board including a crew of four and 68 soldiers that were being dispatched to the region. The aircraft went down an embankment before coming to a stop and catching fire. All occupants survived.
A year prior, on September 30, 2017, a 54-year-old Antonov An-12B cargo plane had crashed shortly after taking off from Kinshasa International Airport. Conflicting reports say that between 8 and 12 people were on board and the aircraft, registered EX-001 (EX being the registration prefix of Kyrgyzstan), had been leased by the Congolese Air Force and was operated by a Ukrainian crew.
The deadliest incident of the country also involved an Antonov aircraft. On January 8, 1996, an An-32B, registered RA-26222, operated by Air Africa and wet-leased from Moscow Airways failed to take off from N’Dolo Airport in Kinshasa due to overloading. The plane fell into a market where it allegedly killed up to 350 people, making it the deadliest crash in history in terms of ground fatalities.