Accident Report
Caledonian Airways DC-7C, G-ARUD
4th March 1962

In November 1961, a fledgling Caledonian Airways leased its first aircraft from Sabena, it was a Douglas DC-7C. She was registered G-ARUD and was named “Star of Robbie Burns”.

The aircraft went down into a swamp on the edge of a jungle on take-off from Douala, Cameroon, on March 4th 1962, with the tragic loss of all 111 passengers and crew.

The accident investigation was extremely thorough and was undertaken by the Directorate of Civil Aviation in Cameroon. The inquiry was held in Paris, Cameroon being a French colony at that time.

The highly skilled crew fought to save the passengers and aircraft, but where likely overwhelmed by a mechanical failure.

Here, we will recount the tragic event in some detail. Some of the information is empirical, though, using the original accidents reports, eyewitness accounts and research, I have interpreted these sources to provide what I hope is the most accurate and comprehensive record published of the accident that tragically cost so many their lives.

The account will stand as this site’s tribute to the passengers and crew of G-ARUD, their story is not forgotten.

A Summary of the Accident

On 1st March 1962 a Caledonian Airways DC-7C, G-ARUD, started out on a round trip charter flight (Flight CA153 / CA154) from Luxembourg to Luxembourg via:

Khartoum (Sudan),
Lourenco-Marques* (Mozambique)  *now Maputo
Douala (Cameroon)
Lisbon (Portugal)

The charter was reportedly made by the Overseas Visitor's Club.

The flight timetable was as below:-

Luxembourg    01/03/62     Depart    22.12 Hours
Khartoum         02/03/62     Arrive     07.57 Hours
Khartoum         02/03/62     Depart    09:05 Hours
Lourenco-        02/03/62      Arrive     19:05 Hours
  Marques        04/04/62      Depart    08:00 Hours
Doula               04/0362       Arrive     16:45 Hours

To the right is a map of Africa, showing the destinations G-ARUD did and was to call at.

Douala Airport in Cameroon had and still has a 2850 metre long runway; this is Runway 12 / 30. G-ARUD was using Runway 12 that night, taking off in a south south-east direction.

The first legs of the flight had passed without incident. After a technical stop at Douala, G-ARUD started engines at 18:02 hours and left the apron at 18:05 hours.

On reaching the end of 2,850 metre runway it waited for around 7 minutes in order to allow an Air Afrique flight to land (DC-4, F-BBDK). The DC-4 landed at 18:13 hours.

G-ARUD then lined up on Runway 12 and was heard to run up its engines up, this was to almost certainly to clear the engines spark plugs after idling for so long, it took off at 18:20 Hours. The Controller saw the aircraft lift off the runway, approximately inline with the Glide Path Transmitter, some 2400 metres after the release of its brakes. The Controller also noticed that the aircraft did not seem to have its landing lights on.

The Controller reported that it seemed to him that the aircraft gained height with difficulty and its anti-collision light was seen at low altitude before disappearing behind trees. The sky was then lit up by a fire.

The aircraft, flying over an area that was in complete darkness, struck a tree on the edge of a jungle with the port wing and left hand side of the fuselage. The first trees were struck at an altitude of 22 metres (72ft) above the threshold of Runway 30.

The aircraft went progressively into a dive onto its port wing over the next 130 metres, before crashing into a creek that runs through the jungle. The aircraft exploded, the distribution of the wreckage was mainly limited by the left bank of the creek, though the tail unit and starboard wing ended up on the right bank.

The creek is a tributary of the River Wouri and has a tidal range of 3 - 4 metres and it was at its high water mark.

Information on the DC-7C, G-ARUD

The DC-7C had been purchased new by Sabena in 1957 as OO-SFD, it was later leased out to Persian Air Services as EP-ADU, before being leased to Caledonian Airways and registered as G-ARUD.

Route of G-ARUD
Route of G-ARUD
Airframe            DC-7C, Serial No. 45,160, Fuselage No. 754
Constructor       Douglas Aircraft Company, Santa Monica, California, USA
Manufactured   10th January 1957

Registration      G-ARUD
Certificate of Registration No.  R-7451-I issued 29th November 1961
Certificate of Airworthiness No. E 22,378, issued 18th Jan 1962, expiring 28th Nov 1962

Owner   Societe Anonyme Belge d’Exploitation de la Navigation Aerienne (SABENA)

Operator  Caledonian Airways, Mitchell Street, Glasgow.

G-ARUD was operated by Caledonian Airways in accordance with their license; maintenance was carried out by Sabena in accordance with the lease agreement.

The maintenance of the aircraft, including the last general overhaul between 16th - 28th November 1961 was undertaken by SABENA, in accordance with the Caledonian Airways Maintenance schedule, that schedule approved by the Air Registration Board. The work undertaken by SABENA was checked by the Technical Service of the Belgian CAA.

Aircraft History
The aircraft had flown a total of 14,548 hours and 2 minutes. Of these 583 hours were undertaken when leased to Caledonian Airways.

The aircraft had been subject to 6 special inspections, prior to being leased to Caledonian Airways, due mainly to some heavy landings. The last being in October 1961 when all 4 main undercarriage tyres were burst in a heavy landing. The aircraft was cleared for flight after each of the inspections.

The four R-3350 engines were made by Wright, Woodridge, New Jersey in the USA.

The engines were all within their allowed maintenance periods, general overhauls being undertaken at a maximum of 1200 hour intervals.  The table below provides their details

The propellers type was, Dome 34-E-60-395, Blades 7019-B-2, and these were made by Hamilton Standard, based in East Hartford, Connecticut, USA.

The propellers were again within their allowed maximum period between general overhauls, this was 3000 hours.

Below is a drawing of a DC-7C showing the engine layout and position of important parts of the aircraft for the following sections.
Airframe Position
Makers Serial No
Date of Installation in Aircraft
Flying Time Since Last
General Overhaul
Flying time since
267 hours 55 mins
9,355 hours 55 mins
1,064 hours 53 mins
8,580 hours 53 mins
956 hours 53 mins
7,931 hours 53 mins
375 hours 33 mins
5,319 hours 33 mins
Airframe Position
Makers Serial No
Date of Installation in Aircraft
Operating Time Since Last
General Overhaul
Operating time since
390 hours 53 mins
11,902 hours 53 mins
1,583 hours 18 mins
11,125 hours 18 mins
956 hours 53 mins
11,431 hours 53 mins
267 hours 59 mins
12,068 hours 19 mins
Crew Information

The Crew of G-ARUD were all experienced aviators and had previously worked for different airlines including BOAC, BKS, Silver City and American Airlines, prior to joining Caledonian Airways.
Aircraft Commander
Captain Arthur Williams
Captain Allen Frost
Captain Gerald Walman
Francis Strong
Flight Engineer
Thomas McArthur
Flight Engineer
Peter Deane
Flight Engineer
Albert Legg
Senior Stewardess
Edith Tiplady
Elizabetrh Barrie
Ruth Macpherson
The Inquiry was unable to establish exactly who was piloting the aircraft that evening as the controller’s radio traffic was not recorded at Douala. Though the Inquiry assumed that Captain Williams was in the Co-Pilots seat, Captain Frost was in the Pilots seat, Flight Engineer McArthur was at the Engineers Position and Francis Strong navigating.

The Inquiry's assumption on crew seating was based on the fact that Captain Frost was undertaking a routine Route Qualification flight under Captain Williams. F/E McArthur was the most experienced engineer and due to the night take-off, with a heavy load, the Inquiry assumed he was in the cockpit. The Inquiry established that all Crew held valid licenses and qualifications to operate the aircraft and that they had the average experience of a 4-engined aircraft crew at the time.

Weather Conditions

The weather conditions at Douala Aerodrome that evening at 18:20hours, when the aircraft took off were:-
The terms are:   Fc Funnel cloud, Sc  Stratocumulus, Cb Cumulonimbus, Ac Altocumulus, As Altostratus

The Tower observed that there were Thunderstorms happening to the South South-East / South of the aerodrome.

Also scattered drops of rain were seen and it was a moonless night. Sunset was at 17.35 hours and there were 21 minutes of twilight that evening, after that it was dark.

The arriving Air Afrique DC-4, which landed at 18:13 hours, reported that there was significant cumulonimbus cloud (thunderstorm clouds) and heavy static in the south west, though the aerodrome was clear.
5 Knots / 260o
15 kilometres
400 metres  3/8 Fc
600 metres  2/8 Sc
1,500 metres 2/8 Cb (in the Southwest)
4,000 metres 7/8 Ac and As