Please bear in mind, this is from my notes and from memory. I am also only touching on a few pertinent points and events leading up to and after the Helderberg crash. In addition, all the information is not here for obvious reasons. I need a little protection as well. Consider anything here opinions and subjective observations.
Thanks for all the e-mails and kind words !
I may add to this page or change it from time to time and give out more information, when I do, I will note it with ***’s.
“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”
- Clarke's First Law -
In the late fall of 1987 I was approached by Colonel Jorrie Jordaan to produce a rather nasty weapon system that would be used in the war in Angola. Since I was already designing the security systems for military bases, borders and key points, and I had worked on advanced and non-conventional systems in the past, the “marriage” of my previous experience with this new ‘purpose’ was a natural transition, as far as Jorrie was concerned.
Jorrie wanted a way to take down the Migs that were giving us so much grief, but he wanted to do it in a way that would make it look like pilot error and keep the Russians and Cubans guessing. The best technological ‘fit’ I could work out at the time was an accelerated laser weapon with a nuclear source. We could constrain a highly energized particle stream inside a “tube” or “ring” laser, bring its energy level up to a few trillion volts and send it into a Mig. It would be like a focused EMP Cannon with a 1/4 wave frequency anywhere from hundreds of yards to thousands of miles in length. The result of a hit on a plane (and the pilot it contained), would be catastrophic, but almost undetectable unless one found the energy transfer point.
A few months after the request had come through to develop the weapon, and the prototypes of smaller units had been constructed as a proof of concept, it came time to build the working device that would be deployed in Northern SWA (now Namibia). There were however problems with the acquisition of parts and materials for the larger device. You can’t walk into a hardware store and buy a few megawatts of Class IV lasers or highly enriched u239. These kinds of components and materials had to come from overseas. Armscor already had a working relationship with SAA (South African Airlines) to move armaments and even though a weapons embargo was in place, it was not being seriously managed by it’s most staunch supporters (ref. 1988 US/Iraqi arms deal with French support delivered through SA for direct shipment to Saddam, for the invasion of Kuwait, this was after the Helderberg catastrophe, but nothing was really any different in 1987 as opposed to 1988) (1).
Colonel Jordaan needed to get the materials into SA, so he did what any loyal Boer would, he handled the purchase and transport himself. After all, this was a very sensitive and highly illegal operation and the success of the operation meant success for all of South Africa. What follows is a bit of the story...
The Events Surrounding the Helderberg Specifically
Jorrie was allegedly at a science conference, that was the cover story and having his wife with him made it look perfectly innocent. What he was really doing however, was between him and very few others. The cover was that Armscor had told him they wanted him there to examine new technology, possibly for security applications. That’s what he told everyone, like Andre and I, before he left.
I knew a couple of things though, both PMP and Somchem wanted a new Ammonium Perchlorate (APC or AMP) accelerant mix for the solid fuel propellant in SAMS. Atlas needed a contained fissile source for something I had designed for Jorrie and Armscor to take down the Migs in Angola. The Minister and Armscor were not adverse, to ‘strong-arming’ SAA pilots to move weapons and material shipments to get around the arms embargo, by using commercial airlines. To make matters worse, they had ‘bought men’ in the airports to expedite their ‘packages’ and ‘sanitize’ the paperwork.
Then there was the underlying problem with Armscor and the government, both of which had two internally warring factions Jorrie had told me. Armscor was politically fractured, he called the two sides, the hawks and the doves. And either side was capable of doing anything to the other side to further their positions, including killing fellow officers.
The day before Jorrie left Taiwan, he received his “samples” shipped from North Korea through China. Plenty enough material to replicate for PMP and Somchem. He handed this off to an operative for vacuum packaging and transport on the plane. He went back to the hotel, showered and threw out his day clothes. He wouldn’t want the “sniffers” to pick up a problem in the airport. He might not be able to fix that ‘little’ situation.
The next day at the airport, while Jorrie was waiting to clear his tickets and his baggage, one of his “trusted” operatives approached him with guarded urgency. This was a man who should not have been there. He motioned Jorrie aside, away from the crowds and the line of people. Recognizing him, Jorrie told his wife to wait in the queue while he thought, ‘it must be important’.
The displaced operative whispered to him, “you have to stay, tell her there is a problem with the baggage, I’ll wait”, and that was all he said.
Jorrie turned and visibly checked his wife. When he turned back, the man was moving away and into the crowds of milling people to stand against the outside wall. He would have to think fast.
He had not checked his bags yet. He took his wife out of the queue to sit down and told her, “I will take care of the bags, you can just stay here and read, relax for a bit.”
He had positioned her sufficiently far enough away, in a quiet area where she wouldn’t be able to see exactly what he was up to. Jorrie stood in plain sight for about 10 minutes, then he bypassed the desks and took his bags to his displaced operative standing at the outside wall.
He said, “take these outside, put them in the trunk of a close cab and wait in it, when I come out, I’ll find you, wait till I am at the cab and get out, get your car and follow me to the hotel, take my bags from my cab, wait one hour and drop them off at the front desk, say you are from the airport, give them apologies or something.”
The man raised his hand and nodded in acknowledgment and confirmation, took the bags, found a cab, loaded them in the trunk and waited. Jorrie headed back towards the ticket counter and baggage check area and started waiting, to make his move.
After about fifteen minutes he went over and complained to his wife, “they said there is something wrong with our luggage, it has been taken by security to be checked, can you believe it?”
She asked, “what could be wrong, dearie?”
He shrugged, “I don’t know, yesus, these bloody Chinese, they said to go back to the hotel.”
“But we’ll miss our flight,” she worried.
He responded, “then we will, they said they would honour the tickets, don’t worry, they will sort it out,” he said, “ach, let’s get out of this stupid place.”
And he walked her out the front door to the waiting cab. His associate exited, Jorrie and his wife entered. They made their way back to the hotel and checked in for another night. His wife didn’t notice, she was waiting near the hotel doors, but Jorrie had told the driver to wait five minutes and he would send someone down for the bags. Once upstairs he scheduled his re-return flight to Johannesburg. Downstairs, in front of the hotel, his associate had removed the luggage and was waiting in his car.
One hour later, his operative delivered the luggage to the front desk. He said he was delivering for South African Airlines, there had been a mix up, “please give them our apologies.” The front desk called up. The Op was gone. The desk had the luggage sent upstairs and Jorrie’s wife didn’t know a damned thing about what had just transpired.
On the plane, it was a different story. The pilot and two crew members knew something nasty was coming on board. They didn’t know exactly what even though they had suspicions, they did know it wasn’t ‘good’. As every time before though, there would be a handler and “he” would take care of the cargo. Prior to takeoff, the pilot noticed an irregularity, the handler had not boarded. Imagining the worse, with good reason, he refused to take off (3a).
Then the threats came from Pretoria, it was the one call that would change 159 lives. A Minister called and told the pilot that if he didn’t take off they wouldn’t just “release” him from his duties, they would “release” his family and anyone else he cared about for that matter. With his back to the wall, he taxied out and took off, not knowing the two missing passengers names were being purged from all records relating to his flight.
It appears the Helderberg take off was uneventful, but a few hundred miles out there have been allegations of a fire in the cargo bay. If that happened, it was quickly extinguished. It might have been a simple accident, certainly nothing involving the deadly payload of APC and fissile material (3b). The pilot couldn’t land and find a safe haven though, because of the cargo they were carrying on board, so he continued along hoping for the best. Near Mauritius the real fire erupted in the forward cargo bay, this one could not be extinguished. APC and Lithium both burn at well over 1000 degrees C and if you stick magnesium tape between the two, you have the reality of an incendiary bomb. Ignition would have caused a flash fire that wouldn’t set off the smoke detectors until it was far too late. It would have consumed all of the packaging materials blowing noxious clouds of smoke containing hydrochloric acid vapour from burning PVC into the passenger cabin. The fire would have destroyed electrical systems in the plane causing a loss of control, it may have even melted through the lower hull of the aircraft. If the plane broke up on descent, the sheer ferocity of the blaze would have probably ignited the fuel in the wings and conveniently, it would have erased most of the evidence.
The Minister and Armscor on hearing the news reacted quickly. Armscor tried to alter the ZUR tapes, but found they couldn’t, so they destroyed them and had the controllers state they were lost. They knew the entire event would sign on many as the murders of 159 people and it might be linked back to the illegal SA arms trade which would implicate the Minister, Jorrie and so many others. What they didn’t know just yet, was that Jorrie was not on the plane. The ‘Minister’ knew infighting existed in Armscor, but he didn’t know, or want to know, it could have gone this far.
NE off Mauritius, Indian Ocean, November 28, 1987
Helderberg, South African Airways Flight SA-295
Boeing 747-244B - 160 fatalities
Initial Public Reason: Self-igniting fireworks
Real Reason: To kill one man and force a slowing of the arms trade (2a)
Charge: APC wrapped in magnesium tape. Lithium power source (2b)
Trigger: TDAD - Time Delayed Altimeter Detonator (2c)
The next day, it was on the news, the Helderberg had exploded over the Indian Ocean. Jorrie’s wife was devastated, a mix up in luggage at a foreign airport had saved her and her husband’s lives. What luck for them, she must have thought at the time. She was very shaky boarding the return flight the following day, complaining, “can’t we take a ship?”
I don’t know if Jorrie could have stopped what had taken place. What he did know after the fact however, was that 160 innocent people died and he had clues, maybe even solid information. He didn’t know initially, if it was the ANC, or his adversaries in Armscor, or the government, that engineered this heinous event, but when he got back, he would damn well find out. To ensure a little more ‘personal’ safety, he told Stephan and myself the entire story in my laboratory when he returned a day late, but alive.
As it appears, someone was willing to sacrifice all those people to kill one man, Jorrie and they had no concern for collateral damage. Now that he had found out the plan, they could do nothing further. Jorrie knew what they had done and could destroy them as easily, as they had ripped life away from those 160 innocents. Easier, Jorrie could do it with pen and paper if he was willing to sacrifice his own career and shed not one single drop of blood, except, maybe his own. A simple letter to an overseas newspaper would have taken care of the problem. The entire episode was disgusting
How did I put this all together you might ask? I had a personal relationship with Jorrie, he was my direct CO (Armscor) and his son (special forces) was a friend and trusted associate, but the Colonel was also a friend to some extent. Jorrie was the officer that ‘security-cleared’ me for my defensive military work, of course he also cleared me for all of the ‘under the table’ black ops Armscor projects. Pretoria, prior to this incident found out that Jorrie had done all this for Teddy, and that he had taken kickbacks. He was dirty, so it appears someone tried to expunge two problems at one time; Jorrie and the illegal arms trade in which Armscor was using SAA as their freight vehicle. Whoever was at the top of the food chain in this event must have considered that 161 lives was a good trade. They couldn’t have known, when they put the game into play, that it would be 159 lives and they would miss 50% of their targets.
The Canadian embassy would later know all about this when I left SA (4). Yet they did nothing as well, except to say, that my having this information, made me politically hot and a target for the next hit. Of course, they said a lot more than that, but that’s a little later in this account. Needless to say, the Canadian Ambassador would not get involved. CSIS was also informed after my return to Canada and they simply responded that “it’s out of our jurisdiction” (5).
On November 30th, 1987 in my R&D lab with Andre present, Jorrie divulged a great deal of information concerning the Helderberg. He didn’t say who had done the evil deed, but rather how he was going to “sort them out”, personally. He also told me he’d see me next week and laughed stating “yesus man, if they don’t get me before then”.
1.) From 1987 onward the CIA were stroking Saddam and preparing him for a weapons test. Hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons were shipped from the US through South Africa via a French firm in 1988, the destination Iraq. This was sanctioned and organized by an Ambassador in conjunction with two SA government ministers, Armscor and a couple of SA private military contractors. Included in the shipment (actually added to it for an additional price) were South African G5 cannons, Gerald Bull’s work. You may recall in the First Gulf War that American Soldiers were being held back in the ground offensive by extremely accurate, long range cannon fire, those were the G5’s. But, the objective was simple, make Saddam believe he still had US backing and that they agreed he should take Kuwait. This would open the door for the US real time test of their new weapons in a combat environment. At the same time, the US needed better control over world oil resources. What better way to kill two birds with one stone? If one has interest in this area, you might also examine the relationship between the French firm, ADS (African Defense Systems), Armscor and the US Government, and draw additional conclusions which are outside the scope of this document. There are a number of articles on the internet relating to these groups and their activities.
2a.) Three events needed to take place via the destruction of the Helderberg. The first was killing the progenitor of certain special and non-conventional weapons programs. His death would mean a slowing of any ‘black’, or invisible projects. The second was to destroy any materials being brought in for the special and non-conventional weapons programs. The third was to cast public suspicion of SAA as Armscor’s hazardous material carrier. These three events would ultimately cripple Armscor and the SA government in the conflict in Angola, thereby forcing a loss in that battle and public humiliation for South Africa. In the cover-up and confusion it would not be hard to control the public fall-out, after all, there were no living witnesses from the plane, the government had control of SAA so evidence could easily go missing and anyone left with direct knowledge could be eliminated in short order. This was one of the first large scale steps in the dismantling of Apartheid.
2b.) Ammonium Perchlorate (APC or AMP) is used as an accelerant in solid rocket fuel. It burns at well over 1200 degrees C. To ignite the APC all that is needed is a high temperature. Magnesium tape will start to burn when enough electrical current is applied through the tape and Lithium batteries in a bundle will certainly supply enough power. If the magnesium tape is wrapped around both the Lithium batteries and the APC it provides some insurance that the batteries will ignite independent of the APC. Ignition flow is Mag tape, APC then the Lithium batteries. Lithium also burns at around 1200 degree C and sputters, throwing out chunks of molten material. An incendiary device of this nature could easily burn at a highly accelerated rate and not trigger smoke detectors until fully out of control. By the time the smoke detectors sensed the problem it is likely that a fire of this nature could burn through aluminum structural members and fuselage skin depending on placement. Further, any packaging materials would be consumed extremely quickly and if PVC shielding on wiring is used (or PVC based packaging materials) their consumption by the fire would produce HCL vapor possibly causing oxygen depravation in the lungs, internal bleeding (dependent on concentration) and respiratory failure.
2c.) The construction of a TDAD is quite simple. Motorola makes absolute pressure references that can be used in a small circuit to measure altitude based on differential pressure (I have a few of them and use them in underwater ROV’s for differential pressure control to maintain internal to external pressure settings so the ROV’s don’t get crushed at extreme depths). Once you pass a specific altitude or event, a timer starts counting down by ‘N’ number of seconds. A second measurement is taken from the absolute pressure sensor during decent as a fail-safe, so if the vehicle descends before it is supposed to, ie ‘safe harbour landing’, initiation would automatically occur on decent by bypassing the countdown timer. These are not complex devices. I do not advocate the use of this kind of equipment nor will I ever design one.
3a.) The refusal to take off lasted roughly an hour and ten minutes and was explained as a fog problem. Quite possibly Dawie Uys was being careful using the fog as an excuse and waiting, hoping, that Jorrie would be on the plane, naively thinking that would be a bit of insurance for the flight home. The call from an SA Minister with assurances of no problems with the cargo, I am quite sure wouldn’t put Uys’ mind at ease. My understanding is that he was very seriously threatened, not only himself, but his entire family. It wasn’t ‘pretty’ politically when I was in SA and there were times I was instructed to make ‘personal’ devices to eliminate ‘problems’.
3b.) There have been allegations of a first fire shortly after take off from Taiwan. Personally, I have a problem with it being a fire. In that situation, Dawie Uys would have most likely tried to find an emergency landing location, probably Singapore or Thailand. But that didn’t happen and no pilot in his right mind is going to risk the entire passenger compliment. If there was a smoke alarm, it probably wasn’t from an actual fire. More likely it was from a small formed and directed explosive. If in fact the ‘real’ CVR has talk of food, then it is likely the CVR was killed shortly after takeoff. I’ve been told that the CVR can be taken off line manually via a breaker on the flight deck, I don’t know if this is true. But, if it is true, why would Uys trip the breaker? And if the CVR transcripts are correct, that would mean that Uys shut down the CVR after dinner and turned it back on during the approach to Mauritius (if there is even a CVR recording with talk of dinner?). It doesn’t make sense. Consequently, any CVR transcript published to date is questionable and highly suspect.
4.) The meeting between my family and the consul took place in Pretoria in the Canadian Embassy in 1990. I have been trying to contact the consul since then to ask them again why they did nothing and almost got my entire family killed. In a way, it’s a little funny, Dan MacTeague, our local MP (minister of parliament who is now in charge of Foreign Affairs) didn’t even know we had an embassy in South Affrica between 1896 and 1990, I talked to him a few months ago about this.
5.) My meeting took place at the Valhalla Inn off Hwy 427, south of Burnamthorpe with two CSIS op’s. It was funny, they said they’d find me, but they were just too easy to pick out of a crowd. They looked like cops in trench coats, go figure. Shortly after this meeting my two telephone lines were tapped.
6.) As I always say, believe what you want. People know what they did and know what they continue to do. I don’t doubt that it will take a deathbed confession for all the truth to be told. It would have been nice if Judge Cecil Margo had retained his wits right to the end, I can imagine the things he could have told us all about the Helderberg, and other suspicious events.