Lost MiG – pilot Lt Vinez never “defected” to South Africa

Much has been speculated and written regarding the circumstances under which this Angolan MiG-21bis (C340), piloted by Lt Vinez landed up on Schneider-Waterberg’s farm near Otjiwarongo, South West Africa (now Namibia).  However this is the true story.

On 14/12/1988 a MiG-21bis Fishbed of FAPA, took-off from the airfield at Lubango (FNBU position 14:56South 13:35East). Lt Vinez at the controls of the aircraft climbed to altitude on a general heading of 090 degree for a routine ferry flight from FNBU to the airfield at Menongue (FNME 14:39South 17:41East). The aircraft encountered clouds along the route, and Lt Vinez continued eastwards as planned. However on a number of occasions the aircraft entered clouds and upon regaining visual contact with the ground, he no longer could orientate himself as to where he was. After a while, he elected to divert to Cuito Cuanavale (FNCV), South East of FNME.

According to Lt Vinez, he had lost all his visual queues, he had been used to use when navigating between these airfields.

After setting a South Easterly heading, he continued believing that he would soon pick up the beacons of FNCV, this never happened (he was way to the west of the planned route) at this time. The only maps carried in FAPA aircraft were standard ‘Shell’ road maps, these maps are near to useless in the aviation environment, let-alone use it during an Instrument Flight Rules mission!

He continued, after approximately 20 minutes, he had crossed a major river (the Cubago), which he believed to be the Cuito River. The area to the East of the Cuito River was UNITA occupied territory. Continuing on his present course, the aircraft began giving the pilot a ‘Low Fuel’ warning. At that time he elected to attempt an emergency landing, after preparing the aircraft for the Forced Landing, he selected an open field, and executed a near prefect ‘normal’ landing. The aircraft only sustained minor damage.

Fuelled by National Party propaganda and state owned media in South Africa – this event was set up as “defection” to South Africa – in much the same way that Soviet and Cuban Communists defected to the “West” during the Cold War. The truth of the matter is Lt Vinez had no intent on defecting to the Republic of South Africa/South West Africa. During discussions at the accident site with him, his greatest concern was that he was indeed in UNITA occupied territory. It took some time to convince him otherwise.

Content courtesy of the SAAF forum

3 thoughts on “Lost MiG – pilot Lt Vinez never “defected” to South Africa

  1. There WAS a defection – from Moçambique; a certain Lt. Bomba. He could, if I remember correctly, not receive a commission because he did not have Matric. There was an article about him in Paratus. Anybody know about that?

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  2. Speaking of defections from Moçambique.

    Anybody know/heard of the defection of two or three women from the Soviet embassy’s staff in Maputo in the 1990’s? I was told they boarded a jeep and just drove through the MZ-SA checkpoint at Lebombo (or was it Namaacha In Swaziland?)
    Thanks in advance.

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  3. I was crew in a C130, Ondangwa to Ysterplaat. A.T.C. Gave us a discrete frequency., we were told an unidentified target was heading our way at jet speed. We were I.M.C. ( in cloud ) at the time. A.T.C. Advices us to keep a look out, as the bogie’s manoeuvres was sporadic and did not show a pattern or a specific intercept plan.
    After landing we were debriefed that he was lost and forced landed after running out of fuel.

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