Chopper Down!

The Story of A Mercenary Pilot in Africa

Carl Alberts

A true story of the frustrations, personal sacrifices and too often the extreme risks that the aircrews took while flying in support of the ground offensives.
Date Published :
September 2016
Publisher :
30 Degrees South Publishers
Illustration :
color & b/w photos
No associated books available.


After twenty years of armed conflict in Angola and political instability in coup-ridden Sierra Leone going back to 1991, private corporate financial interests became the catalyst that spawned the creation of possibly the most successful private military corporation to date: Executive Outcomes (EO). With its initial task of securing Angolan government control in the Soyo oil-producing region, prompted by private oil interests, EO subsequently became involved in the war against UNITA throughout the country. With little more that 100 of its own combat personnel on the ground in both the wars in Angola and Sierra Leone, the outstanding success that EO achieved was in no small part due to the force-multiplying effect and support given by its helicopter and jet pilots of the Air Wing. This is the true story of the frustrations, personal sacrifices and too often the extreme risks that the aircrews took while flying in support of the ground offensives. Most of this was achieved with outdated equipment and aircraft that were seldom airworthy. Living under harsh conditions with the ever-present threat of enemy attack, as well as great risk from their ill-disciplined allies, the contribution these aircrews made to the overall success of the war effort was extensive. Although EO costs were but a small fraction of the replacement United Nations forces, which were generally unsuccessful, international pressure to leave prematurely, led to renewed regional conflict with great loss of life. The author describes the realities of ‘postwar syndrome’, his subsequent failed business venture in Liberia and his involvement in the conflict in the Ivory Coast that brought about his arrest in South Africa for mercenary-related activities.

About The Author

Carl Alberts was born in Mufulira in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in 1955. At age seven he moved with his parents to Kilembe in Uganda from whence, due to increasing instability in that country, the family immigrated to South Africa. After matriculating at Beachwood Boys’ High in Durban, he was conscripted into the South African Defence Force (SADF) in 1973. Completing initial training at 1 South African Infantry Battalion on 81mm mortars, he was transferred to Ondangwa in northern South West Africa (now Namibia) to serve in the escalating Border War. He enrolled at the University of Witwatersrand in 1974 to study law but student life did not appeal to him, so, in 1977, he joined the South African Air Force, becoming a helicopter gunship pilot and serving extensively in South West Africa and southern Angola. In 1984 he was awarded the Honoris Crux, South Africa’s highest decoration for bravery, for his actions at Cuvelai in southern Angola. After the de-escalation of hostilities in 1989, he qualified as a flying instructor, achieving overall first place on his course. He ended his instructional stint as a flight commander and was rated as an A1 category flying instructor. After a posting to 15 Squadron in Durban as a flight commander and instructor on Puma and Alouette helicopters, he resigned in 1993 to join Executive Outcomes. Carl and his wife Mel live on the tranquil Breede River in the Western Cape of South Africa.

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