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Jack Malloch – the last of the true African legends – Part 2

Rob Russell

Followed on from Part 1


Jack discussed the problem with his directors and one of them, Brigadier Andrew Dunlop, knew an ex British Military officer, Tim Landon, who had risen to head intelligence officer in Dhofar, Oman, and as luck had it, had a brother who farmed in Rhodesia, Chris. It was through Chris that Jack was introduced to two influential Omani businessmen, who were sympathetic to the Rhodesian cause. They shipped fuel to Japan, ostensibly, which shipping documents were changed and it was landed in South Africa. So they had experience in managing cargo for sanctions-busting. They also used a freight plane to fly freight to Rhodesia and South Africa. Was this what Jack’s second DC8 was doing for 8 months? No one knows for sure but it could have been.

Affretair was still exporting pre-ordered and pre-packed meat via Libreville and Kinshasa and some of these orders found their way to destinations like Holland and Switzerland. This business proved very profitable, and orders kept coming. The problem was with weights and orders. The aircraft regularly took off overweight and Jack soon got the nickname as the “Overweight Champion”. Flights were always a few tons overweight. To do this, Jack developed a high-speed take-off technique for high altitude airports, involving accelerating to take-off speeds, with one flap and then lowering the flaps even more. Illegal and a non-approved procedure, but it was eventually acknowledged and approved by Mc Donnell Douglas

Jack's DC8's were soon the highest utilised in the world. But the problem was returning from Europe and loads were poor. Jack and President Bongo devised a plan, where the aircraft were wet-leased to SAA and a weekly flight from Europe to Joberg and Salisbury, via Libreville was undertaken. The first freight flight into Joberg was on the 17th of July 1975.

Jack’s DC7s were coming to the end of their lives and Jack soon found out that Cargolux, through his Luxembourg contacts were getting rid of a Canadair CL-44. Jack acquired this and it soon settled into the route structure flying to and from Europe with the two DC8s.

Jack was still determined to get to the Far East and with the help of President Bongo, he established and registered Air Gabon cargo in Libreville. All Affretair’s planes were moved across to there and flown under Air Gabon livery. The Gabonese Government let it be known to intelligent services that Affretair had fallen out of political flavour and was being shut down. This was the perfect cover for Air Gabon to expand and open offices around the world. The reason for shutting down Affretair, by the Government, was the need to expand Air Gabon and open a cargo network, or so the intelligent networks were told. The move proved successful and loads improved on all sectors and new destinations soon opened up, including Muscat.

The second DC8 made it to Oman and was registered there and operated from there. Jack held a big party to reveal it to the world. The British Intelligence community were caught off guard with its appearance and were unable to find out exactly who owned it. It appeared the jet was owned by a Swiss Aviation Company, operated by Air Gabon and leased to CargOman when needed. No one was really able to prove exactly who owned it and how it was operated. Jack, had through his various contacts created so many front Companies, it was impossible to trace the actual owner and operator of the jet.

Things were now going very well for Jack. His 2 DC8s were kept busy, carrying both freight, legally, and gun-running or sanctions-busting as well. But things were not going well on the war front in Rhodesia. Arms and spares were in short supply and the Defence Department deemed it necessary to get Jack involved with them and assist in getting arms and spares. He was called up to the Reserve and seconded to 3 Squadron. He realised that the RhAF needed bigger aircraft than their DC3s and he arranged to lease one of his old DC7s to them, on a permanent basis. Amazingly it was also allocated a SADF registration number when it was used on flights by them! One of its regular flights was taking Rhodesians to Bloemfontein for parachute training. He realised there was a need to deploy large numbers of parachute troops and he soon developed a procedure for flying the DC7 with its main door removed – something the manufacture recommended should not happen.


Jack was now busy on two fronts – developing and expanding his commercial efforts via CargOman and his war efforts, via the Dept. of Defence. It was keeping him very busy.

The war effort was taking a terrible toll on all Rhodesians and with vastly increased numbers of terrorists outside of Rhodesia, intelligence reports reporting vast numbers of them at Chimoio and Tembue. An operation was eventually approved to attack the terrorist camps there – Ops Dingo. Jack was very much involved in the logistical planning and it proved to be one of the most successful raids undertaken. In October earnest plans were being made for the raid.

The DC8 was used to get the bombs and rockets from South Africa to New Sarum, where they were stored. And the DC7 was used to transport them and troops further along the line. Final planning was soon taking place for the operation, which was to involve every aircraft on the RhAF. To keep the terrorists, who gathered every morning for a parade, off guard, Jack had been routing his flights from Oman deliberately over the base, so the terrorists would get used to the sounds of high flying jets and be caught off their guard when the raid actually happened. It was a brilliant move by Jack and when the raid actually happened on the 23rd November 1977, the DC8 had overflown the base just 5 minutes earlier! All the aircraft were on their way and it was shortly after the DC8 had flown by, that the various bombers and other jets attacked the base, followed by the helicopters. Even the DC7 was involved, dropping paratroops.

Jack and ATA were now becoming a very slick operation at sanctions-busting. CargOman was building up a vast network of legal freight charters – often going in and out of the UK! It was also used to export beef to the Middle East. Oman proved to be a very safe transit place for Jack and his aircraft. However, to ensure that the various intelligence services kept clear of them, intricate plans were made to keep their flights “legal” and out of suspicion. The flight often left Salisbury for Oman, but whilst they transited the Indian Ocean, contact was made with one of the islands, who would, at a fee, of course, file a flight plan from there to Oman. Southbound flights were always to Johannesburg and all cargo had a manifest with Joberg as the destination, But the aircraft seldom arrived there. They used to divert to Salisbury “for technical reasons”! The DC8 was now intricately involved in sanctions-busting – one of the main cargoes they carried out of Oman was spares for the Hunters, which they acquired from the Oman bases, where the RAF were operating them.

Through his contacts in Oman, Jack was able to build up a good relationship with the Iranian Government. He even bought a trade delegation to Rhodesia to investigate trade opportunities, one opportunity resulted in chickens being exported to Oman. Jack was kept fully busy developing his commercial interests with Oman and a few other friendly countries, one of which was Morocco, and also busy with his military commitments.

His DC7s were kept busy both on military flights and civilian charter flights and technicians were kept busy painting them in various schemes, depending on the mission they were needed for.


However, Jack was still sold on the restoration of a Spitfire – ever since he grew to love them in WW2. At the end of January 1977, a Spitfire was mysteriously removed, from a plinth at a military base and moved to a hangar. Who did it exactly, was not known, but it was thought Jack was behind it? Jack eventually mentioned this at a formal Air Force function and in May 1977 a formal agreement was signed, whereupon Jack would restore it for his own costs, the Air Force would retain ownership of it, but when completed, Jack could fly it when he wanted to. The main problem revolved around the Griffin engine and its restoration to use. The SAAF was using Shackeltons for military patrols and Jack was able to use his contacts there to gain valuable knowledge on the engine and how to service it. The SAAF were only too happy to offer him advice and information, as thanks for the flights he undertook for them.

Jack was getting worried about the reliability of Libreville as a transit stop and after much searching, they found another staging post for the airline – the island of Seychelles. However, a military coup in March 1977 took care of that option. Jack needed another option for his Oman operation, and the idea was Comoros. After a coup on the island of Comoros, which resulted in an anti-Rhodesian stance by the then Government, that idea came to an end. However, Bob Denard, now a good friend of Jack’s, became involved in a plan to overthrow them and put in place a pro-Rhodesian Government. This was planned to take place in March 1978 under the codename Operation Atlantide. Jack was involved and his participation involved flying Rhodesian troops there in a DC7, However, they were not needed, as Denard’s seaborne troops were able to overrun the island.

Through Denard, Jack was soon involved in helping the French, routing rebels in Chad and restoring the Government there. He used his DC8 to carry fuel from Libreville to the French airbase. The Affretair crews used these flights to barter for arms and ammunition, which was taken back to Rhodesia.

It was at this time that the Rhodesians had managed to secure eleven Augusta Bell 205 Huey helicopters, from Isreal. They were flown out to Oman. In July 1978 on one of the flights to Muscat, the Oman DC8 carried Rhodesian Air Force pilots, who were to begin their conversion training. Timothy Landon was fully involved in the deal and he managed to persuade the Omanis the pilots were there from oil rigs, The pilots spent a great deal of time with British soldiers, who were on secondment to Oman and it was here they learnt a great deal about the use of helicopters in warfare. The helicopters were broken down and flown out on the CargOman jet to Salisbury. It was in early 1979 they were to make their first appearances in operations, having all been successfully flown out of Oman, thanks to Jack and CargOman.

As African countries built up their pressure on the Smith regime to hand over power, Jack soon learnt that many countries needed food and beef from Rhodesia. Through his contacts in Blantyre, Malawi, he set up a joint venture with Air Malawi, to route supplies via Blantyre to Libreville, to circumvent the sanctions problems. This proved very successful and Blantyre soon became a vital transit place, moving even racehorses, from South Africa, via there to the Middle East.

Through the connections in Comoros, Jack was able to get many vital fighter parts and spares out of the Middle East and into Rhodesia, without arising suspicions.

Despite being fully involved in the war effort and growing his commercial operations, Jack was still able to find time to work on his beloved Spitfire project. Vital parts proved hard to find, including the 20mm cannons and the specialized 5 bladed props, but through his various connections, Jack was able to find a Company in Germany that could provide them. He even went to Germany to fetch them in a DC8.

Jacks health took a turn for the worse in 1979. Primarily his heart but also a back issue and he struggled to pass his yearly medicals, It was around this time, after the tragic shooting down of an Air Rhodesia Viscount, that Jack was struggling to find enough farmers to get beef to export to Gabon, due to many of their farms being targets in a war zone. He was forced to turn to Argentina to meet his beef contracts. He was to make useful contacts with Generals in the Argentinian Defence Force.

In the elections of 1979, which Nkomo and Mugabe boycotted, Bishop Muzorewa was to become the next Prime Minister. This met the approval of the SA Government, who rapidly upgraded their support to the military and kept Jack busy with many flights carrying weapons and support materials.

In October of that year, the British Government started to put pressure on the Omani Government to comply with sanctions against Rhodesia. The Omanis were not interested, as the political leadership in Oman was intricately involved in CargOman operations. The British backed off when the Omani leader reminded them of possible action against Shell and BP in Oman – something the British were desperate to avoid.

On the home political front, things were not going well for the new Rhodesian Government. At Lancaster House, negations were going badly for the inexperienced Muzorewa. They realised Britain was not to be trusted, but it was too late and the talks drew to a close, which resulted in the country reverting back to Southern Rhodesia and a British colony again. The agreement was signed on the 21st December 1979. A ceasefire came into effect and a Commonwealth Monitoring Force was deployed to Salisbury. It was at the height of the pre-election campaigns, that Jack had to undergo another flying medical and he was not to make it. His eyes were failing him now and his medical was withdrawn, Jack was not to give up and he fought to get it back, which he did, as he had set his mind of being able to finish the Spitfire project and fly it RHODESIA GAINS INDEPENDENCE AND JACK IS WORRIED ABOUT HIS FUTURE

On the political front, at Combined Headquarters, they were looking at the various options available after the elections. They devised an Operation, called Ops Hectic, to assassinate Mugabe and his many generals, should he come to power. It was an ambitious plan, needing much logistical support and weapons and even involved the South African Government and SAAF support. To keep it away from the prying eyes of the Monitoring Force, it was decided that Air Trans Africa was the ideal facility to move the support around. The military even established an operations room at his Affretair headquarters to run the operation. To further avoid suspicion, Cold Storage Commission trucks were used to move the arms and ammunitions, the trucks even being driven by CIO operatives.

The election happened on the 27-29th February 1980 and the various services of the Rhodesian Defence Force took up their positions, the result being an inevitable one – victory for Mugabe. They were waiting for the code word “Quartz” to be broadcast over the radio, But it never came. General Wells aborted the mission at the last minute. The country and cause were lost forever and Jack was devastated. He could not understand why the operation to decisively win the war had been withheld. He sought solace with an old Spitfire colleague, ex-Prime Minister Ian Smith.

Jack now focused his efforts on the Spitfire and its planned first flight on the 29th of March. In an interview with the Daily Express, he was quoted as saying it would “be his last great adventure”.

Decisions were being made about how to paint it and what registrations to use. It was eventually decided to paint it camouflage, as all military aircraft were in camouflage colours and the initials JMM were painted on it, as a tribute to Jack and his efforts to get it flying again.


After a few nervous days running up to the 29th, rushing to get all the various issues sorted out and engine run-up, Jack arrived at New Sarum in his old wartime leather helmet, climbed into the aircraft, and with the help of his old friend Bob Dodds, did the necessary checks. Bob warned him not to do anything too spectacular, climbed off the wing and Jack taxied out and shortly after that got airborne. His dream was realised. A few technical issues curtailed the flight, but on the second flight, he did a barrel roll and even buzzed an Aeroflot passenger aircraft that had just landed at Salisbury! How ironic that was.

Affretair was still very much in his life and with the political issues and no more sanctions, lots of opportunities opened up for Jack and his airline. One of the first contracts he got was for the United Nations. He decided to rebrand Affretair as well. Jack was careful not to disregard his old customers and he supported them whenever he could.

As Jack had a South African passport, the SADF proposed Jack move his operation out of Zimbabwe, to South Africa and promised him lots of work. He even had job offers from British Midland to establish a cargo operation there, for them. He had both his DC8s painted in Affretair colours and the Oman operation wound down considerably, although he kept his office there.

Jack had, through the Spitfire, found his love for flying again and he was worried he might lose the opportunity to fly it – it did belong to the Defence Force after all. Keeping his commercial medical was now a serious problem for Jack, and he elected to get a PPL, the medical requirements of which were much easier for Jack to get and keep to.

It was at this time that the Iranian Revolution was in full swing and it was only time before his old contacts called upon Jack to assist and fly weapons into Iran, as they were suffering badly against the Iraqi Government. He became involved in flying Israeli arms to Iran. But it was hard to keep this secret from prying eyes. To keep it secret he hired a CL44, from Argentina, and used Argentinians to fly the aircraft. Various disguises, false registrations and call signs were used. But nothing new to Jack and he was well versed on how to hide his flights away from the various Intelligent Operations. How many flights were undertaken was not known, but they ended in disaster, when the aircraft strayed from its flight planned route, near the Turkish Azerbaijan border and it drifted into Russian airspace. It was thought the Russians used a false VOR to cause it to deviate off route and it was subsequently shot down. Despite world interest in the shooting down, it proved virtually impossible to trace who owned the aircraft, who the crew were and who chartered them and what they were carrying. A tribute to Jack, and his brilliant management tactics.

Whilst most of Affretair’s operations were now legal, there was still a need for Jack and his specialist skills and soon the CIA contacted him to help in Operation Cyclone – the clandestine arming of the Afghan mujahedeen forces, who were resisting the Russian back invasion of Afghanistan. Jack used his contacts in Oman to fly weapons from various Eastern European countries to Oman where they were moved by ship to Pakistan. It was not known how many of these flights were undertaken, but it is rumoured a great deal.


At the same time, the new Zimbabwean Government were starting to take an interest in Affretair and interfere in the running of it. Something Jack did not want and his relationships with the new Government turned sour quickly. In July of 1981, Jack failed his commercial medical again and his last flight, commercially, was to be in July of that year. His days of flying for Affretair were now over. Jack was realising that there was no place for his airline in Zimbabwe. The Government were now in talks to forcibly overtake the airline. Jack turned to his contacts in South Africa, to see if they were interested in his airline. They were very much interested and Jack now turned his efforts to move his operation and staff to South Africa. But it was hard work to keep this secret, as he feared the Government might seize all his assets if they found out.

Much to Jack’s surprise, he was, on the 20th November of that year, awarded the Pat Judson trophy, by the Zimbabwe branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society for “meritorious service to aviation” and the Rolls Royce trophy was awarded to his engineers for their work in restoring the Spitfire.

But Jack was under relentless pressure from the Zimbabwean Government to hand over Affretair to them. He also was under pressure to help the Argentinian Government fly “ Exocet air conditioner spares” from Cape Town to Buenos Aires, as the dispute between Argentine and the English over the possession of the Falklands was escalating to new highs. A flight he did want to undertake, due to his pending move to South Africa. Plans were very much advanced for the move and it was anticipated to happen on the 28th March. The planned move took up much of his time and efforts and put a great strain on his health.

He sought refuge from his work problems in his flying the Spitfire, and he took to the air as often as he could. A documentary “Pursuit of a dream” was being made about his restoration of the Spitfire. After two flights were flown for the documentary, it was found out the camera was at fault and there was no film. After weeks of cloudless skies on 26th March 1982, the Spitfire was wheeled out. A briefing was held with Bill Sykes and Neville Weir, who was to fly the Vampire and Jack took to the air.

It was a lovely afternoon and perfect for filming. Jack was at his happiest. According to Neville, after half an hour, he needed to return to base, as the film reel was finished and he was also low on fuel. He asked ATC for assistance. He remembers seeing Jack having so much fun in the Spitfire. After the turn to head home, they both entered a large cumulus cloud. What a fatal turn it was to be. The cloud was a vicious one – hail and turbulence of the worst order. He emerged from the cloud heading straight for the ground. He flew into a mielie field. It was a horrendous crash and not much was left of the aircraft. Jack was instantly killed.

As rumours spread of the crash and Jack’s death, the Department of Defence released a statement confirming the crash. Zimbabwe was in a state of shock, as were many other people around the world.

The accident investigators were shocked at how little was left of the aircraft. They managed to find the engine and were able to prove it was at full power when it hit the ground. The hardest part for them was to try and gather Jack’s remains.

His funeral was held on the 2nd of April, at the Garden of Rest Chapel, in Harare’s Warren Hills cemetery. Friends, employees, business acquaintances and military friends were in attendance. In his address, the Reverend Mussell said of Jack “ the tragic loss death of Captain Jack Malloch has brought into bold relief the kind of man he was and the remarkable things he did”. People had been urging Jack, to write his memoirs, but he smiled and always answered “I have done nothing of note!”

Jack was the last true aviation legend of his generation. His passing bought to an end an illustrious era. A genuine man, with genuine beliefs, who never missed the opportunity of a challenge.

To this day there are many unanswered questions about his death. The official report and conclusion of the Board of Inquiry have never been released, so there is no official reason as to what caused the crash. It was known at the time of his last flight, Jack had heart problems and was under immense pressure, with the pending move and flee from Harare of Affretair, as well as Government pressure on Jack to hand over ownership of Affretair to them, they must have played a role in the accident. There are rumours about how he died. Was it sabotage, was it "structural failure" of the aircraft, was the weather the cause of the accident, or was it even suicide? No one knows. The last option has been ruled out by many people, as he was on the verge of exciting new times. It seems a genuine mistake flying into the cloud was the ultimate cause of his untimely death.

Jack was a very committed family man, loved his family, he was a fearless aviator who loved the adventure of a challenge they brought, and of course, flying.

A true legend of the African skies.


Wikipedia – Jack Malloch
Jack Malloch – Legend of the African Skies by Alan Brough
Various docs avail via the internet



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