ADF Serials Newsletter
For those interested in Australian Military Aircraft History and Serials
In this Issue:
· Editors Blurb.
· Comments from the readers.
· Mercy Flight to Disaster (Peter Finlay)
· Too Little Too Late? The Red Sale Accident (DFS/Dean Norman)
· P-40 Operations in the RAAF – Part 9. (Gordon Birkett)
· On this Day. (Jan Herivel)
Comments/Questions from website visitors and newsletter readers.
There are plans afoot to hold a memorial gathering for the crew of A74-63 at Emu Vale Public School near Warwick in Queensland on Easter Saturday 2005. It will be the 50th anniversary of the accident. Peter Finlay
Sabre Crash Williamstown, late 50’s
Bruce Budd was wondering if any readers know about a Sabre crash which
occurred at Williamtown sometime during the 1050's. I remember seeing the
photographs of the wreck and reading a report while I was based at Williamtown
but can't find any reference I recognise in the Sabre file. The aircraft was
being flown by Ray 'Springer' Fox who was later CGI at Pearce and who died in
the late 60's. He was leader of a Sabre pair which was scrambled in the late
afternoon after a long period of waiting on the ORP during an exercise. Ray
apparently started to roll onto his departure heading as his wheels were coming
up and managed to touch the ground with his port wingptip on the ground. In the
resultant crash the wings came off and left the fuselage still containing Ray
under a smashed canopy coming to rest semi-inverted on the side of the runway.
Ray left fairly quickly and was sitting on a landing light enjoying a cigarette
by the time the crash crews arrived. Rumour has it that they
'remonstrated' with him for not attempting to rescue the pilot from the wreck. Does this story ring any bells? I believe that it's essentially accurate though some details may be mis-remembered.
(A94-935 at Queensland Air Museum, Caloundra. Photograph by Grahame Higgs)
An answer from Jan Herivel;
I checked the status cards and it certainly looks like it is A94-935.
status card says the accident happened on 26 Oct 1961. Court of Inquiry was
told that the pilot lost control on takeoff and went off the runway. The pilot tried to take off before he had adequate speed, stalled and then went off the runway.
Martin Edwards was wondering if we had established the ID of the Sabre painted in US markings at the Zuccolli collection at Toowoomba. He still believes it is A94-954 however we still have images of the same aircraft under both 356 and 954 on the website.
I am presently constructing two vampire models. I will serial number the aircraft A79-83 and A79-453. Both these aircraft crashed within seconds of each other at Karuah (Home town) on the 13/05/51. Have been searching high and low looking for pictures of the aircraft, in an attempt to ensure paint and squadron emblems are correct for the models. Can anyone help? Shaun Taylor.
The RAAF Ubon Association is trying to find any record of next of kin. I believe the association is managing a project to get the service recorded on the walls at the Australian War Memorial. Would you have any details of NOK? On the 3rd Jan 1968, PLTOFF Mark McGrath was killed when Sabre A94-986 from 79 Sqn stalled and crashed on base circuit at Ubon, Thailand. A three year old girl, Nuan, was killed by the aircraft or wreckage. Any help appreciated, Alan Wilson
Hi guys, I've been continually impressed by the site since I first found it by accident, and also by the work done by Ivan Prince on the New Zealand pages. I have supplied some info to Ivan and am working on updating my records to provide some more information. I spent 22 years in the RNZAF (1965 to 1987), am a past member of AHSNZ, and still have a real interest in aircraft of the RNZAF. Les Billcliff.
I am currently restoring the front instrument panel of ex-RAAF Mirage A3-105, the remains of which are outside the Darwin Aviation Museum. I am trying to build a visual and documented history on this aircraft and would be interested in obtaining any photos or other documentation relating to this aircraft. I have pictures of the aircraft whilst at Avalon prior to delivery to the RAAF and numerous one of it at Darwin Aviation Museum. Can you please assist with any details? Regards Andrew Doppel
The ADF website improves over time with lots of extra information - good to see you still work on it, and that you have a great site. I was looking at the end of the RAN A4 page and saw your questions about some A4 related information. Sorry I cannot really help; but I can say that I was learning to fly the A4 at VC724 in June 1970. Errol Kavanaugh and John Park were instructors. The long distance record does not ring a bell but, at about this time, I vaguely recall people going on long navigation sorties supported by buddy tankers that looked complex (but being a 'sprog' I was kept out of this loop). Due to the complexity of supporting the A4 away from Nowra or the ship (because the A4 would not self start), I can only imagine that the 3,379 Kms was from or to Nowra. OR the destination (from Nowra) was HMAS Melbourne at sea; but near a diversion airfield - like off the WA coast near Perth - or in North Queensland - or something like that. My records from a book about Melbourne and its movements put it at Singapore in June 1970. So I guess the landing onboard is ruled out. At some time some A4s did make this kind of trip, but whether it was a record or not I don't recall (or when this occured). We often joked about setting off for New Zealand but at the time we did not have accurate charts that gave accurate information for crossing the Tasman (this was remedied) - no one ever before the A4 would have considered crossing the Tasman to NZ. There were flights with one or two buddy tankers which at high altitude transferred all their fuel to the A4s that continued on while the tankers dropped to a support airfield like RAAF Edinbrough where a Navy Dakota would have a team with the starter mechanism etc. If you work out how many NMs there are in 3,379 km (is km correct?) then using a string on a big map of Oz with it centred at Nas Nowra - you could see possible destinations if that what was the nature of the sortie under question. I have no idea but I can't imagine a "round robin" trip (from Nas Nowra to Nas Nowra - only landing at NAS) would qualify as a record breaker - but I don't know. Chased by Lcdr Park as part of training cycle I planned and flew a sortie (26 Jan 71) which required a TA4 tanker to fuel us over East Sale (after leaving from NAS) at cruise altitude, then the TA4 returned to NAS. We flew on at high level south to King Island and then did a long descent west to the junction of the Vic/SA border at the coast where we were soon at very low level heading north to Broken Hill (the simulated target) over the spinifex. At Broken Hill we climbed back to extreme cruise altitude to return to NAS. This trip from chock to chock was 3 hours and 40 minutes. Lcdr Park had an electrical generator failure on the high return leg, which required him to deploy the emergency generator; thus increasing drag, when as the chase pilot he was always going to have less fuel than me, the leader. However apart from that, the trip was uneventful, and we landed with plenty of gas due to the jetstream helping us out. I don't have any aeronautical charts to work out the Nautical Miles on this trip but it sure was the longest trip for me in an A4. [Making a "mudmap" I figured that we did about 2,600+Km - with about 800 Kms (the leg north from Mt. Gambier approx. to Broken Hill) at 50 feet over the sand hills at 360 Kts.] I look at my logbook now and realise that the squadron was made of steel (meaning we did lots of flying on cheap plentiful fuel) before the "Oil Crisis" in 72. On the same day - I guess in the afternoon - I flew a Macchi for 50 minutes in preparation for another Macchi trip, night flying refamiliarisation of 40 minutes --- 5 hrs 10 m total --- that was quite a day/night. Once the oil crisis hit it was difficult to get a quarter of our previous flying hours. One thing about the Don Lane show on HMAS Melbourne. It may not have been held in Melbourne but in Sydney. For example in 1976 (I had left the Navy by then in mid 1975) according to a booklet about the carrier, it was alongside Sydney from 20 Aug to 6 Sep 1976 - in the jargon of this information "a." = "alongside" while being in Sydney earlier there is no "a." meaning it was probably at a harbour bouy for ammunition / fuelling etc. But bear in mind I'm no fishhead to know all this non birdie jargon. I have this date, as the caption for the Don Lane show pictures (I guess you have them?) says "...during the August broadcast...". About the other questions I have no idea, having joined NAS at the beginning of '69 and having left in mid '75. I'll try to remember whatever I can about this record distance setting on 07 June 70. Where is this record recorded by the way? Now that I'm thinking more about possible details I can recall (but not accurately as I was not involved) Dusty King our Senior Pilot took some A4s West, he was in the tanker which landed at Adelaide while the others went on to Perth? Dusty came back the same day and of course the guys who went west did not return for a while. I think they had to wait for the Dak to make it to Perth from Adelaide with the air starter "the huffer". Dusty became the CO while John Park became SP about this same time. Sorry I cannot recall more than this - as I say we were trying all kinds of long distance things with the buddy fuelling etc. at this time. I think the Kiwis were the first to bring the A4 across the Tasman.
Regards Phil Thompson.
And one last contribution from Richard Church, he has provided significant updates for the HS 748 page at;
We operate a Stinson L-5B, formerly owned by HH prince Bernard of the Netherlands.
We are looking for aft wing lift struts. If anyone can help us please let us know.
Willem Broer, Netherlands.
Got an idea or some feedback for us?
Then go to our Feedback page and fill out the form and send us your thoughts!
By Peter Finlay
On the evening of Good Friday, 8th April 1955, the Commanding Officer of RAAF 10 Squadron (Marine Reconnaissance), Wing Commander John (Bluey) Peter Costello received a telephone call from the superintendent of Townsville Hospital requesting that a RAAF aircraft be made available to transport a new‑born baby to Brisbane for an urgent blood transfusion.
The standby aircraft was GAF Lincoln GR 31, A73‑64, one of the last of the long‑nosed versions to be delivered to the RAAF. Wing Commander Costello volunteered his crew, rousing them from their homes and they gathered at RAAF Garbutt base to carry out their duties.
As crew to the commanding officer, each person was a senior officer in charge of his particular field of operation.
The co‑pilot was Squadron Leader Charles Surtees Mason, the unit's Engineering Officer. He was an experienced Lincoln co‑pilot and had served with the RAAF in Malaya.
Number Ten Squadron's signals officer was Fight Lieutenant William George Stanley Cater who was to operate the aircraft's radio equipment on the flight.
My father, Squadron Leader John (Jack) Watson Finlay was the Navigation officer of 10 Squadron. He had recently been promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader after completing an advanced navigation course with high graduation marks in England during 1953/4. His task was to file the flight plan and navigate A73‑64 to Brisbane, a flight expected to take about 4 hours.
He had spent the evening working at home on plans for a forthcoming RAAF exercise and was about to retire for the night when the call came to report for duty.
RAAF superior officers required the crew to take along a civilian nurse or Doctor to tend the baby, Robyn Huxley. Sister Mafalda Stanis Gray had resigned her position at Townsville hospital on the Friday and took the opportunity to travel south to Brisbane while caring for the critically ill child.
The aircraft took off normally at 12.30am and the flight proceeded at relatively low altitude in order to accommodate the requirements of warmth and comfort for the baby. An oxygen bottle was strapped to the aircraft in front of the pilot's position in order to provide her with her needs in the nose of the Lincoln.
The weather was fine at the beginning of the flight but conditions deteriorated until late in the trip, at about 4 am, the Lincoln was flying in cloud. Brisbane air traffic control last heard from the pilot at 4.00 am when he advised that he was landing in 10 minutes. He was given clearance to descend to 5,000 and thence to 4,000 feet.
At 9.23 am, a searching RAAF Canberra reported sighting wreckage of a Lincoln in the vicinity of Mount Superbus in south eastern Queensland, almost on the border of NSW. At 9.35 the Canberra confirmed that the Lincoln was at position 28 0 12'S 152 0 23E on the western slope of the mountain, the highest point in the whole SE Queensland area.
Some 5 hours later a ground party of civilians from Emu Vale near Warwick reached the crash site and found that there were no survivors.
One of the crew had been ejected from the crashing aircraft either during the initial impact or by the force of the subsequent explosions. His body was found suspended in a tree.
Another crew member was found forward of the main wreckage, brutally disfigured but virtually untouched by the fires which followed the collision with the solid granite of Mount Superbus.
All other occupants were almost completely incinerated when the fuel tanks containing several hours’ flight capacity blew up some 12 minutes after impact.
The Merlin‑engined aircraft was heavily damaged with the complete section of the fuselage forward of the wings reduced to a molten mass of aluminium. Only the throttle quadrant stood erect with all power levers fully forward, suggesting that the pilot had seen the slope ahead through the cloud and rain. In a vain attempt to lift his aircraft over the last remaining 200 feet of ground, the pilot prevented the nose from concertinering into the slope and the Lincoln "splurged" through the trees, still with enough force at about 180 Knots to rip it apart
I was 12 years old at the time of the crash. I lived with our family, my brother Warwick, sister Margaret, mother Mildred and, of course, my father. Our house was in the RAAF officer's "married patch" and I was chums with Brian Costello who was about my age. We were planning an Easter trip north to Ingham before Dad's departure.
I remember a Catholic priest walking up to the front gate on Easter Saturday. This was pretty unusual as our family was of the Church of England faith and I suppose I sensed alarm. Mother burst into tears when she was told that Dad's aircraft was missing. We were sent of to "the pictures" in Townsville later in the day. I remembered well for many years that we saw "The Creature from the Black Lagoon".
On our return home we learned the news that the Lincoln had been found and that there were no survivors of the crash.
Stunned and lonely, I had to console my brother and sister while Mother flew to Brisbane for the funeral. I wandered over to the RAAF base and spent long hours talking with a pilot working on a Tiger Moth. He let me sit in the front cockpit while he swung the prop; I'll never forget the thrill as the Gypsy Major burst into life.
Similarly, I go all misty‑eyed when I hear the sound of a Merlin engine in flight as I was brought up to the sound of them powering Lincolns, Mosquitoes and Mustangs from the various RAAF bases at which my father served. It wasn't until 1976 that I yielded to a childhood desire to learn to fly for myself. I had to be content with the mundane Cessnas, Pipers and even a few hours at the controls of Beech Barons and Piper Aerostars rather than in military aircraft, but at least, I was airborne.
The Lincoln lay on the slopes of Mount Superbus for many years after the crash. I didn't even know where Mount Superbus was other than being generally in the Warwick area. A road trip to Brisbane in 1985 carried me past the general area and started me thinking that I'd like to try to walk to the wreck. I had no knowledge of how much of the Lincoln remained, if it were possible to get to it, how long would it take to find? Did I have enough bushwalking experience to tackle such an adventure?
Little by little pieces of information came to light. Dad's sister, Winifred, gave me a cutting from the front page of the Brisbane Sunday Mail of 10th April 1955. This featured the crash and a picture which showed the Lincoln remains on Mount Superbus with Wilson's Peak and Mount Lindesay in the background.
I read the account of how bushwalkers in the area at Easter in 1955 had heard the sound of the aircraft flying low and the subsequent impact in the early hours of the Saturday morning and how they and others had braved flooded creeks to reach the crash site in the vain hope of helping survivors.
The first route attempted along Emu Creek proved to have too many flooded sections for even a 4‑wheel drive vehicle to negotiate so another attack was launched from the southern side using Killarney Vale as a stepping off point.
Although there were logging tracks to the Superbus region, the area was heavily timbered and it was very difficult for the searchers to know where the Lincoln lay. A second RAAF Lincoln, one of two which joined in the search for ‑64, circled the crashed aircraft to aid the walkers and at 2.24 pm the crew saw the first rescuers reach the crash site after scrambling up muddy, 60o slopes. The ground party found that none of the crew or passengers had survived the crash. Later, a RAAF party of men reached the scene and on the following day, they carried the remains of the occupants down the mountain and on to Brisbane and Townsville for burial.
As part of my research into the fatal flight, I was able to obtain a copy of the proceedings of the RAAF Court of Enquiry into the crash of A73‑64. This document became available under the Archives Act of 1983 which allows freedom of access to hitherto confidential information after a certain period of time has elapsed (30 years I believe). It is not my intention in this story to try to analyse the report, however there three main points are relevant. The aircraft had several unserviceabilities relating to compass swings and the non‑availability of radar. The track of the flight was considerably west of that planned and that the crew let down through cloud without a descent aid. How or why these things happened to a crew of the calibre of those on board has baffled RAAF personnel. Perhaps the single greatest contributing factor was the effect that fatigue has on human performance, especially when we remember that this flight was begun just after midnight after a normal day's routine work. That aircraft crashed a little after 4 am, the darkest hour before dawn when human biological systems are at their least effective levels.
Early in 1988, 1 had reason to travel to Brisbane on business and arranged to spend a weekend with my brother's family. I brought some 1:100,000 scale maps of the Mount Superbus region and by some clever transposition from the photograph published in the Brisbane Sunday Mail mentioned earlier, I was able to draw a line on the map joining the tops of Mount Lindesay, Wilson's Peak and Mount Superbus to give us some idea of the position of the wreck.
Meanwhile, my brother, Warwick, had gone one better with the purchase of a 1:25,000 scale map which actually had the exact position of the Lincoln marked. (My estimations were correct to within 100 metres or so).
I visited a Brisbane bushwalking shop on the Saturday morning before the expedition and brought a copy of a detailed book on walks in SE Queensland. In it I found precise directions to find the Lincoln wreck site from the township of Emu Vale
The very helpful proprietor of the shop also told me that an article has appeared recently in the Courier Mail telling of a walk to the Lincoln. I drove eagerly to the offices of the newspaper and eventually purchased a copy published on 24 th December 1987 (my birthday). Tearing at the pages of the paper with barely‑controlled excitement, I found only a story on a walk to a much later light‑aircraft accident on Mount Glorious. An interesting tale but, sadly, not much help in our quest.
On the Sunday morning, Warwick and I, his youngest of three sons, Paul, and one of his 10 year old mates piled into Warwick's 4‑wheel drive Nissan Patrol and set off along the Cunningham Highway from Brisbane towards Emu Vale. A little local navigation took us off the main road after 2 hours or so and we moved into the undulating countryside with the ominous mountains approaching.
Although this trip was seen as a reconnaissance for a later, better equipped trip, we were filled with a great sense of adventure as we drove along the country roads towards our goal. The Nissan took us past Emu Vale and through several creek crossings with ease before we could drive no further. The old logging road had been rendered unusable by the forestry people to prevent excessive erosion by natural and man‑made forces.
We ate lunch, dressed with light, water‑repellent clothing and set off up the slopes. Where we left the car there was a sign indicating that the walk to the Lincoln wreck would take 4 hours to return. It seemed just a little strange that while we knew so little of the way to the Lincoln all these years, the local bushwalkers had such a large sign to guide them.
The climb up the former road was not too difficult even for two 40‑45 year olds. The kids scrambled up the hill easily and 1 know that my energy came from the burning desire to find the aircraft. After about 45 minutes, the track became almost level and it was as easy as walking along a made road.
We crossed a fresh mountain stream guarded by two freshwater "Yabbies" then strode along, unable to navigate accurately because of the dense sub‑tropical rain forest canopy. I was leading the party when ahead I saw the unmistakable shape of a V12 Rolls-Royce Merlin aero engine. I stopped to wait for Warwick and the boys for I wanted to take a photograph of the expression on their faces when they first saw the engine.
We walked forward to view this first piece of the Lincoln we had last seen 33 years previously.
The engine had been stripped of all removable items including cylinder heads and sump. Only some of the pistons and con-rods remained attached to the crankshaft.
The front of the V12 showed that the gearbox bolts were still in place even though the crankshaft was bent downwards about 10o.
It was possible to see that two webs of the crankshaft were almost touching. There were no gouge marks to indicate that the supercharged Rolls-Royce Merlin 102, turning at some 3,000 RPM and developing 1,750 BHP rotated at all after the impact with the solid granite of Mount Superbus.
Where then did all that energy go? I can only surmise that the inertia wrenched the 790Kg engine, gearbox and 13 foot, 4 bladed propeller from their mountings and sent them spinning away from the nacelle.
It would appear that this engine has been moved to its present position by people trying to carry it away for a souvenir, for it is nearly a kilometre from the site of the remainder of the wreckage.
I did not know at the time that the aircraft lay some 750 metres horizontally and 200 metres vertically from where we stood. We tried to climb straight up the slope above the engine but found the hill too steep and the undergrowth too dense for the small boys to penetrate.
The walk to the Lincoln would have to wait for another day. Erroneously, we decided to walk further along the track but only succeeded in descending towards Killarney Vale. At least the exercise showed us the type of country the searchers had traversed so long ago.
We retraced our path back to the Merlin, took some photographs in the dim light of the jungle and returned to the Nissan after a 5 hour trek. We were elated at having come so close to finding the Lincoln and determined to plan another trip right to the wreck.
Just before we reached the car, we met two chaps on their way to the crash site. One of them told us that he had been to the site previously with a RAAF serviceman and confirmed that the way to the wreck was via a creek near the engine. Warwick and I discussed the plan of attack on the drive home to Brisbane and decided that we would need to move soon to avoid a trip in winter with its attendant shorter days and the risk of colder weather.
The Easter school holidays provided the ideal opportunity for the second climb and we made plans to travel with my family to stay with Warwick then.
Warwick had obtained further information through friends in the RAAF about the crash of A73‑64. One item was a cutting from Airforce News of 1977, which detailed the retrieval of part of the tail-plane of the Lincoln by an RAAF Iroquois helicopter. We had known about this exercise for some time and both of us had made enquiries to several RAAF bases as to the whereabouts of the section.
Personnel at the RAAF Museum at Point Cook had emphatically denied any knowledge of such parts, saying that they held only some skin panels and a propeller blade from that particular aircraft. Yet the article said that the parts were retrieved in order that they might be preserved in the Point Cook Museum. Even a trip there in 1986 failed to shed any light on the "missing" parts.
Subsequently, the curator of the museum wrote me a letter advising that the tail plane was held in storage for the museum at the Dubbo (NSW) base. At least that part of the mystery was solved. I have since seen and photographed the parts held there.
To be better equipped for the return climb to Mount Superbus I brought a pair of sturdy hiking boots with deep treads to help traction on the muddy climbs. A pair of overalls was chosen to ward off the stinging nettles plagued us on the first trip and I packed a bottle of "Stingose" to relieve the irritation of any which succeeded in penetrating our clothing.
Warwick, who is a professional TV sound technician, obtained an 8 mm Videos camera to record our climb on tape and also selected his own style of protective clothing. Easter 1988 arrived and we duly drove to Brisbane and were soon swapping Lincoln information which we had both gathered since the first trip.
I had been sent a descriptive manual on GAF Lincolns by Alan Charnley of ASTA and this was to prove invaluable later as a source of identification of parts of the crashed aircraft.
We boarded the Nissan at 5 am on Easter Saturday and set off to retrace our drive to Emu Vale. This time Warwick and I were accompanied by his two elder sons, Scott and Gavin, as well as my eldest son, Simon. The boys were aged between 14 and 16, the younger children and wives stayed behind as there was not enough room in the car and the walk was considered too hard for them.
There had been a lot of rain during the days prior to the trip and we expected to have problems with crossing the many creeks along Emu Creek Road. In fact, the weather was very similar to that which prevailed 33 years ago on the same day. At the first creek crossing we stopped to check the depth of water. Scott was “volunteered” to walk the creek, so we tied a rope around his waist and he waded into the steadily flowing waters. The level came to the edge of his shorts and he continued across safely.
Warwick prepared the Nissan by covering the radiator intake with a mat, tying a cord around the viscous coupling of the fan and covered the electrics with a plastic bag. He edged his way across the creek and the Nissan responded beautifully. This procedure was repeated several more times much to the delight of the small boys on board (all 5 of them!). Much of the road was quite muddy and Warwick's skilful handling of the 4‑wheel drive had mud flinging from the front wheels. More whoops of glee from the excited crew. The final ascent to the "Lincoln Wreck Walk" sign was quite steep and we growled along in low range.
After packing our equipment for the second time in 3 months at this site, we "leach‑proofed" ourselves with wide cloth tape by strapping our trousers into our boots. Warwick shot off a few metres of video while I said a few words describing the scene.
My new boots helped immeasurably on the muddy climb. I was able to walk straight up most of the embankments while the others still had a few problems gaining traction. When we reached the creek crossing on the mountain where we had been accosted by the "Yabbies" (they were still there), we paused to film our efforts at crossing the very flooded creek. The water was really flowing and we had to "rock‑hop" our way across. The boy's sharp eyes spotted something we had missed on the previous excursion – the 50 mm thick steel, bullet‑proof plate from the pilot's seat of the Lincoln. It must have been carried this far by souvenir hunters.
Further along the track at the Merlin engine, now lying in a torrent of water, we paused again to record some more video before setting off straight up the hill to the east. The climb was difficult on the route we chose. The incline was about 60o, the vegetation fairly thick and tangled and the ground was quite slippery. Several times we stopped to gain our bearings and to catch our breath.
At one stage I felt a little light‑headed and almost overbalanced. I am reasonably fit but the combination of zero horizon due to cloud, the steep slope, fogged spectacles and 4,000 foot altitude combined to disorient me somewhat for a while. I noticed that the young lads also stopped several times to draw breath so I didn't feel too perturbed.
Eventually, after about an hour's climb, the jungle cleared as the slope changed for level ground. Again we paused to try to orientate ourselves. The compass needle showed that North was behind us from the direction we had started and I had some trouble rotating my mind.
We walked straight ahead for a short time until Warwick echoed all our sentiments that we might become lost and still not find our goal. We retraced our steps to a known position and decided to carry out a search 90o either side of our former path. Warwick stayed in the centre while I walked left. Scott, Gavin and Simon walked to the right. We kept within hailing distance and I found little other than some bushwalker's trail marks and the odd blaze on a tree.
As I began my return to Warwick's position I could hear him hailing the boys. "Something's up." I thought. "Yes." He called, "They've found a campsite and some bits of aluminium cowling. They've found a track.. like Pitt Street." I joined Warwick to walk to a point where we rounded a corner in the track and came face to face with the gaping front end of the broken fuselage of the Lincoln.
I followed the boys to the remains of the aircraft while Warwick shot off some photographic atmospherics of the bush scene. My friends have since asked me if the trip to the Lincoln was very emotional for me. I felt almost nothing when coming face to face with the aircraft I had last seen intact at Townsville's Garbutt RAAF Base so long ago.
Dad used to take us for visits to the field on open days and we had climbed into various Lincolns. They used to be parked near to the officer's Mess like almost silent sentinels in readiness. Vast monsters to a 12 year old, serving the nation as watchdogs in their maritime search and rescue role. I said almost silent for, even as they sat waiting patiently, their systems were kept at a slow heart‑beat by auxiliary motors which pressurised their pneumatic accumulators.
Now A73‑64 sat shattered and lifeless, still foreign amongst the entwining vines of the rainforest. We wandered around. The boys were excited, Warwick told Simon, who was slipping and sliding all over the place, that the aircraft wasn't going to go away now having been here for 33 years.
The fuselage is reasonably intact from the flapjack rearwards. It still retains its cross sectional shape and is unburned. Yet a mattress, lying at the forward open end has pieces of molten aluminium moulded around its exposed wires. The RAAF roundel is still visible on the starboard side and the silver lacquer still covers the aircraft's aluminium skin.
Inside, the airframe is protected by green anti‑oxidant paint. The names of many bushwalkers are tattooed onto almost every square inch of available space and the surrounding countryside shows that many people have been there over the years. The main‑spar is ahead of the remaining fuselage, cut through by souvenir hunters.
Because of the fires which raged through the forward part of the aircraft after the impact, little remains of the cockpit. Yet I picked up an 18 inch section of the frame which made up the windscreen and Perspex cockpit assembly. A charred radio here, bent and twisted oleo legs there litter the area. The bomb bay doors, about in their correct relative positions, seem miraculously undamaged and could be carried away by if one had the desire or equipment to lift them.
To the left, facing down the hill in the direction the aircraft had come from, lays the starboard inner wing. On the top is the exposed fuel tank, its outer covering burned away, yet the undersides virtually undamaged despite the fearsome heat of the fires. Underneath this part of the wing is the starboard flap. This is very much in the down position and resting against a rock. Despite the fact that the crash report indicates that the flaps were up at the time of impact, I imagine that the force of the wing breaking away from the control tubes must have allowed the flap to fall. Further away lays a substantial portion of the same wing. Although damaged, it is one of the larger sections of aircraft remaining at the site.
In the same area are two tubular steel engine frames, now rusted and very twisted, embracing the trees which felled the Lincoln and stripped them of their charges.
Further down the hill I spied the unmistakeable shape of the extreme rear of the fuselage where the Boulton‑Paul gun turret was mounted. The turret itself now lies in the RAAF store at Dubbo (NSW) having been removed along with the tail surfaces in 1977. The tail plane actually twisted itself free during the impact and landed on top of the main fuselage and contained the only part considered to be salvageable by the crash analysis team, the tail wheel and tyre.
Simon picked up a fairly large section of the rear fuselage which contained a door frame. The paint work was immaculate and still bore a dashed red line stencilled upon it. We were later able to identify this as the area of the rear crew door and the red line indicated the external access to the first aid box.
None of the engines was seen at the crash site. We understand that one is on display at the Darling Downs air Museum at Oakey and we know that one other is at the foot of the final climb.
As it happens, we later found a third engine sitting in the creek quite some distance from the main site where it, too, has been moved by would-be collectors.
After our walk around and the shooting of some colour 35mm film for prints we assembled in the main fuselage section to mount a plaque which I had had made. We chose a spot in the mid upper gun turret opening and drilled holes for "pop" rivets with a portable electric drill I had carried for this purpose. We took some stills and video of the operation and I said a few words to dedicate the plaque.
The brass plate bears the inscription: " Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth ..... In honour of Sqn.Ldr. J.W.Finlay RAAF. Warwick and Peter visited this site Easter 1988." I recited the whole poem and said how proud I was that we had chosen to make the trip. It was hard to say the words for the floods of emotion kept sweeping over me. This was, to me, the purpose for which we had been guided to this place and I was glad that we had achieved our goal.
We gathered up a few parts of the aircraft, Warwick treasured a section of aluminium with part of a roundel still upon it and Simon determined to carry the 1 metre square section of rear fuselage down the mountain with him. Not desecration of the site, just loving memory. In time there will be nothing left on Mount Superbus.
We paused to read a brass plaque which has been re‑affixed to a rock by the Ipswich Venturer Scouts in 1974 to replace the original which had been stolen.
Our descent was by way of a well‑marked creek which provided a rather easier path than our upwards route. On the way we found many parts of the Lincoln. A supercharger from one of the Merlins looked very tempting but it was far too heavy to carry so we left it in place. The boys were forced to allow Simon's fuselage section to free fall much of the way and many times Scott tried to dissuade Simon from carrying it further. To his credit, Simon refused to be swayed in his determination and I nodded with satisfaction at his will.
About half way down the creek, we came across the second Merlin mentioned earlier. It, too, has been stripped of the cylinder heads and sump. This one is not structurally- damaged like the first we found.... probably a starboard engine, the other probably a port unit which may have borne the brunt of the initial impact. After a very wet hour of climbing down through the running creek, we came to the old road at a point just south of the first Merlin. From here we made our way along the track to the Nissan, Simon finally allowing me to help him with his prize. Lovely to be with my son.
Back at the Nissan we changed out of our wet clothing. We ate some nourishing food packed by our ever‑thoughtful wives and headed towards home through the flooded creeks again. The trip was punctuated with rounds of boy's jokes as we came down from the "high" we had all experienced. Home at last at about 10 pm; we were able to tell of our exploits with the aid of an instant video of the trip.
On the following day we completed our pilgrimage by visiting the lawn graves in Lutwych cemetery in Brisbane.
My father as well as John Costello, Charles Mason and William Cater lie here in a row.
They are not the only RAAF crew to be interred here. The 16 occupants of Lincoln A73‑11 were buried in a row after the aircraft crashed at Amberley on 18th February 1948. This flight had been from Victoria and the aircraft was carrying a number of Merlin engines as well as large quantities of paint and thinners. After a missed approach, the aircraft climbed to about 500 feet over the airfield, stalled and plunged into the ground. A possible cause of the crash was the movement of the load during the go‑round.
The remains of the medical evacuees on board A73‑64, baby Robyn Huxley and Sister Mafalda Gray, were flown by direction of the RAAF in accordance with family wishes to Townsville for burial.
However, several events were to ensue before they were to rest. A Lincoln (piloted by John Laming) was despatched from Townsville to return the bodies from Brisbane. When the Lincoln was started for the return journey, the booster pumps were inadvertently switched on, flooding the engines and preventing start up. Several hours were lost attempting to cure this problem. When the aircraft eventually taxied out for a second attempt to take off, the G3 compass spun erratically and would not stabilise. With bad weather forecast, the crew did not want to risk a second accident.
Since no replacement Lincoln was available from Amberley, the coffins were transferred to a MMA DC 3 which was due to leave at midnight. This aircraft also suffered an engine malfunction during run up and had to return to the terminal.
Finally, in the early hours of the morning of the funeral the caskets were loaded onto an Ansett DC3 which eventually arrived at Townsville, it, too, having suffered complete HF/VHF radio failure during the flight. When the crew of the Lincoln attempted to return to Townsville on the following day, the aircraft performed normally and the seven members flew safely back, wondering at the string of coincidences which had conspired to follow certain souls.
The remains of A73‑64 constitute the bulk of Lincoln parts still in existence in Australia. Only the cockpit section of A73‑27 is preserved at the Camden Air Museum. Harold Thomas, owner of the museum worked at the Chullora railway yards where the cockpit sections of Lincolns were manufactured. He was able to save his specimen from total destruction after the aircraft was used as a fire‑fighting unit at Mascot on the site of the present international air terminal.
Harold also has a control column and a full set of instruments which he plans to install in the refurbished cockpit. The letter items came home to roost in their original position after a chap, whose sons had removed these items from the aircraft as lads, decided to donate them to Harold Thomas.
A tyre and wheel from a Lincoln is preserved somewhere in Victoria while Harold Thomas received a full set of cockpit Plexiglas still in its original container from a friend in Queensland.
A propeller and part of a rudder of A73-64 are on display at Caboulture Aviation Museum.
Proceedings of the Court of Enquiry. Crash of Lincoln A73-64. 1955
Lincoln at War- 1944-66. Garbett.M. and Goulding. B. Ian Allen Publishing 1979. England
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE?
Fatal accident involving Red Sales aerobatic team near
East Sale, Victoria, 15th August 1962
At 1344hrs on the 15th August 1962, four Vampire jet trainer aircraft took off from East Sale for a period of formation aerobatic training in the area southeast of the airfield within the height band of 500-5,000 ft.
Arrangements had been made with ATC to operate on a discrete frequency (142.92 MHz) so that they would not interfere with normal operations. This frequency was not monitored.
At approximately 1400hrs, a Dakota aircraft reported to the East Sale tower an observation of black smoke and an explosion in the Dutson Bombing and Gunnery Range area. Investigation revealed that all four Vampire aircraft had crashed 7.5 nm southeast of the airfield. Rescue and fire fighting vehicles were despatched to the area immediately. Shortly afterwards it was ascertained that all six members involved had been killed.
To many around at the time, the accident was almost beyond comprehension - not one, but four aircraft lost in a single instant. The accident, understandably, attracted considerable media coverage both locally and overseas.
The Red Sales accident is one of the more tragic episodes in RAAF non-combat flying safety (ranking alongside the loss of Lincoln A 73-011 at Amberley on 19 Feb 48 (Spotlight 3/92), Caribou A4-233 in PNG on 28 Aug 72, and the loss of Boeing 707 A20-103 near East Sale on 29 Oct 91).
In this anniversary year (1996), where the celebrations will include many formation (and solo) air displays, it is worth taking a few moments to review the following tragedy and, perhaps, learn something positive from it.
The Red Sales team was practising for a RAAF Open Day Display on the 16th September 1962. The four aircraft struck the ground almost simultaneously in the final stages of completing a low-level barrel roll. They crashed in close proximity to each other in a shallow dive and at an estimated speed of over 300 kts. The No 3 in the formation struck the ground slightly ahead and approximately 150 yards to the port side of the others. On impact, three aircraft exploded - wreckage and debris was scattered over a distance of approximately half a mile. The wreckage of No 3 in the formation was not as completely disintegrated as the others as it had 'levelled out' just prior to impact.
All four pilots were staff members of the Central Flying School (CFS), as well as members of the aerobatic team. Additionally, two other CFS staff members were flying as passengers: one as an observer, nominated to eventually replace one of the team members; the other to assist with operation of one aircraft's ancillary controls where the pilot was flying from the right seat.
All pilots were very experienced. Their total flying hours were in the range 2 500-4 000, and hours on type 460-1 300. They were all medically fit for flying, although an examination of the formation leader's medical documents revealed that he had been medically grounded during 1959 for 18 months. Further investigation revealed also that during 1956 there was at least one occasion during which he had suffered a temporary disorientation.
The formation leader was selected as leader of the team because he was considered by his Commanding Officer to be the most suitable officer. Although he had joined the Red Sales only a short time before the accident, he was considered by his superiors to possess the desired qualities as an officer and a pilot.
One fact which influenced the Commanding Officer in his choice was the need to obtain a leader who could be expected to remain at East Sale for two years or more. The other members of the team had been at East Sale for some time and their instructional tour was therefore drawing to a close. Other factors which led to the leader's appointment were:
At the time of the accident the formation leader was leading his fifth aerobatics sortie - one in June, another in July and the remainder in August. During August, the team had settled down to an increased rate of training which was to be further increased to two sorties per week.
There was ample evidence of the leader's stability and sound temperament. Most witnesses amplified his reserved and careful approach to flying, and believed it unlikely he would introduce any new manoeuvre or variation to the display sequence in which the formation as a whole was not thoroughly familiar and practised. It was also considered that he would not intentionally set about performing manoeuvres below the specified minimum height.
There was no evidence that personal problems, overwork, or undue emotional or physical stress might have influenced his capability as a pilot and leader of a formation. Evidence as to his personal habits would indicate to the contrary, particularly as regards the consumption of alcohol.
Personnel who had critically observed the team during previous practice sessions over the airfield, assessed the minimum height to be in
During training, many favourable observations had been made as to the efficiency and reliability of the team. A number of people on the unit had flown as ballast crew. The pattern set by the team indicated that they were not prone to taking unnecessary risks, flying in accordance with their flight briefing.
The standard routine was to carry out a sequence of loops, steep turns and barrel rolls in that order, finishing with a downward bomb burst. The speeds for all manoeuvres were in the vicinity of 300 kts and 3g accelerations were seldom exceeded. On all barrel rolls to the left, the routine was to complete a full roll and then to enter a turn in the same direction.
the order of 500 ft, although one aircrew member who flew with the team had cause to comment regarding a fly past before commencing a loop. The height on that occasion was read as 300 ft on the aircraft altimeter.
Flight authorisation and aircraft serviceabilty
The flight authorisation in the Form A 71 showed the flight correctly authorised as a 'Red Sales formation exercise as briefed'. No mention was included relating to safety heights. As the Red Sales were led by one selected pilot who performed a fixed routine within limits prescribed by the Commanding Officer at CFS, it was considered there was no need for special written orders.
A study of the aircraft log books and the E/E 77s revealed that there were no recurring unserviceabilities on any aircraft and all were fully serviceable for flight.
The customary procedure prior to each flight by the Red Sales was for the formation leader to brief the members of the team as a group. It was normal for the leader to cover the following aspects in his briefing:
The briefing on this occasion was of an informal nature. It was conducted by the formation leader with the members of the team sitting around the fire in the crew room. A pilot who was in the vicinity of the briefing room during the greater part of this time overheard much of what was discussed and was convinced that the briefing was thorough and relevant. He distinctly remembered the concluding remark made by the briefing officer who stated:
“/ shall carry out a routine sequence of manoeuvres and try not to introduce anything new, nor omit anything.”
Weather and topography
Reliable reports from the impact area and the spotter Dakota assessed the local weather as fine and virtually cloudless with very slight turbulence.
The terrain in the vicinity of the crash was extremely flat with about a one degree gradual slope rising from 50-100 ft AMSL. An east-west bitumen road close to the impact area and bombing and gunnery range, ran alongside an open drain with power lines on the south side.
Eye witness accounts
Several civilian witnesses working in the area observed the formation carrying out their training sequence. In general they had viewed the aircraft, under conditions of good visibility, carrying out loops, steep turns and barrel rolls at low altitude. In all the manoeuvres, the witnesses were impressed by the precision positioning of the aircraft in tight formation.
Only one witness gave his full attention to the last manoeuvre preceding the crash. The area was one in which aircraft from East Sale were continually operating at low level on training and armament exercises. For the most part, the witnesses had been preoccupied and only noticed the formation when it came into their immediate field of view or their attention was drawn to it. No witness, except a former RAAF pilot, had a complete picture of the final manoeuvre and crash.
While there was insufficient evidence to establish the exact sequence of aerobatic manoeuvres and altitudes flown preceding the accident, eye witness accounts suggest that the normal practice routine was being carried out and at altitudes down to the minimum prescribed, if not lower. Loops and steep turns were observed prior to the formation commencing a climb from which the fatal barrel roll to the left was initiated.
During a test in which a Vampire aircraft was flown overhead on simulated runs, the one witness to the final manoeuvre displayed a sound ability to assess height fairly accurately and indicated that the four aircraft had entered the fatal barrel roll at about 500 ft, with a nose-up attitude of about 10°, which resulted in a maximum height gain of not more than a few hundred feet. After passing the inverted position the formation appeared to the witness to dive at a steep nose-down angle, flattening in the final stages before striking the ground.
From a study of the impact area and discussion with witnesses, it was assessed that the formation climbed on a heading of 265 degrees M which positioned them immediately south of Seacombs Road, two miles from the impact point. The final barrel roll to the left was then commenced which led to impact with the ground immediately south of the road.
Wreckage site examination
There was some intermingling of the wreckage of Lead and No 2 on the surface of their respective craters. Positive identification was established from identifiable components such as brake 'Maxaret' units which were deeply buried in the crater.
The individual aircraft flight paths at the time of impact were determined by compass sightings taken through the clearly obvious centre-line of each impact crater.
In comparing the individual flight paths and impact points at the moment of the crash, and in relating this comparison to the fatal manoeuvre, the following deductions were made:
All the damage to the airframe structures of the four aircraft was consistent with the aircraft striking the ground at high speed.
In every case the control surfaces were either still attached to the main surfaces or had been torn from the hinge points, as could be expected from the broken-up condition of the wreckage. There was no evidence to suggest that any control surface has failed or become detached in flight.
Broken control cables had failed with the characteristic fraying associated with grossly excessive tension loads.
No evidence was found to suggest there had been a midair collision or birdstrike.
The lead aircraft had struck the ground right wing low in a nosedown attitude. The outer portion of the right mainplane had broken off relatively intact. The aircraft had then overturned as was evidenced by the turf marks on the top surface of the port mainplane and the ruptured condition of the booms.
No 2 aircraft had impacted in a level attitude but at a high rate of descent. The plan form of the aircraft was plainly visible in the soft ground. The fuel tanks had also burst and the fuel had ignited.
No 3 aircraft was not nearly as broken up as were the three other aircraft. In fact, the instrument panel of this aircraft was found relatively intact. The damage sustained on impact was consistent with a high speed but low rate of descent.
No 4 aircraft had struck the ground in a tail-down attitude. The skin of the underside of the left mainplane had virtually disappeared but portion of the upper surface skin of this mainplane had burst from its securing rivets and was quite bright and clean. Much of the right mainplane undersurface was still attached, and the top surface was distorted by an explosion inside the mainplane. The aircraft must also have had a high rate of descent.
The turbine discs of Lead, No 2 and No 4 aircraft became detached from the engines and it was evident from the condition of the turbine blades that these engines were under power at the time of impact.
The turbine disc of No 3 aircraft was still attached to the shaft of the engine, due to the lesser rate of descent of this aircraft. The turbine wheel had dissipated its inertia by grinding away the nozzle guide vanes of the engine. Here again it was evident that the engine had been under power at the time of impact.
Virtually the only aircraft instrument that yielded information was the clock of No 3. This showed a trip duration of 25 minutes and had stopped at 1403 hrs.
No evidence was found that would lead to the belief that any other item of equipment in the aircraft had in any way contributed to the accident.
Discussion of the evidence
Formation flying requires great concentration on control and positioning. It is essential that all formation members rely implicitly on the leader for altitude, attitude and safety considerations. They concentrate solely on precision positioning. It follows that an explanation as to why the leader allowed a hazardous situation to develop will account for all aircraft crashing. No 3 attempted individual recovery at a very late stage despite the prerogative of the leader to carry out this action for all. This fact in itself indicates there may have been something wrong with the leader or lead aircraft, as the formation leader should have had the best appreciation of the situation.
Investigation determined that all engines were under power at the time of impact. Further, had power failure occurred in the lead aircraft the formation would have lost its identity immediately, and at a height sufficient to enable breakaway action to be taken. The leader would not have aggravated the situation by adopting such a flight profile.
There was no evidence to suggest that an unserviceability of engine, airframe, or other equipment was the direct or indirect cause of the accident.
It was considered possible the leader could have encountered control loss due to foreign object jamming. During recovery from a barrel roll, increasing back pressure is required on the control column. This is particularly so as the angle of bank reduces to around about 20°-30°. Thus, any restriction which did not occur before this required amount of back stick was needed would not have been evident to the pilot before this stage of the roll was reached.
A pilot confronted with this situation at 600-700 ft would most probably resort to 'pulling hard'. The natural tendency would be to use both hands on the control column. In such circumstances it would be foreign to remove one hand to use the R/T button on the throttle lever. Also, in such a situation the manoeuvre would follow a flight path closely akin to the last stages of a normal barrel roll. The aircraft would be decreasing its angle of dive, which would give the other members of the formation the impression that recovery was fairly normal. Too low a height would be their first indication of trouble and this when it was too late. This is probably the only type of difficulty which could thus confuse them. From examination of the wreckage it was quite impossible to determine whether such a restriction had occurred.
As leader, a pilot would continually cross-reference on his ASI and altimeter. An erroneous indication either by an altimeter malfunction or misreading could influence his key positioning. This would not, however, override his visual observations and orientation, and action could have been taken to initiate a more positive recovery.
A midair collision immediately prior to the aircraft striking the ground could have been a possible cause; however, it could only have occurred at a very late stage of the roll and in such a manner that it was not observed by the witnesses who watched the aircraft complete an aerobatic manoeuvre and dive into the ground.
The possibility that No 3 may have collided with the leader is not borne out by the observations of witnesses. Although No 3 was observed to break from the formation, this was due to his appreciation of the impending impact.
Lack of visibility on the part of the leader might have been a contributory factor. However, no substantial evidence to this effect was determined. While the final track of the formation was into the sun, the aircraft were on a downward path at the conclusion of the barrel roll. The angle of elevation of the sun at that time of day on the 15th August 1962 was 30° above the horizon; therefore, dazzle from the sun was not considered to have been a direct cause.
Close attention was given to the medical aspects of the investigation, particularly in the case of the formation leader. The fact that Lead had been subject to a medical board arising from an incident in Malaya was well known to many flying personnel at the time. This was the subject of a considerable amount of inaccurate gossip as soon as the accident became known, the reference being to 'blackouts' which Lead was said to have experienced. The medical conclusion
was that there was no evidence of physical disability on the part of the formation leader contributing to the accident.
The final manoeuvre
A loose barrel roll is a very simple manoeuvre to carry out. The leader may have allowed the nose of his aircraft to drop to such a degree that recovery from the resultant dive was impossible.
The accepted objective in a barrel roll is to produce a helical flight path through 360° in the rolling plane and encircling a pre-selected point directly ahead of the line of flight. The selected point is normally on or slightly above the horizon. Ideally the flight path should describe identical symmetrical arcs above and below the horizontal level of the selected point.
To achieve this objective, one of the two following basic techniques is usually employed:
1. Entry to the manoeuvre is from a shallow dive directly towards the selected point and a turn of approximately 30° away from this point, in the opposite direction of the barrel roll. The nose is then raised and rolled, aiming to keep the 30° angle off from the selected point constant throughout the helical circumference of the roll.
2. Entry to the manoeuvre is from a shallow dive with wings level and on a flight path positioned to one side of the selected point, giving an angle off of 30° from this point. The nose is then raised to 30 above the selected point and rolled, aiming to keep the 30° angle-off constant throughout the helical circumference of the roll.
There are many variable factors which govern the flight profile during a barrel roll. The more important ones, each of which is variable, and all of which are controlled by pilot technique, are:
In the case of a sequence of aerobatics, the aircraft may commence a barrel roll from level flight at the conclusion of a previous manoeuvre, because adequate speed has already been acquired and the aircraft is at the minimum specified altitude.
Had the formation leader intended to perform a barrel roll about a horizontal axis, an error of judgment or faulty technique could have resulted in an excessive loss of height. If it were being performed a very low altitude, then the safety margin would be reduced accordingly. In this instance the difficulty of recovering a formation from such a situation must be considered, especially as regards restricted manoeuvrability.
Either or both of the following factors could have been an underlying cause of the accident:
1. The accepted practice of observing a minimum height of 500 ft for formation team aerobatic manoeuvres. It is apparent that the Red Sales were in the habit of executing formation aerobatic manoeuvres down to the minimum briefed height of 500 ft. If the formation had initiated their final barrel roll at a height of 1 000 ft, the accident would not have occurred.
2. Insufficient regular practice by the leader in performing the team aerobatic routine at low level. It is significant that subsequent to flying a total of four dual sorties and one solo lead sortie during practice sessions by the Red Sales, prior to the departure of the previous leader of the team, the leader had led the team on only four occasions, which were spread over a period of eight weeks.
Due to the very nature of this accident and the degree of aircraft breakup, post-impact examination achieved only limited results in some aspects. Consequently, there was insufficient evidence to isolate with certainty anyone underlying cause.
It was established that the accident to the formation resulted from failure of the leader to carry out timely recovery action when committed to a low-level aerobatic manoeuvre. Whilst the cause of the accident will never be positively known and certain speculation must always exist, credence must be given to the following three possibilities:
However, the weight of evidence indicated that the accident occurred as a result of an error of judgment, or faulty technique on the part of the leader.
With the forming of the two east coast squadrons to provide fighters for Port Moresby and for the defence of Townsville, a third Squadron was being formed at Pearce, Western Australia, also during early March 42. Its initial complement of P-40Es was a mixture of Russian Lendlease P-40Es with a couple of repaired ex-USAAF Provisional Squadron P-40Es added.
The Unit, 77 Squadron (Fighter Interception) was formed on the 16th March 1942 at Pearce, Western Australia, under the temporary command of Squadron Leader D.F.Forysth.
The first P-40E (A29-50) assembled and tested from the shipment of eighteen that were unloaded on the 25th February 1942 at Fremantle, was delivered to the unit on the 19th March 1942. This was followed by A29-57 on the 20th March 1942.
A29-49 and A29-51 followed it on the 21st and 22nd March 1942 respectively after being assembled at Maylands Airport, Perth. A29-62 arrived the following day.
Sqr Ldr R E P Brooker (RAF) was assigned as the first permanent commander on the 23rd March 1942 and arrived the following day. This followed only a fortnight after his evacuation from Badoeng, Java on the 6th March 1942 by Dutch Lodestar. He was only one of eight RAF officers who were evacuated at this time on the RAF allocation of seats. This was the last official RAF evacuation flight out of Java. Previously he commanded 232 Squadron (Provisional) RAF in Singapore and Sumatra; then finally 232/242 Squadron in Java, all being equipped with 12-gun Hurricane IIBs that were either shipped in by freighter (51) or flown off the carrier, HMS Indomitable (48). His combat and flying experience no doubt prompted his appointment.
On the 26th March 1942, after flying trans-continental from Laverton, Victoria, in P-40E A29-72, Flt Lt. R C Cresswell Ser#402, arrived at Pearce. On the 27th March 1942, another P-40E (A29-52) was added from Maylands. A29-55 and A29-56 followed on the 30th March 1942 from the same assembly source.
Thus by the end of March 1942, 77Sqn could boast nine P-40Es on strength.
The first accident happened on the 4th April 1942 when P/O S E Armstrong whilst taxying A29-56 back to the hanger after concluding a training flight, collided head on with a Dept of the Interior truck on the runway. This caused damage to the port wing, some three ribs back from the tip, the port aileron, airscrew, cowling and radiator gills, and broke both bracing struts on the port leg.
Two additional P-40Es (A29-63 and A29-53) arrived on the 8th April 1942 from Maylands. A further two were to follow the next day (A29-61 and with A29-62, being returned)
Up to this point, all deliveries, apart from A29-72, were assembled and delivered from Maylands. Several P-40Es (The count is 6) of the eighteen unloaded were also delivered to Cunderdin for assembly.
The first two of this batch (A29-58 and A29-59) were received on the 10th April 1942.
Another 4 (A29-54, 65, 66, and 67) followed on the 12th April 1942 from this assembly site.
Due to the immediate threat of Japanese carrier activity in the Indian Ocean, “A” Flight was dispersed to operate from Dunreath, Western Australia.
Another accident took place on the 16th April 1942 when Flt Lt D M Sproule, piloting A29-58 on takeoff at Dunreath, encountered loose sand at high speed which caused the aircraft to pitch forward and make contact between the prop and ground. The resultant contact caused the aircraft propeller and spinner to dig in, and causing further damage to the reduction gear and radiator cowling. The undue stress then finally caused the undercarriage to collapse prior to the aircraft being stopped with further damage to the mainplane. The aircraft was retrieved and returned to Pearce for survey and repair by the 27th April 1942. It would re-emerge by late July 1942 to return to 77Sqn.
A29- 59 ex 41-13525 as “K” with 77 F Sqn April 1942
By the 20th April 1942, Sqr Ldr Ray Brooker (RAF) was transferred to 76 F Sqn and replaced by Flt Lt R C Cresswell Ser# 402.
On this day two separate accidents at Guildford involving P-40Es occurred:
· A29-60, piloted by P/O B.Wilson whilst landing had his port main gear fold back causing damaged to the port wing tip, flaps and bending the blades of the propeller.
· A29-62, piloted by acting Sergeant Pilot A C McKenzie-King, damaged the flaps when he overshot his landing on the runway with an obstruction.
Another landing accident followed on the 24th April 1942 when Sgt M Holdsworth, in A29-67, had his port main tyre burst on contact, causing the aircraft to tilt forward causing damage to one blade tip of the propeller
April closed having eighteen aircraft delivered to 77Sqn, with only 11 serviceable. One, A29-58 had been returned to depot for repairs.
Throughout May 1942, the squadron continued to mount patrols over and around the Perth, Fremantle and Rottenest Island areas. These were mainly scrambles to intercept un-identified aircraft.
On the 15th May 1942 at 0730hrs, whilst on an un-authorised flight in A29-64, Flt Lt D L Daly suffered an engine fire following takeoff at an altitude of 50ft. The aircraft, still with the undercarriage down, landed heavily and crashed. The fire continued, resulting in burn injuries to Daly and the aircraft being burnt out.
This particular aircraft was one of some thirty-five P-40E/E-1s that had transited Australia with the 33rd/13thPS to be loaded onto the USS Langley in mid February 1942. Piloted by 2nd Lieutenant J.P. Martin (USAAF Air Reserve, Service No. 0-427557), it was damaged on landing at Maylands airfield at Perth on the 17th February 1942. After his starboard wing hit a 15 feet high windsock pole while landing, the aircraft struck the ground on its right wheel and skidded sideways. Being too late to be repaired for the ill-fated sailing, it was left behind and turned over to the RAAF, who repaired it by the 16th March 1942.
A29-64 that crashed on the 15/05/42 was ex-41-5366 (Eng#40-3337) 13thPS(Prov)
Another P-40E was damaged on the 22nd May 1942 whilst moving off the runway at Guildford, A29-55 piloted by P/O R C Kimpton, struck a tree guard and damaged the propellers.
Later following repairs on the 27th May 1942 on its test flight, it lost its canopy when the aircraft was lowering its landing gear on landing. With a replacement canopy, it was finally returned to squadron service.
Welcome reinforcements arrived in the form of four P-40Es on the 31st May 1942 after being flown from Laverton Victoria. They were A29-112, 113, 114 and 115, which brought the number of aircraft held by the squadron to twenty.
A29-112 “P” 77Sqn ex-41-36098 (ET744) early June 1942
On the 1st June 1942, Flt Lt R C Cresswell, who was acting commander of the squadron since the departure of Sqr Ldr Brooker in April 1942, was granted the acting rank of Squadron Leader. Throughout the month a number of interceptions took place which were all deemed as friendly aircraft when interception was successful.
On the 5th June 1942 Flt Lt G R Shave, whilst taxying back to the dispersal in A29-115, struck soft ground, causing the undercarriage to collapse and damaging the propeller tips. The E/E 88 Card for A29-115 has this date changed to the 6th June 1942, rather then the A50 date entry of the previous day. In any event, the A50 entry follows after the 12th June 1942, therefore the date 6th June 1942 would seem to be correct.
As of the 11th June 1942, No 77 F Sqn came under the operational command of Western Area Command. P/O John C Gorton, Ser#400793, previously flying Hurricanes in Singapore with 232 Sqn RAF (Prov) and future Prime Minister of Australia (1968-1971), arrived on the 20th June 1942.
As at the end of June 1942, 77 F Sqn held twenty P-40E/E-1s with four unserviceable on strength.
Again in early July 1942, more interceptions were made; again all were identified as friendly.
On the 8th July 1942, Sgt L R Ballard in A29-49 carried out a successful forced landing at Pearce following a drop in oil pressure and the increase of engine temperature. Per the E/E 88 card there was no damaged suffered by the aircraft.
A29-56, piloted by Sgt T P Power Ser#408700 on a night flight take-off on the 10th July 1942, suffered engine trouble at 550ft. He brought the aircraft down onto the runway flare path, with wheels and flaps down with no apparent damage suffered by the aircraft.
On the following day, P/O J A Hodgkinson Ser#411495 brought A29-57 in at Pearce aerodrome on a forced landing due to a rise in engine temperature following the loss of oil pressure from a failed pump.
Sgt M J Baker Ser#402903, on the 15th July 1942, lost control of A29-50 (ex-41-5737 Eng#41-9264) after entering clouds at around 7000ft and was forced to baled out at 3000ft. The aircraft was a complete write-off. The wreck was transported to Pearce where salvage was completed by the 8th October 1942.
On the 24th July 1942, orders were received advising that 77 F Sqn would be transferred to the North Western Area by the 1st August 1942. They would be replacing units of the 49th Fighter Group who were to move into New Guinea. They would transit the great west during August 1942.
We close here to leave the follow-on chapter of 77 Sqn in the Darwin area 1942 for another Part in P40E/E-1 Operations in Australia
In a future Newsletter: Part 10 will be the movement and initial operations of the 9th Pursuit Squadron to Darwin, March 1942.
I would like to express my special thanks to the P-40E “Mafia” (Buz, Shane, Bob, Peter and Gordon C) for their help. This particular Part 9 owes a lot of the details to 77Sqn A50 History Sheets, A29 Series RAAF Forms E/E 88, recorded history and personal extracts/records to bring this mosaic of a true story together.
The research would not have been possible without the Airforce Historical Research Association in the USA for aircraft data cards, the National Archives of Australia and to those people who added “important” bits, here and there, especially Log Book entries, to make this story possible.
Gordon R Birkett ©2004 Researcher & Coordinator for ADF-Serials Site (Specializing WW2)
1 June 1918 First use of aircraft in combat by ships of the Royal Australian Navy when aircraft were launched from HMAS Sydney and HMAS Melbourne to intercept two German aircraft in the Heligoland Bight.
10 June 1944 Last Japanese aircraft shot down in the New Guinea campaign
16 June 1948 Start of Malayan Emergency
17 June 1940 First Hudson crash when A16-58 (6 SQN) with crew FLTLT J.D.B. Hamilton (pilot) and AirCDT W.M. Stewart crashed about 5 miles north of Windsor, NSW
20 June 1985 Loss of Mirage IIIO A3-89 from 75SQN. FLGOFF I.W. Davidson flying as No.2 to the Squadrons CO’, as part of a two aircraft, night low level intercept training mission, crashed into sea off Darwin.
25 June 1942 First Beaufort lost during operations in the Southwest Pacific Area. A9-52 from 100SQN with crew SQNLDR Charles Sage, FLGOFF Douglas Wormald, FSGT Charles Patterson and SGT Douglas Desmond disappeared on a night raid on Japanese positions and shipping.
27 June 1950 Six RAAF Lincolns from No 1 Sqn and a flight of Dakotas from 38 Sqn were sent to Malaya for involvement in the Malayan Emergency.
30 June 1950 77 Sqn RAAF equipped with Mustangs were committed to combat in the war in Korea.
Thank you to Dean and his aircrew losses research, the Australian War Memorial’s “This Month” and the RSL Diary for dates for this month’s On this Day segment- Jan
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