Crash of a Douglas C-47A-20-DK at Cowombat Ridge: 1 killed

Date & Time: Aug 24, 1954 at 1100 LT
Operator:
Registration:
A65-50
Flight Phase:
Flight Type:
Survivors:
Yes
Site:
Schedule:
Sale – Bathurst – Richmond – Canberra – Sale
MSN:
13082
YOM:
1944
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
4
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
0
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
1
Circumstances:
The aircraft took off from Sale bound for Bathurst and Richmond. During the flight the starboard engine lost power but the plane was able to make a safe landing at Canberra. No cause for the engine failure could be found and the next morning the DC-3 departed Canberra for Sale (East Sale Airbase). At approximately 11am, just before reaching Mt Kosciuszko, the starboard engine again failed. This time however the plane lost altitude dramatically and was subject to severe turbulence. The only option was to attempt a forced landing. At that point an open flat appeared amongst the mass of forested mountains. Laurie Hawes and Bernie Mullen struggled to control the stricken aircraft while Frank Howie sent out a distress signal. They circled the flat and made their approach. Before the Dakota could land it had to clear a ridge which resulted in too much height and speed for landing on the open ground. The Murray River had to be negotiated, which runs across the flat as a small gully, as well as the severe turbulence and only one functioning engine. In the few remaining seconds Laurie made the decision to stall the plane into the timber on the south-western side of the flat. There was a group of three trees in a triangle, which he attempted to position the plane between. Hopefully they would take the force of the wings and nose. One of the trees was a little further forward than anticipated and as the Dakota hit the timber it skewed around. A large eucalyptus crashed into the cockpit destroying the starboard side where Bernie Mullen sat. The port wing sheared off and one of the blades of the starboard propeller sliced through the floor of the signaler's compartment. Finally the plane came to a halt. Laurie recalls "the silence was deafening". Frank and Eric escaped with slight lacerations and they released Laurie who was trapped by his legs and had sustained a deep laceration to his calf. All were suffering from shock but fearing an explosion they dragged the unconscious Bernie away from the wreckage. Nothing could be done for him. He had multiple injuries and died a few minutes after the impact. The survivors set about finding some shelter and wondered if they would be rescued from this remote location and when it might be. The weather was cold and miserable. The only shelter was the chimney of an old stockman's hut ruin on the northern side of the flat. Fortunately the distress signal that Frank sent immediately prior to the crash had been received. A little over one hour after impact a RAAF search plane piloted by Flight Sergeant Frank Daniel located the survivors. Through a series of weighted paper messages search planes were able to communicate with those on the ground and drop them survival rations. Two ground search parties then set out. The first was led by Omeo policeman Lionel Baddeley and contained several men with local knowledge, amongst them four of the Pendergasts, one of the local pioneering mountain families. The second party was the RAAF search party led by Group Captain W. N. Gibson. Baddeley's party camped out then pushed on in the early hours of August 26. They drove as far as they could and then continued on foot via an old overgrown mining track for another 10 miles. Late that morning they reached the survivors. After a short rest the long trek out began. The airmen were stiff, sore and no doubt still in shock. Their rescuers were tired having already covered the rugged, densely vegetated terrain. In addition they had to carry out Bernie Mullen's body on a bush stretcher made from saplings. All found the trip arduous. Just before nightfall they reached the vehicles. From there they drove to Benambra and spent the night at the pub. Frank Howie recalls "After the hospitality of the locals in the public bar no one needed rocking that night." The next day the airmen returned to Sale. Before long Laurie Hawes was flying again. It was business as normal and the flat at the headwaters of the Murray returned to its former tranquility. Nowadays there is little left of Dakota DC3, A65-50. The RAAF removed parts for the crash investigation and the Snowy Mountains Authority built a hut using materials salvaged from the shell. People wanting a souvenir of the site took the remainder piece by piece. With so little of the aircraft left, the story of Dakota DC-3, A65-50 was likely to be lost and with it another part of our alpine heritage. Historian's Noel Gough and Dianne Carroll have spent a great deal of time and effort researching this story and documenting it. They tracked down survivors of the crash and their rescuers and a reunion was held to mark the event on 15th and 16th March this year at the Benambra Hotel, where the aircrew was first taken after their ordeal. Staff attended the gathering from Alpine and Kosciuszko National Parks who now manage the grassy flat where the DC-3 came to rest. As one of the attendees at the reunion, it was a privilege to hear the survivors and rescuers recount their versions of the events first hand. A commemorative souvenir has been produced which gives a full account of this story. It is available from Dianne Carrol.
Crew:
F/Lt Laurie Hawes, pilot,
F/O Bernard Mullein, copilot, †
F/Lt Eric Walker, navigator,
P/O Frank Howie, signaler.
Source:
Amanda Carey Ranger
Namadgi National Park
ACT Parks & Conservation Service
Despite the credit given above to Gough and Carroll, it was Canberra historian Matthew Higgins who researched and wrote the story of the plane’s last flight, the crash, and the rescue. It is his article that appears in the commemorative souvenir booklet, though without adequate acknowledgement.
Probable cause:
Failure of the right engine in flight.

Crash of a Short S.25 Sunderland MR.5 off Flying Fish Cove

Date & Time: Jun 21, 1954
Type of aircraft:
Operator:
Registration:
SZ599
Flight Type:
Survivors:
Yes
YOM:
1946
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
0
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
0
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
0
Circumstances:
While landing off the island, the seaplane hit a swell, lost a float and came to rest. There were no casualties but the aircraft was considered as damaged beyond repair.

Crash of a Douglas C-47A-5-DK off Mackay: 2 killed

Date & Time: Mar 14, 1954 at 0420 LT
Operator:
Registration:
VH-BBV
Flight Phase:
Flight Type:
Survivors:
No
Schedule:
Mackay – Rockhampton
MSN:
12360
YOM:
1944
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
2
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
0
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
2
Circumstances:
One minute after its takeoff from Mackay Airport, while climbing by night, the twin engine aircraft went out of control and plunged into the sea off Mackay. The aircraft was destroyed and both crew members were killed. The crew was completing a cargo flight from Mackay to Rockhampton, carrying a load of newspapers.
Probable cause:
The assumption that the loss of control was the result of a bird strike was not ruled out.

Crash of a Bristol 170 Freighter 21E in Mallala: 3 killed

Date & Time: Nov 25, 1953
Type of aircraft:
Operator:
Registration:
A81-2
Flight Phase:
Flight Type:
Survivors:
No
MSN:
12805
YOM:
1946
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
3
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
0
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
3
Circumstances:
While on an IFR training flight from Mallala by day in clear weather, the port mainplane parted from the fuselage. The aircraft crashed into a wheat field 2 miles from the RAAF Station. The three crew members were killed. The crash set the wheat field ablaze and the RAAF Mallala fire crews had to extinguish the the field fire to reach the crash site. The port wing was found 1.5 miles away.
Crew:
F/Lt J. D. Entwhistle,
F/O Leonard Murphy
F/O Donald Shillinglaw.
Source: http://www.goodall.com.au
Probable cause:
RAAF investigation determined that the wing was placed under severe load during a separate training flight on the morning of the accident's day. The morning exercise included recovery from unusual attitudes using only a limited instrument panel. On two occasions the training captain placed the aircraft into a steep diving turn, recovery from which pulled high G force, to the extent a second pilot seated at the Navigator position blacked out. The subsequent investigations traced the problem to fatigue failure in the wing root ends and main spar structure. Bristol produced a modification which was proven successful. Most British and European civil B170s were flown to Western Airways at Weston-super-Mare to have the extensive modification carried out at Bristol expense. Australian B170s had went to Bristol Aviation Services at Bankstown to have their wings removed and the modifications installed.

Crash of a De Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide off Hinchinbrook Island: 2 killed

Date & Time: Oct 26, 1953 at 2155 LT
Registration:
VH-CFA
Flight Phase:
Flight Type:
Survivors:
Yes
Schedule:
Iron Range – Cairns
MSN:
6713
YOM:
1944
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
1
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
2
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
2
Circumstances:
The Aerial ambulance was called out to Iron Range on Cape York to collect a patient, an aboriginal stockman who had been bitten by a snake. Capt Dick Brampton was one of half a dozen ANA pilots who were rostered to fly the Ambulance plane as needed for the Cairns Ambulance Transport Brigade. On board as well was an ambulance bearer. Capt Dick Brampton took off fairly late from Iron Range, and was confronted by very low thick cloud north of Cairns. The Rapide was only VFR nor IFR and Capt Brampton could not get a fix on Cairns. He was redirected further south. He apparently ran out of fuel north of Hinchinbrook Island and landed the aircraft on the water near Brooke Island. Nearly two hours late on estimated ETA at Townsville that evening, a radio call was heard at 9.48pm “Lost, low fuel”. At 9.55pm another call saying the aircraft was being ditched. Within an hour of the last message, a RAAF Lincoln from Townsville and an ANA DC-3 from Cairns were searching an area near Hinchinbrook Island, 20 miles north of Ingham. The ambulance bearer was uninjured and got out okay, along with Capt Brampton who had some leg injuries. The stockman went down with the plane which did not float for long. Apparently Capt Dick Brampton survived for some time in the water, but was unable to stay afloat due to his injuries. He was not wearing a life jacket. The ambulance bearer was picked up six hours later by a passing coastal freighter. Neither Capt Brampton's body nor any parts of the plane were ever found.
Probable cause:
Fuel exhaustion.

Crash of a De Havilland DH.84 Dragon in Cheviot Hills: 2 killed

Date & Time: Oct 20, 1953
Type of aircraft:
Operator:
Registration:
VH-URY
Flight Phase:
Flight Type:
Survivors:
Yes
Schedule:
Cheviot Hills – Charters Towers
MSN:
6082
YOM:
1934
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
1
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
4
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
2
Circumstances:
Shortly after takeoff from Cheviot Hill Aerodrome, while climbing to a height of 50 feet, the aircraft nosed down and crashed. The pilot Captain Martin Garrett and a passegner, Mrs. Kathleen O'Leary were killed. The Doctor Mr. O'Leary was injured while two other passengers, Mrs. King Lethbridge and her child were uninjured. The aircraft was involved in an ambulance flight to Charter Towers on behalf of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Probable cause:
It was determined that the engine failed during initial climb.

Crash of an Avro 652A Anson I in Melbourne

Date & Time: Apr 3, 1953
Type of aircraft:
Operator:
Registration:
VH-BNS
Flight Phase:
Flight Type:
Survivors:
Yes
Schedule:
Melbourne – Sydney
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
2
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
0
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
0
Circumstances:
Shortly after takeoff from Melbourne-Moorabbin Airport, while climbing to a height of 20 feet, the right engine failed. The aircraft stalled, hit the ground past the runway end, lost its undercarriage, went through a fence and came to rest in a field. While both crew members were unhurt, the aircraft was damaged beyond repair.
Probable cause:
Failure of the right engine just after liftoff.

Crash of an Avro 652 Anson I in Melbourne

Date & Time: Feb 20, 1953
Type of aircraft:
Operator:
Registration:
VH-BKT
Flight Phase:
Flight Type:
Survivors:
Yes
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
2
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
0
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
0
Circumstances:
Crashed on takeoff for unknown reason. Both occupants were uninjured while the aircraft was damaged beyond repair. The airplane was operated by Brain & Brown Airfreighters (BBA Cargo).

Crash of an Avro 652A Anson I in Melbourne

Date & Time: Jan 17, 1953
Type of aircraft:
Operator:
Registration:
VH-BKZ
Flight Phase:
Flight Type:
Survivors:
Yes
Schedule:
Melbourne - Melbourne
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
3
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
0
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
0
Circumstances:
Shortly after takeoff, the twin engine aircraft suffered an engine failure resulting in its crossing the Centre Dandenong Road beneath the 20 feet high telephone wires which were strung along each side of the road before striking an earth embankment and two fences, tearing off the port wing. While all three crew members were slightly injured, the aircraft was damaged beyond repair.
Probable cause:
Engine failure at rotation.

Crash of an Avro 652 Anson I in Carnamah

Date & Time: Nov 7, 1952
Type of aircraft:
Operator:
Registration:
VH-AVS
Survivors:
Yes
Schedule:
Perth – Carnamah
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
1
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
1
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
0
Circumstances:
Crashed on approach to Carnamah, while on a flight from Perth. Both occupants were injured and the aircraft was written off.