THE LOSS OF MACCHI A7-039 

Compiled by Grahame Higgs


This may not look like much, but this small dark depression in the sand is the impact point of a crash that made a significant change to the way Australia operated the Macchi.  


On the 11th August 1970 Macchi A7-039 was returning to RAAF Gin Gin following an early instrument  flying training sortie.    As the aircraft came through initial for 08, the canopy was seen to separate from the aircraft about halfway down the runway.   A7-039 continued on to pitch just past the control tower and to impact in a clear patch of ground adjacent to the NDB.    Unfortunately both of the crew were lost, the instructor in the front seat was incapacitated by the canopy departing in flight  and the student in the back seat remained with the aircraft.    The procedure in vogue at the time permitted the student in the rear cockpit under the instrument flying hood to slide the hood back at the end of the instrument sortie to take advantage of the visual approach and landing.   In this instance there is a possibility that the student while sliding back the hood, (popularly known as -The Bag) accidentally bumped open the canopy release handle (red arrow in the cockpit photo below).

This may not look like much, but this small dark depression in the sand is the impact point of a crash that made a significant change to the way Australia operated the Macchi.


On the 11th August 1970 Macchi A7-039 was returning to RAAF Gin Gin following an early instrument flying training sortie. As the aircraft came through initial for 08, the canopy was seen to separate from the aircraft about halfway down the runway. A7-039 continued on to pitch just past the control tower and to impact in a clear patch of ground adjacent to the NDB. Unfortunately both of the crew were lost, the instructor in the front seat was incapacitated by the canopy departing in flight and the student in the back seat remained with the aircraft. The procedure in vogue at the time permitted the student in the rear cockpit under the instrument flying hood to slide the hood back at the end of the instrument sortie to take advantage of the visual approach and landing. In this instance there is a possibility that the student while sliding back the hood, (popularly known as -The Bag) accidentally bumped open the canopy release handle (red arrow in the cockpit photo below).



The design of the Macchi, in common with many other aircraft has the canopy hinged along the right hand edge with a locking mechanism along the left.
Inadvertently releasing the left side locks in flight causes the canopy to pop up into the slipstream and flail about until the right side hinge and the support stanchion  fail.   The  resultant danger to the crew is extreme.

Compare this canopy design with that of the Mirage (below) for example, the canopy of which will depart the aircraft backwards, clear of the pilot.

The design of the Macchi, in common with many other aircraft has the canopy hinged along the right hand edge with a locking mechanism along the left.
Inadvertently releasing the left side locks in flight causes the canopy to pop up into the slipstream and flail about until the right side hinge and the support stanchion fail. The resultant danger to the crew is extreme.

Compare this canopy design with that of the Mirage (below) for example, the canopy of which will depart the aircraft backwards, clear of the pilot.


The two seat Mirage and A4 Skyhawk also both had this safer rear hinged canopy design.

The two seat Mirage and A4 Skyhawk also both had this safer rear hinged canopy design.


As a result of the loss of A7-039, the locking mechanism for the Macchi was redesigned and a clever cam device (yellow arrow in the cockpit photo) was introduced which eliminated accidental operation.  In addition, the rear seat pilot under -the bag- would no longer slide the hood back for landing.   It did mean however that in the event of ejection with the hood in place, the canopy had to be jettisoned first.   When jettisoning the Macchi canopy both sides were released simultaneously which allowed it to clear the aircraft cleanly.    This was tested in anger when Squadron Leader Frank Atkins jettisoned the canopy prior to he and Pilot Officer Andrew Richardson ejecting from Macchi A7-018.    It worked perfectly.  

Military flying training is not especially kind to airframes so as the Macchi fleet aged and the airframes became distorted, there were a few canopy nasties (see ADF-Serials Series 3 A7-051).   However, not nearly as many as there could have been had we not learned from the sad loss of A7-039.

The crash site is on Gin Gin Airfield and therefore not accessible to the public.  The terrain is sandy with a very fragile growth of natural flora and there is now very little evidence of an accident. 

Despite all the problems of the past, it is interesting to see that designers persist with the side opening canopy.

As a result of the loss of A7-039, the locking mechanism for the Macchi was redesigned and a clever cam device (yellow arrow in the cockpit photo) was introduced which eliminated accidental operation. In addition, the rear seat pilot under -the bag- would no longer slide the hood back for landing. It did mean however that in the event of ejection with the hood in place, the canopy had to be jettisoned first. When jettisoning the Macchi canopy both sides were released simultaneously which allowed it to clear the aircraft cleanly. This was tested in anger when Squadron Leader Frank Atkins jettisoned the canopy prior to he and Pilot Officer Andrew Richardson ejecting from Macchi A7-018. It worked perfectly.

Military flying training is not especially kind to airframes so as the Macchi fleet aged and the airframes became distorted, there were a few canopy nasties (see ADF-Serials Series 3 A7-051). However, not nearly as many as there could have been had we not learned from the sad loss of A7-039.

The crash site is on Gin Gin Airfield and therefore not accessible to the public. The terrain is sandy with a very fragile growth of natural flora and there is now very little evidence of an accident.

Despite all the problems of the past, it is interesting to see that designers persist with the side opening canopy.

ME 3A27 04 001
ME 3A27 04 001

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