THE LOSS OF DAKOTA A65-106 

Compiled by Grahame Higgs


This is Dakota A65-106 at RAAF Edinburgh shortly before her loss in July 1961

C47B constructors number 33290, A65-106 was delivered to the RAAF in May 1945 and spent time with 37 Squadron, ARDU and 2ATU.   Another of the RAAFs venerable C47 fleet, alas she was destined to end her career prematurely, at 7:05 pm on 31st July 1961, on a rainy hill top in Western Australia.      The aircraft and crew had been travelling to a number of locations around Australia on a task for NASA, and were in WA calibrating the Muchea Tracking Station in support of a Project Mercury space launch.   They had intended to leave for home base, RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia, earlier in the day, however the calibration had been delayed due to technical difficulties at Muchea which, being a mobile tracking station, was not as electronically stable as the fixed installations.   A65-106 finally departed Pearce off Runway 18 (to the South) after dusk and in passing rain showers.   

Leading Aircraftsman (later Warrant Officer) Bill Miles survived the crash and remembers well, events of that fateful evening.   He had been seated in the very rear of the aircraft reading the Rigby Cartoon in his evening newspaper.   Being responsible for the maintenance of the aircraft, he was wondering where the water dripping on him was coming from and why he was only holding fragments of his paper.   He found he was sitting upright in his seat in the bush relatively unscathed surrounded by burning aircraft wreckage.  To his surprise, he found that there were two other passengers, a civilian, Neil McBain and another airman Leading Aircraftsman (LAC) Tony Leiper, in front of him in the bush, also comparatively uninjured, also still sitting in their seats.      Miles and Leiper went back into the burning remains of the rear cockpit area and were able to rescue the injured Navigator, Flying Officer (FLGOFF) Bob White and Signaller, Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) John Cook whom they sheltered from the rain under an inflated emergency dinghy.

This is Dakota A65-106 at RAAF Edinburgh shortly before her loss in July 1961

C47B constructors number 33290, A65-106 was delivered to the RAAF in May 1945 and spent time with 37 Squadron, ARDU and 2ATU. Another of the RAAFs venerable C47 fleet, alas she was destined to end her career prematurely, at 7:05 pm on 31st July 1961, on a rainy hill top in Western Australia. The aircraft and crew had been travelling to a number of locations around Australia on a task for NASA, and were in WA calibrating the Muchea Tracking Station in support of a Project Mercury space launch. They had intended to leave for home base, RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia, earlier in the day, however the calibration had been delayed due to technical difficulties at Muchea which, being a mobile tracking station, was not as electronically stable as the fixed installations. A65-106 finally departed Pearce off Runway 18 (to the South) after dusk and in passing rain showers.

Leading Aircraftsman (later Warrant Officer) Bill Miles survived the crash and remembers well, events of that fateful evening. He had been seated in the very rear of the aircraft reading the Rigby Cartoon in his evening newspaper. Being responsible for the maintenance of the aircraft, he was wondering where the water dripping on him was coming from and why he was only holding fragments of his paper. He found he was sitting upright in his seat in the bush relatively unscathed surrounded by burning aircraft wreckage. To his surprise, he found that there were two other passengers, a civilian, Neil McBain and another airman Leading Aircraftsman (LAC) Tony Leiper, in front of him in the bush, also comparatively uninjured, also still sitting in their seats. Miles and Leiper went back into the burning remains of the rear cockpit area and were able to rescue the injured Navigator, Flying Officer (FLGOFF) Bob White and Signaller, Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) John Cook whom they sheltered from the rain under an inflated emergency dinghy.


Taken not long after the accident, this photo clearly shows the inflated dinghy that Bill Miles and Tony Leiper used to shelter the injured crew.

Miles and Leiper tried several times to gain access to what remained of the fiercely burning forward cockpit.  Unfortunately they were not able to assist the two pilots, FLGOFF Bill Bowden and Flight Sergeant (FSGT) Peter Davis, both of whom had died on impact.

Taken not long after the accident, this photo clearly shows the inflated dinghy that Bill Miles and Tony Leiper used to shelter the injured crew.

Miles and Leiper tried several times to gain access to what remained of the fiercely burning forward cockpit. Unfortunately they were not able to assist the two pilots, FLGOFF Bill Bowden and Flight Sergeant (FSGT) Peter Davis, both of whom had died on impact.


On the left of this picture, precious little remained of the cockpit

On the left of this picture, precious little remained of the cockpit


...or of anything caught in the fire, fed by full fuel tanks. 


    Although the Air Traffic Control officer on duty raised the alarm promptly, due to the weather and difficult terrain, some hours passed before the rescue party were able to reach the scene.   Tragically, and despite Bill Miles and Tony Leipers best efforts, both John Cook and Bob White died from their injuries shortly after the arrival of medical assistance.

...or of anything caught in the fire, fed by full fuel tanks.


Although the Air Traffic Control officer on duty raised the alarm promptly, due to the weather and difficult terrain, some hours passed before the rescue party were able to reach the scene. Tragically, and despite Bill Miles and Tony Leipers best efforts, both John Cook and Bob White died from their injuries shortly after the arrival of medical assistance.



LAC Bill Miles.

LAC Bill Miles.


LAC Tony Leiper.

LAC Tony Leiper.


FSGT Peter Davis

FSGT Peter Davis


FLTLT John Cook (far right)

FLTLT John Cook (far right)


A survivor is evacuated many hours after the crash, such was the difficult terrain and weather conditions.


The crash of this aircraft was an historic event, for here, we lost four Australians in our commitment to manned space travel.  The loss of these crewmembers is as significant to Australian aviation history as was the loss to the USA, of the three astronauts in the Apollo I Capsule fire in January 1967.   Indeed it was in support of this first group of astronauts, that A65-106 was tasked when it crashed some six years earlier.

A survivor is evacuated many hours after the crash, such was the difficult terrain and weather conditions.


The crash of this aircraft was an historic event, for here, we lost four Australians in our commitment to manned space travel. The loss of these crewmembers is as significant to Australian aviation history as was the loss to the USA, of the three astronauts in the Apollo I Capsule fire in January 1967. Indeed it was in support of this first group of astronauts, that A65-106 was tasked when it crashed some six years earlier.


Powered by Gallery v1 RSS