Mascot c. mid 1950s
Photo by Jim Dyson courtesy of David Molesworth collection.
On the night of the 19th of March 1957, Dakota A65-112 and her crew were on Search and Rescue (SAR) standby at Canberra Airport. While No 86 Wing had a SAR on standby, it was the practice of the Wing to provide their crews with night flying practice. This would normally include night circuits during which the aircraft was to remain in the vicinity of the airfield in case of a SAR callout.
The crew of A65-112 that night was:
Captain- FLGOFF H.N.MACDONALD.
2nd Pilot- FSGT N.H.CHARLTON.
Navigator- SGT I.A. MAKRILL
Signaler- SGT M.C. COOMBE
FLGOFF H. MacDonald was no stranger to in-flight emergencies; he was the 2nd pilot aboard A65-120 on the 5th of June 1954 when the aircraft developed a fire in the port engine shortly after takeoff. Despite the best efforts of the crew, they could not extinguish the fire which burnt fiercely until the engine finally fell off the airframe. They then had to ditch A65-120 into the sea off the coast of Japan. Although they lost the aircraft, the airmanship of the crew was viewed with favorable commendation!
However, at 8.22pm on that fine, warm Canberra night in 1957, the crew in A65-112 began their third takeoff in a series of night circuits and landings. Departure was off Runway 30, towards rising ground and a ridge of hills. Runway 30 is aligned with a saddleback gap in the hills. The first part of the takeoff went normally, but within a hundred feet after lifting off, a problem developed with the port engine. The propeller had started to over speed. MacDonald immediately feathered the port propeller which, under normal circumstances would take around 10 to 15 seconds to fully feather. Unknown to MacDonald the drive gear to the constant speed unit had broken and feathering would now take up to 30 seconds. Because of this delay in the feathering action, he became worried that his aircraft would not be able to clear the rising ground ahead and decided to turn to the south in order to clear the inhabited area of Campbell and Duntroon. He was hoping to make an emergency landing in the open paddocks south of the airport. While still attempting to climb in order to avoid Mt Pleasant, and by now heading east, the aircraft stalled.
At 8.23pm around forty-five seconds after take off A65-112 crashed into the ground at Duntroon, missing housing and buildings by the narrowest of margins. All on board were killed instantly. The ensuing fire burnt fiercely and the port wing was almost entirely consumed.
Compare these Then and Now photos.