THE LOSS OF DAKOTA A65-2 

Compiled by Grahame Higgs


This is superb lady is DC3 VH-AES on the ground at Archerfield and, co-incidentally, pointing directly towards the crash site of cousin C47 A65-2 less than 2 nm away.

C47 s/n 41-38690 was delivered to the RAAF as A65-2 on the 17 February 1943.   Less than six weeks later she would be destroyed, taking 23 souls with her.

This is superb lady is DC3 VH-AES on the ground at Archerfield and, co-incidentally, pointing directly towards the crash site of cousin C47 A65-2 less than 2 nm away.

C47 s/n 41-38690 was delivered to the RAAF as A65-2 on the 17 February 1943. Less than six weeks later she would be destroyed, taking 23 souls with her.


In the early hours of Saturday 27th March 1943 A65-2 taxied from the Archerfield Terminal, seen here in the background, for a 05:11 departure en-route to Sydney.
 

 Almost immediately A65-2 entered a fog bank that shrouded Oxley Creek and within a minute of flight time, banking steeply to port with wings passed the vertical, A65-2 ploughed into wooded country one mile south of the airfield.

All on board were lost, they were:
Crew
F/O Alexander Ken ARNOLD 	Aircraft Captain
Sgt Joseph HAMMOND	Co-pilot
LAC Samuel Ivan WILES	  Aircraft Fitter
Sgt Lyle Carter MORGAN     Wireless Operator
Passengers
Sgt John ATHERTON
LAC Thomas William BECKLEY
P/O David Andrew BLACKLEY
LAC John Edward CHINNER
Sgt Robert William Tylden CHISHOLM
LAC Kevin Francis FLANAGAN
LAC Charles Paton Eric FLY
Cpl Violet May GUNNING
Major E.H. HALLIWELL	US Army
Cpl Ruth Ada HILLS
ACW Florence May JACKSON
Sgt Max Irvenia Thomas JARVIS
LAC Terrence Joseph KELLY
LAC Kenneth Owen PATON
1st Lieutenant F.M. SKINNER 	US Army
Lieutenant Irwin Leo SMITH 	A.C.M.F.
P/O Alfred TATLOCK
LAC Geoffrey Frederick WATERS
Cpl Thomas Keith McDowell WATT

In the early hours of Saturday 27th March 1943 A65-2 taxied from the Archerfield Terminal, seen here in the background, for a 05:11 departure en-route to Sydney.


Almost immediately A65-2 entered a fog bank that shrouded Oxley Creek and within a minute of flight time, banking steeply to port with wings passed the vertical, A65-2 ploughed into wooded country one mile south of the airfield.

All on board were lost, they were:
Crew
F/O Alexander Ken ARNOLD Aircraft Captain
Sgt Joseph HAMMOND Co-pilot
LAC Samuel Ivan WILES Aircraft Fitter
Sgt Lyle Carter MORGAN Wireless Operator
Passengers
Sgt John ATHERTON
LAC Thomas William BECKLEY
P/O David Andrew BLACKLEY
LAC John Edward CHINNER
Sgt Robert William Tylden CHISHOLM
LAC Kevin Francis FLANAGAN
LAC Charles Paton Eric FLY
Cpl Violet May GUNNING
Major E.H. HALLIWELL US Army
Cpl Ruth Ada HILLS
ACW Florence May JACKSON
Sgt Max Irvenia Thomas JARVIS
LAC Terrence Joseph KELLY
LAC Kenneth Owen PATON
1st Lieutenant F.M. SKINNER US Army
Lieutenant Irwin Leo SMITH A.C.M.F.
P/O Alfred TATLOCK
LAC Geoffrey Frederick WATERS
Cpl Thomas Keith McDowell WATT


Appearing much as it did in 1943, from a point near the crash site and looking back towards Archerfield, A65-2 crashed through trees growing here before striking the ground.

Appearing much as it did in 1943, from a point near the crash site and looking back towards Archerfield, A65-2 crashed through trees growing here before striking the ground.


The actual crash site is now a sand pit and any physical evidence of a catastrophic air accident has long since disappeared.   The site can be accessed off Bowhill Road, approximately 200mtr north east of the Sherbrooke Road intersection but frankly, other than the operations of the sand pit, there is nothing interesting to be seen.

The actual crash site is now a sand pit and any physical evidence of a catastrophic air accident has long since disappeared. The site can be accessed off Bowhill Road, approximately 200mtr north east of the Sherbrooke Road intersection but frankly, other than the operations of the sand pit, there is nothing interesting to be seen.



At the time of the accident there was much speculation about the loss of an engine, although the investigation team could find no evidence of any unserviceability with any of the aircraft systems.   Ultimately the investigation in 1943 cited error of judgement and poor technique on the part of the pilot as the cause.  Hopefully today we would not be so damning.  Final verdicts of pilot error are not acceptable anymore.   Pilots do not set out to crash aeroplanes so what happened to cause this crew to err.   In this case it could be a case of Spatial Disorientation, or as Bob Livingstone has suggested, caged Gyros, both of which can lead rapidly to loss of control.    In his defence, Flying Officer Arnold had only 121 hours on type of which a mere 14 hours were as captain.

At the time of the accident there was much speculation about the loss of an engine, although the investigation team could find no evidence of any unserviceability with any of the aircraft systems. Ultimately the investigation in 1943 cited error of judgement and poor technique on the part of the pilot as the cause. Hopefully today we would not be so damning. Final verdicts of pilot error are not acceptable anymore. Pilots do not set out to crash aeroplanes so what happened to cause this crew to err. In this case it could be a case of Spatial Disorientation, or as Bob Livingstone has suggested, caged Gyros, both of which can lead rapidly to loss of control. In his defence, Flying Officer Arnold had only 121 hours on type of which a mere 14 hours were as captain.


Notice in this cluttered cockpit of an early C47 similar to A65-2 that there is no commonality in instrument layout between pilot positions, and that the Artificial Horizon is located not in front of the co-pilot (right seat), but in the centre console.   Not much help to a young man who only had 14 hours in command from the left seat and who, when confronted suddenly by unexpected IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) so low to the ground, would seek the instrument layout with which he was most familiar.   

Compare the picture above with that below of another popular twin engine workhorse, the ubiquitous Boeing 737.   Notice that despite being a more complicated aeroplane, how tidy the cockpit has become and that the flying instrument layout is duplicated over both pilot positions.   This helps enormously with the transition from co-pilots seat to the captains.

Notice in this cluttered cockpit of an early C47 similar to A65-2 that there is no commonality in instrument layout between pilot positions, and that the Artificial Horizon is located not in front of the co-pilot (right seat), but in the centre console. Not much help to a young man who only had 14 hours in command from the left seat and who, when confronted suddenly by unexpected IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) so low to the ground, would seek the instrument layout with which he was most familiar.

Compare the picture above with that below of another popular twin engine workhorse, the ubiquitous Boeing 737. Notice that despite being a more complicated aeroplane, how tidy the cockpit has become and that the flying instrument layout is duplicated over both pilot positions. This helps enormously with the transition from co-pilots seat to the captains.


Writing this article on the day that manned flight turned 100, I am encouraged by the evolution of cockpit design, pilot training and the operational conduct of aviation.   All these factors had a bearing on this accident and have improved steadily, minimising the dangers to life in an element where man can only ever be a visitor.   The 23 lives lost at 05:12 in the early morning Queensland fog, all contributed to this ongoing evolution.   

Nevertheless, attitudes still seem to be the hardest things to change, and even given the culture of wartime operations, I still feel that a verdict of pilot error without asking “what factors caused the error” was unjustifiably harsh on the crew of A65-2.

Of the 23 killed, 21 are buried in the superbly maintained War Graves section of Lutwyche Cemetery.   Halliwell and Skinner were returned to the USA.

In compiling this report I am indebted to Mr Peter Dunn and his most excellent web site (and CD) "Australia @ War" wherein I first learned of the crash of A65-2. Also to "Flyingzone Publications" for the Boeing 737 Cockpit image. "Australia @ War" and "Flyingzone" are accessible via our "Site Link" page.



---Feedback provided by Kevin Smith---
I note your comments re the instrument panel of the C47 and the picture that you have provided. This looks to be a standard DC3 instrument panel as used by almost everyone. The centre instruments are an Artificial Horizon and a Directional Gyro plus a Suction Gauge, which is the small gauge on the right of the box. These were the instruments to run the Auto Pilot and served as the second set of flight instruments in later days in the civil world. Any DC3 co-pilot would have been thoroughly familiar with a wide scan when conducting Instrument flying as the Air Speed Indicator and Altimeter were normally in front of the co pilot and can be seen in your picture at the top of the panel. The other instruments on the RH panel were all engine instruments, and additionally, the row of instruments along the bottom of the centre panel were the Tachometers, Manifold Pressure Gauges, Fuel Pressure and usually Oil Pressure Gauges. The co-pilot seat nearly always had the cushion worn in a lean to the left because of the need to be monitoring the gauges in the centre panel. We certainly have come a long way in panel layout design, but as always, it?s what you are used to and how you make it work. 

I agree with the other comment that the gyros were not uncaged, and one wonders how good the checklists and monitoring by the second pilot was. I am aware that even in the 50?s and 60?s it remained Air Force policy to have only the one pilot that was effectively ?endorsed? on the type and to use whoever may have been available to act as second pilot. I recall one of the last ARDU flights that went through Moorabbin a couple of years ago still had only the one pilot plus a signaller or similar in the RH seat. 

I am in Melbourne and of the DC3?s that are still flying here, only one that I am aware of (AES) still has the Auto Pilot fitted, the other two, TMQ and OVM (A65-98) both have a full set of flight instruments in the RH instrument panel and no auto pilot. I have never had the opportunity to look inside the privately owned machine (AGU) in the Latrobe Valley, so am unable to quote this one, and I can?t remember what the Ansett machine (ABR) configuration is. 

I note that you have an enormous amount of data recorded on the C47 series and am grateful to be able to refer to what you have done. 

Yours sincerely 

Kevin Smith



I would like to thank Ron Cuskelly for the photo of Archerfield Terminal in camouflage paint scheme.   Ron's excellent Lockheed website can be accessed through the ADF-Serials Links page.

Writing this article on the day that manned flight turned 100, I am encouraged by the evolution of cockpit design, pilot training and the operational conduct of aviation. All these factors had a bearing on this accident and have improved steadily, minimising the dangers to life in an element where man can only ever be a visitor. The 23 lives lost at 05:12 in the early morning Queensland fog, all contributed to this ongoing evolution.

Nevertheless, attitudes still seem to be the hardest things to change, and even given the culture of wartime operations, I still feel that a verdict of pilot error without asking “what factors caused the error” was unjustifiably harsh on the crew of A65-2.

Of the 23 killed, 21 are buried in the superbly maintained War Graves section of Lutwyche Cemetery. Halliwell and Skinner were returned to the USA.

In compiling this report I am indebted to Mr Peter Dunn and his most excellent web site (and CD) "Australia @ War" wherein I first learned of the crash of A65-2. Also to "Flyingzone Publications" for the Boeing 737 Cockpit image. "Australia @ War" and "Flyingzone" are accessible via our "Site Link" page.



---Feedback provided by Kevin Smith---
I note your comments re the instrument panel of the C47 and the picture that you have provided. This looks to be a standard DC3 instrument panel as used by almost everyone. The centre instruments are an Artificial Horizon and a Directional Gyro plus a Suction Gauge, which is the small gauge on the right of the box. These were the instruments to run the Auto Pilot and served as the second set of flight instruments in later days in the civil world. Any DC3 co-pilot would have been thoroughly familiar with a wide scan when conducting Instrument flying as the Air Speed Indicator and Altimeter were normally in front of the co pilot and can be seen in your picture at the top of the panel. The other instruments on the RH panel were all engine instruments, and additionally, the row of instruments along the bottom of the centre panel were the Tachometers, Manifold Pressure Gauges, Fuel Pressure and usually Oil Pressure Gauges. The co-pilot seat nearly always had the cushion worn in a lean to the left because of the need to be monitoring the gauges in the centre panel. We certainly have come a long way in panel layout design, but as always, it?s what you are used to and how you make it work.

I agree with the other comment that the gyros were not uncaged, and one wonders how good the checklists and monitoring by the second pilot was. I am aware that even in the 50?s and 60?s it remained Air Force policy to have only the one pilot that was effectively ?endorsed? on the type and to use whoever may have been available to act as second pilot. I recall one of the last ARDU flights that went through Moorabbin a couple of years ago still had only the one pilot plus a signaller or similar in the RH seat.

I am in Melbourne and of the DC3?s that are still flying here, only one that I am aware of (AES) still has the Auto Pilot fitted, the other two, TMQ and OVM (A65-98) both have a full set of flight instruments in the RH instrument panel and no auto pilot. I have never had the opportunity to look inside the privately owned machine (AGU) in the Latrobe Valley, so am unable to quote this one, and I can?t remember what the Ansett machine (ABR) configuration is.

I note that you have an enormous amount of data recorded on the C47 series and am grateful to be able to refer to what you have done.

Yours sincerely

Kevin Smith



I would like to thank Ron Cuskelly for the photo of Archerfield Terminal in camouflage paint scheme. Ron's excellent Lockheed website can be accessed through the ADF-Serials Links page.

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