THE LOSS OF WIRRAWAY A20-212 

Compiled by Grahame Higgs


This probably does not resemble your mental image of a Crash Site but,
unfortunately, it is one.

This probably does not resemble your mental image of a Crash Site but,
unfortunately, it is one.


On the 30th of December 1950 at 11:00 in the morning, 23 Squadrons Wirraway A20-212 crashed onto Maroochydore Beach while on Shark Patrol.   
The GPS position is S26 39.533S 153 06.195E.
This Wirraway was no stranger to drama.   On 19 Mar 43 while assigned to 7 SFTS, she had suffered an engine failure and a resultant forced landing.   However, on that occasion the pilot was uninjured and the aircraft repaired.  The accident at Maroochydore clearly destroyed the aircraft although ultimately the engine, a Pratt and Whitney Wasp, was considered to be only 50% damaged and therefore repairable.

It appears that, in 1950 23 Squadron based at RAAF Archerfield was engaged in shark spotting as a service to the community, the result of a request by no less than the Acting Prime Minister Arthur Fadden (later Sir Arthur Fadden).    There had been two shark attacks in the previous fortnight, one being fatal, and there was,he said, concern for the safety of the populous.   Certainly the Wirraway, with an excellent view from both the cockpits,

On the 30th of December 1950 at 11:00 in the morning, 23 Squadrons Wirraway A20-212 crashed onto Maroochydore Beach while on Shark Patrol.
The GPS position is S26 39.533S 153 06.195E.
This Wirraway was no stranger to drama. On 19 Mar 43 while assigned to 7 SFTS, she had suffered an engine failure and a resultant forced landing. However, on that occasion the pilot was uninjured and the aircraft repaired. The accident at Maroochydore clearly destroyed the aircraft although ultimately the engine, a Pratt and Whitney Wasp, was considered to be only 50% damaged and therefore repairable.

It appears that, in 1950 23 Squadron based at RAAF Archerfield was engaged in shark spotting as a service to the community, the result of a request by no less than the Acting Prime Minister Arthur Fadden (later Sir Arthur Fadden). There had been two shark attacks in the previous fortnight, one being fatal, and there was,he said, concern for the safety of the populous. Certainly the Wirraway, with an excellent view from both the cockpits,


would appear to have been an ideal aircraft for the purpose.   However, from the low speed handling perspective, as required by the task, perhaps the Tiger Moth would have been a better choice.

would appear to have been an ideal aircraft for the purpose. However, from the low speed handling perspective, as required by the task, perhaps the Tiger Moth would have been a better choice.


The official investigation into the crash of A20-212 determined that the crew were operating the aircraft in accordance with procedures as briefed.   It states, in part, that the aircraft while operating at 95 kts with 20 degrees of flap stalled and flicked to starboard while making a steep turn to port at 150 ft.   Pilot unable to regain control and a/c crashed on crowded beach.   There was evidence that although the pilot had selected 20 degrees of flap, they had extended to 30 degrees without his knowledge.   This would have altered the aircraft performance accordingly and could account for the departure from controlled flight at 95kts.

The newspapers of the time add to the story.   They state that the observer in the rear cockpit spotted a shark in the gutter that ran between Maroochydore Beach and Alexander Headland.   In the ensuing tight turn to keep the shark in sight and alert the lookout tower and surf boat, the starboard wing tip struck the sand and sent the Wirraway cart wheeling into families on the beach.

The official investigation into the crash of A20-212 determined that the crew were operating the aircraft in accordance with procedures as briefed. It states, in part, that the aircraft while operating at 95 kts with 20 degrees of flap stalled and flicked to starboard while making a steep turn to port at 150 ft. Pilot unable to regain control and a/c crashed on crowded beach. There was evidence that although the pilot had selected 20 degrees of flap, they had extended to 30 degrees without his knowledge. This would have altered the aircraft performance accordingly and could account for the departure from controlled flight at 95kts.

The newspapers of the time add to the story. They state that the observer in the rear cockpit spotted a shark in the gutter that ran between Maroochydore Beach and Alexander Headland. In the ensuing tight turn to keep the shark in sight and alert the lookout tower and surf boat, the starboard wing tip struck the sand and sent the Wirraway cart wheeling into families on the beach.


This media version was published in The Sunday Mail on 31 December 1950

This media version was published in The Sunday Mail on 31 December 1950


The same location in 2004

The same location in 2004


Note the Lookout Tower in the background.

Note the Lookout Tower in the background.


Today the lookout tower is usually placed about as far north of the clubhouse as the 1950 tower was south. 
I bet the observers were not as attractive back in those days!

Today the lookout tower is usually placed about as far north of the clubhouse as the 1950 tower was south.
I bet the observers were not as attractive back in those days!


Photo of the wreckage taken 30th December 1950 around midday.

Photo of the wreckage taken 30th December 1950 around midday.

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