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PNG Aicraft Wreck Found After 67 Years

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PNG Aicraft Wreck Found After 67 Years

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Old 4th Mar 2004, 11:54
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PNG Aicraft Wreck Found After 67 Years

For a bit of a change...worthy of posting as only seven ever built

Amphibian aircraft raised from the depths after 67 years

A PLANE that sank 67 years ago in the deep and murky waters of the Port Moresby harbour has finally been discovered.
Brian Bells power generation manager Michael Roberts and Moresby Truck and Tractors managing consultant Don Lowe, who discovered the wreckage two weeks ago, say it is a Fairchild model 91 amphibian.
Mr Lowe, who has been searching for the aircraft for three years, said it was brought into the country by Richard Archbold in 1936 to explore the Upper Fly River and the Sepik Divide as part of a huge expedition.
He said it supplied parachute drops of supplies for explorers far up the Fly River and guided new exploration to various regions. Equipped with the latest radio equipment, it acted as the communication command centre for the expedition.
He said the Fairchild could land on rivers, lakes and the few airfields at that time and was chosen by Mr Archbold as the ideal plane to explore the Papua New Guinea.
The aircraft had a single Wright Cyclone engine, a wingspan of 67 feet, a payload of 4000 pounds and 1300 mile endurance with a cruising speed of 140 miles an hour.
Mr Lowe said in late June 1936, the Fairchild was flown to Port Moresby to buy supplies for the expedition from Burns Philp and was anchored in a seaplane alley. He said on July 2, 1936, a strong gale overturned the aircraft which was anchored in the Port Moresby harbour and it sank into the deep waters, unable to be salvaged.
Now 67 years later, on February 20, a vessel was retrieving its anchor to depart when pieces of aircraft wreckage began surfacing.
“When I heard this from the skipper about aircraft wreckage, I immediately presumed it to be the Fairchild aircraft and contacted Don Lowe who has been looking for the missing aircraft,” said Mr Roberts.
On February 21, at 6am, Mr Roberts and Mr Lowe dived into the waters to begin their search.
Mr Lowe said after 50 minutes, they came across bits of the missing plane and after conducting further dives that morning, they confirmed it was the missing Fairchild aircraft with its engine and hull/fuselage sitting on the muddy harbour floor.
He said they were 99.9 per cent sure it was the Fairchild aircraft because the engine propeller and shape of the fuselage matched the photographs. He said they needed to find the serial number to confirm the find.
“After several years of searching for this aircraft, it came as a great relief for us to find the remains of this once graceful bird of the sea and sky which was lost 67 years ago,” said Mr Lowe.


Me thinks the cockpit wouldn't be very quiet with a radial that size right above u!
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Old 4th Mar 2004, 18:41
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A remarkable find indeed...............and quite a remarkable aircraft.

Only seven were ever built, but I dispute some of the facts reported in the article. Firstly, the aircraft was powered by a 750 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1690, and secondly, according to accounts I have read, the aircraft did not sink in deep water, and was in fact the subject of two salvage attempts. Sadly, it was during these attempts that further damage occurred, and it was suqsequently deemed uneconomic to repair.

Great effort by those who located it, and hopefully something can be salvaged and preserved to remind future generations of this bold expedition.
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Old 4th Mar 2004, 21:52
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Thanks for the info - really interesting bird.
Not a surprise though that only 7 were built considering the designer aparently added the engine as an afterthought - if the illustration is correct!
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Old 5th Mar 2004, 01:13
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Interesting aircraft. The Fairchild 91 amphibian was the result of a requirement by Pan American Airways for an aircraft to work the internal South American routes. Seven initial airframes were ordered by Pan American, however the order was cancelled after only 2 airframes had been delivered. These two aircraft operated in the Amazon basin with Panair do Brasil until 1945, when they were stripped of useful equipment and scrapped. Of the five remaining airframes two were sold to the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force, the other three aircraft being sold to private interests. One aircraft led a very clandestine existence in that it was purchased by Spanish Republican interests to be used in the war in Spain against the Nationalists. It was however intercepted by the Nationalists during delivery and pressed into service with their Air Force against the Republicans. One aircraft found its way into RAF service during WWII as serial HK832 but was lost in mid 1943 in Egypt after hitting a submerged object.
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Old 5th Mar 2004, 05:15
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If it was the amphib sitting on the bottom in about 40 feet of water straight off the old Amphibian Base (Kone side of the yacht club), it has been known for the past forty years.

Someone in Port Morbid - is the MV Macdui wreck still visible or has it finally rusted away?
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Old 5th Mar 2004, 07:29
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Not much in the internet, but I did come up with the following which disagrees with your statement:

The first two for Pan Am, later scrapped, were ….. “Designated the Model A-942, it was of a mixed metal and fabric construction with a high wing, and was powered by a 9 cylinder, Pratt & Whitney S2E-G Hornet engine developing 800 hp.”

“Of the four remaining airframes under construction, one was completed as a A-942-A model, the last three being completed as A-942-B aircraft, that differed in being powered by the Wright Cyclone GR-1820-F52 9 cylinder radial engine that developed 875 hp. Of these four aircraft, two were sold to the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force, the other two aircraft being sold to private interests.“
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Old 5th Mar 2004, 07:41
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Torres................mi no Chuck, em i narapela olgeta

My info comes from historical information provided by the manufacturer...........
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Old 5th Mar 2004, 08:18
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must admit from the cockpit forward, in fact the rest ot the fuselage too, there is a remarkable resemblence to the smaller grumman seaplanes...ie widgeon and goose

admitedly there is stuff all info to be found about them on the internet...but high interest value all the same...love yarns about PNG...

Errol Flynn's My Wicked Wicked Ways is a favourite read...real adventurous stuff back then

Last edited by troppo; 5th Mar 2004 at 08:30.
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Old 5th Mar 2004, 09:24
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Patrol Into Yesterday by John (?) McCarthy is also an excellent read on that period...although he wasn't too impressed with young Errol
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Old 5th Mar 2004, 12:59
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I suppose you've read Wings of Gold by James Sinclair.
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Old 5th Mar 2004, 13:19
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yeah read all his books...picked up the balus trilogy at the book shop in brain bell plaza in POM in 1997 for a whole 20 kina each. I believe my books now reside in the library of a dive boat in madang
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Old 5th Mar 2004, 13:28
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Sori tumas – Mi lusim ting ting - mi no lukim nem bilong yu!

Troppo, young Errol ended up about as popular as a pork chop in a synagogue by the time he left New Guinea in the 1930’s! Left more than a few debts before he shot through! Ditto in Tasmania, where his father was the Anglican Bishop of Hobart!

PNG was still real adventure stuff through the 60’s and early 70’s. Then times changed……… There was some real characters (and more than a few social misfits) in PNG in my early days.

There was a Gruman, belonged to APC (Australasian Petroleum Company) sunk in Moresby harbour pre war, but it was recovered and I think sunk again at Kerema. There was also a Catalina sunk in the harbour (not the ex TAA Sunbird aircraft) but I can’t remember where it was. My father, who was on HMAS Swan, tells me he saw a few aircraft go into Fairfax Harbour during the war.

I also remember 20 odd Landing Craft and barges beached and deserted near Napa Napa, across the harbour from Moresby. They weren’t that big, single side valve Ford V8 marinised engine with Thornicroft marine gear boxes.

And my favourite fishing and diving reef just off the island Leprosarium (Gemo??) is no more. A few years ago the Navy found a complete, un detonated mine and decided to demolish the lot!

Looking at the picture in Hempy's post above - pilots could get an interesting stroboscopic effect from that prop!
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Old 5th Mar 2004, 14:25
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Hey Torres

Maski humbug....yu no Lusim Ting Ting ...mipela Lusim Ting Ting tru....Maski tok giammon
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Old 6th Mar 2004, 06:25
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I see a couple of New Guinea vets here.

I just posted some more PNG stories on www.flightinfo.com

Tales of An Old Aviator.....The PNG stories are on the last page

PNG 1970-1973

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