Australia, New Zealand & the Pacific Airline and RPT Rumours & News in Australia, enZed and the Pacific

TAA F27 Crash 10 June 1960

Old 1st Jun 2020, 22:38
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TAA F27 Crash 10 June 1960

On 10 June 2020 it will be 60 years since Trans Australia Airlines F27 VH-TFB crashed into the sea whilst on approach in foggy/low cloud conditions with the loss of all 29 passengers and crew on board. It is still regarded as on of two accidents (the other involving another airline and type in 1950) with the highest loss of life in civil RPT ops. Probably easier for those interested to do a search on the accident rather than me going into details. Even though the Department Of Civil aviation and safety teams investigated the accident and came up with various theories as to the cause the actual cause of the accident was not solved and assumed to be a CFIT. TAA held an internal investigation which was never released. As a result of this accident Australia was the first country in the world to require the installation of Cockpit Voice Recorders on aircraft of similar weight and above operating in RPT operations. I feel we should recognise that those whose lives were cut short led to a number of improvements in aviation safety. Not many people around now who were involved in the industry, investigation and recovery etc. I would be interested in your feedback on this accident.
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Old 1st Jun 2020, 23:16
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My Mother's recollections - I was aged one(We lived at 115 Donaldson St, Mackay under the approach path for the runway at Mackay):

Her recollections whilst outside hosing her garden were of the glimpses of the aircraft very low inbound, in the fog above. Local reports of the time were that the plane had its wheels on the runway briefly and relatives and passengers were waving to each other as it passed the terminal building(the old one).

The other sad note was that there were several Rockhampton Boys Grammar boarders from Mackay on the plane who had been given this flight as an end of term treat rather than the bumpy grind up the pot-holed track, known as Highway 1, the Bruce Highway!

There is a memorial to this accident at the Far Beach.

Last edited by Possum1; 1st Jun 2020 at 23:22. Reason: Punctuation
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Old 2nd Jun 2020, 00:10
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Old 2nd Jun 2020, 01:37
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Mackay seemed to have an affinity with the F27, 22/1/1960 TAA F27 VH-TFK being leased to Associated Airlines had indications of an unlocked nose wheel prior to landing at Mackay, during the subsequent landing the starboard gear collapsed and required a new starboard wing. Nose gear remained extended. Six pax and two crew uninjured. I mention because I would like a copy of any related official investigation, having flown as pax while in Associated hands.

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Old 2nd Jun 2020, 11:28
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While doing the F27 engineering school some 10 years later I remember the instructor covering Flight Instruments saying that the Static system was modified to include some sort of water trap device as there was a suspicion the TAA F27 may have had moisture in the system causing erroneous altitude readout. Whether this was considered in the official report I know not.
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Old 2nd Jun 2020, 11:50
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I recall, that at the time, the altimeter reading could be a 'confused' reading, due to the positioning of the hands on 'the clock' of the instrument.
Three hands on the scale.

Sometime later, a 'Crash Comic' in the form of the "Aviation Safety Digest' of the time, published a photo of an altimeter, as an education tool, on the 'back page', showing a reading, with the quote,
"Thirteen thousand feet and, Baby, its cold outside..." (or similar.)

It is my recollection that the reading shown on the photo was 3,000ft. (Later still, an apology followed.)

There was a thought that a 'similar' misread my have caused the CFIT...into the ocean.
Someone may find that photo, now that the 'Digest' is digitalised.......
And altimeter displays have been modified.

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Old 2nd Jun 2020, 20:45
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re your reply about my post

Whilst creating this discussion I failed to mention that the accident happened whilst the aircraft was on approach to Mackay.
Thankyou Possum1 for clearing that up.
During my research over the years the following information was discovered.
Altimeter - at the time it was a single pointer type and there was a history of crew misreading the single pointer type being used at the time. As a result they were replaced over fleets.

Weather conditions - possible refraction of runway lights on the calm sea due to low cloud
CRM - The first officer was understood to be on a check flight and as we all know we all suffer from the fear and the willingness to perform as best we can.
Go Around - The crew may have realised that they were too far down the airstrip by the time they got visual and thus powered up and took off again. Years ago I managed to speak to locals who were waiting at the airport and indeed witnessed the so called touch and go.
Rocky Grammar Boy Boarder - About 12 souls on board being flown home for school holiday as a treat by their parents.
Initial Recovery of Victims - Some years ago a lady living near me said that she was living in Mackay at the time of the accident and that her husband (a local fisherman) was initially involved in the recovery which was gruesome. She said that he was traumatised by the experience and never got over it. Not being trained for this type of work but eager to assist she said he was particularly upset when it came to hauling up the bodies of the children.
Cover Up Accusations - A few years ago the Mackay Mercury reported that an elderly lady had to be wheeled away from a memorial service at Far Beach because she claimed as such.
Other Factors - TAA engineering and maintenance staff worked very closely with Fokker in the development of the aircraft as a replacement for the ageing DC3's
The reputation of this first of type could have been at risk if the accident and subsequent inquiry was not extensive.
Possibilty of potential fuel exhaustion after holding for some two hours adding to the pressure of needing to land.
The TAA in house investigation and report being kept under lock and key and never published,/released. My research indicates that the information in the report was so
information sensitive that only a few in very senior management had access to it.
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Old 2nd Jun 2020, 23:09
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Interesting article on the old 3 pointer altimeter. From the Australian Safety Digest, Sept 1961.

Attached Files
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Old 3rd Jun 2020, 04:52
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The following extract from one official report makes valid point.

Quote. "Frank McMullen, TAA's Technical Services Engineering Superintendent and F27 Project Engineer, was a member of the team that joined with Department of Civil Aviation officials studying the crash. He formed the view that at the third attempt to land, the crew adopted a low flight path hoping to keep the airstrip in sight below the cloud layer, but were deceived by the difficulty in assessing height over a glassy sea and put the left wing tip into the water turning onto the runway approach." Unquote.

Historically, third approaches increase the chances of an accident particularly where poor visibility is involved. That is why some operators require their crews to divert to an alternate aerodrome if failing to land after two missed approaches. In addition it is well known that use of aircraft landing lights in low forward visibility such as flying in and out of patches of fog or low cloud can easily distract the pilots concentration.

From where I live we watch aircraft flying the ILS to Melbourne 27. At night when low cloud is present on the approach path, the landing lights can be spotted reflecting off the mist and from personal experience as a pilot it can be very distracting indeed. Common sense would dictate the pilot should switch off the landing lights if they are interfering with his forward vision because of cloud reflection but pilots often seem reluctant to do so nowadays. SOP's need to be more flexible sometimes.

In the case of the Mackay accident, a likely scenario is the captain knew he was over water and could risk dropping below an instrument approach MDA in an attempt to spot the runway. It is a good bet (and has happened before under similar meteorological circumstances) that both pilots were heads up looking for visual cues from the aerodrome.

if indeed the landing lights were on in preparation for the night landing, it is entirely possible both pilots forward vision was temporarily affected by landing light glare reflecting from low cloud back though the windscreen.

With both pilots heads up hoping to spot the runway lights, it would take only a few seconds at very low altitude below the MDA for the pilots to miss a gentle descent into the sea. That is why it is good airmanship in such circumstances during an instrument approach for one pilot to be concentrating on the flight instruments (heads down) while the other pilots concentrates looking outside (heads up) for the runway. It is well known that both pilots peering though the windscreen at the same time looking for visual cues in low visibility, can fail to detect even the slightest trim change caused by power adjustments or flap extension and fail to detect a gentle descent or even a climb.

To this day, ATSB still elect to not to state a Most Likely Cause of an accident. I understand the NTSB in USA are required by law to state a Most Likely Cause if there is insufficient evidence to state the actual cause. In the Mackay F27 accident, the most likely cause of the accident could be continued flight below approach safe altitude compounded by restricted forward visibility caused in part by landing light glare reflecting from low cloud and mist.

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Old 9th Jun 2020, 01:57
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I used this accident to illustrate to young blogs for years the perils of not knowing your meteorology, the dangers of night visual approaches and decision making and being overly trusting in ATC . CFIT it was - why? Well you need to study the whole flight not just a few final minutes. You need to understand the difference between radiation fog and advection fog and the visual illusions created by slant distance and fog. It is night at Mackay, advection fog begins to drift in from the ocean over the airfield at Mackay. It comes and goes varying in amount and thickness. The aircraft had plenty of fuel and at first held overhead for quite a while to see if it would clear. The crew would have had no trouble seeing it at altitudes high and low and the variation as the lights nearby and the runway lights dissappeared and reappeared. The Tower controller tried to assist by updating regularly on the visibility and location of the fog (cloud on the ground) which increased and decreased. The lights you see at night on the ground and how far they are very different from the cockpit as opposed to a fixed distance above the ground in the tower. You could fly overhead and see the runway lights well even the fog reasonably clearly but by the time you turned on to final those same lights visible vertically would dissappear again on you and the fog covers everything. The crew attempted a number of approaches on advice from the towers assessment of the visibility and location of the fog those approaches included reversing the runway direction from one direction and then the other problem was what they would see varied to what the tower would see and each time they could not get visual and had to go around. They were effectively manouvering visually in a black hole over the ocean on attempt number three when they flew into the water. The Captain was a very experienced ex PNG driver (I still have a picture of him in earlier days). It was a tragedy but in the end the crew failed to monitor their rate of descent or attitude why? we will never know, both heads outside perhaps nobody inside, I don't know and we never will. I nearly did the same myself on a dark night once in similar circumstances on the coast in the northwest of WA, you want a really big fright, try a banked attitude at night base to final for the third time, looking for lights head out and then back in to find the ROD is now approaching 1000 fpm and your literally just about tot hit the ground. I got a big frightt but survived never flew a night approach like that ever again. The lessons I took from this are all listed above at some point you have to make a decision to get the f*^& out of there and go somewhere else. They could have done that but didn't. Sad but true. I criticise nobody but like all accidents lots of issues build and in the end get you unless you stop the process early.
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Old 9th Jun 2020, 10:57
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The controller involved was evacuated from town shortly before the planned lynching.
Not his fault but he was the only on left alive to blame.
Vindictive relatives of the deceased never stopped hounding him including finding his address and sending him birthday cards on the students birthdays every year.
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Old 9th Jun 2020, 11:15
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Originally Posted by amberale View Post
The controller involved was evacuated from town shortly before the planned lynching.
Not his fault but he was the only on left alive to blame.
Vindictive relatives of the deceased never stopped hounding him including finding his address and sending him birthday cards on the students birthdays every year.
Well thatís never come up before!! Why?
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