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Qantas DC4 unusual attitude incident 55 years ago?

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Qantas DC4 unusual attitude incident 55 years ago?

Old 27th Sep 2010, 14:51
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Qantas DC4 unusual attitude incident 55 years ago?

Long shot - but you never know, some PPRuNe reader may remember.

Flight Lieutenant Jack Thomas AFC was a Lincoln captain with No. 10 Squadron at Townsville in the early Fifties. He was awarded the Air Force Cross for his part in flying out survivors of the Mount Lamington volcanic disaster in PNG. I flew many hours as his second pilot on Lincoln bombers and to this day he was one of the smoothest pilots I have ever flown with.

He left the RAAF circa 1954 and joined Qantas as second officer on DC4 freighters including the transportation of Rhesus monkeys from Indonesia to Australia. The story as I recall, was that during a flight over the Arafura Sea, the captain left the cockpit to check on the freight, leaving the first officer and second officer (Jack Thomas) to hold the fort up front.

They were IMC when one of the propellers became uncontrollable (runaway prop). In the ensuing sweat up front someone feathered the wrong prop leaving the DC4 with two engines inoperative on one side. Control of the aircraft was lost and a severe unusual attitude was the result. The captain managed to crawl back into the cockpit and get the DC4 upright again. Maybe they got the wrongly feathered prop back to life again - I don't know.

Qantas held an internal inquiry and sacked Jack Thomas the second pilot despite his undoubted long experience as a Dakota transport captain in the RAAF as well as extensive command hours as a Lincoln captain.

Can any reader suggest where I could find the incident report and also does anyone know what happened to Jack Thomas after he was booted out of Qantas. He would be around 88 years old if he were still alive now. Apparently there were massive recriminations between the three crew members and the most junior in rank (Jack Thomas) wore the blame. Knowing the flying skill of the man I have often wondered what the real story was.
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Old 27th Sep 2010, 21:19
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Bill Forgan-Smith was the captain I think ?
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Old 28th Sep 2010, 12:42
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The DC-4 incident.

This is stretching the memory a bit but this is how I remember it. The a/c was returning from (perhaps) Guam on a black night. The crew were;
Capt. Bill Forgan-Smith (Forgy)
F/O J.C. Johnston (Clyde)
S/O Jack Thomas

Both Forgan-Smith and Clyde Johnston were ex Qantas, New Guinea.

Forgan-Smith was asleep in the RHS.
Clyde Johnston was asleep in the crew rest.
Jack Thomas was in the LHS.

Whilst changing fuel tanks Jack accidently ran the fuel feed to No.1 engine dry. No. 1 prop then went into overspeed. Somehow Jack thought the problem was the N0.2 engine and feathered it.

The a/c then went into a spiral dive. Forgy was rudely awakened from his slumbers was trying to assess the situation.

Clyde Johnston, sleeping in the crew rest, awoke, looked out the window and saw sparks from the No.1 engine. He somehow managed ot make his way back to the flight deck and called for the No.1 prop to be feathered.

Recovery was around 2,000 feet.

Forgan-Smith was reduced to a (permanent) F/O.
Clyde Johnston later went on to command both DC-4's and B707's.
I am vague on what happened to Jack Thomas. Whether he subsequently decided to resign or was forced out I do not know. He was certainly not around in 1965 from one of my old seniority lists so he must have departed not long after the incident.

My memory of Jack Thomas is that he was a pleasant, quiet and competent pilot. He also was not the only person to have had problems changing tank selections on the DC-4.
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Old 28th Sep 2010, 13:06
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DC4 fuel system glitch. Is this of any relevance?

Investigators with the Accidents Investigation Branch (AIB) determined that the aircraft had run out of fuel because of a previously unrecognised flaw in the model's fuel system.
Stockport air disaster - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 28th Sep 2010, 15:04
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My memory of Jack Thomas is that he was a pleasant, quiet and competent pilot. He also was not the only person to have had problems changing tank selections on the DC-4.
Norman. Thanks a million for that story. I have contacted ATSB to try and get the official account. They have been very helpful in the past in such matters of old incident reports. Jack Thomas seemed to have disappeared completely. Typical of the Qantas of old - sack or demote the accused - no lawyers to represent erring flight crews - out of sight -out of mind.
To all that flew with him in my squadron he was the original officer and a gentleman and he didn't deserve that miserable treatment by QF
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Old 28th Sep 2010, 15:19
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A DC-4 with a load of monkeys in back?

That would be the Bill Forgan-Smith that built himself a Klemm, that worked for Ray Parer in the '30s, .....

Norman, Centaurus, is there anything on record still? I've been searching for information on that incident myself. Trying to fill a few gaps in the family history. I'll try and enable private messages. Would love to hear more.
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Old 28th Sep 2010, 15:25
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The complex DC-4 fuel system was a factor in the crash of ANA's Skymaster Amana 26th June 1950 outbound from Perth, WA.

For a schematic, see Macarthur Job's Air Crash, Vol. 2, page 134
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Old 4th Oct 2010, 01:21
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Centaurus & HulaBula,

It seems that my memory is not as good as I thought it was. The following from one of my colleagues;

"I remember the Forgie Smith incident as I lobbed into Colombo in a Super Connie while the DC-4 (Monkey Carrier) was there.

I spun the prop as it had sheared from any connections. Another case where sitting on your hands in an emergency is recommended"

During the production of the Salk Vaccine in the late 1950's and early 1960's, both the L1049's and the DC-4's were used to freight cages of Rhesus monkeys to Melbourne. In those humid conditions the stench from those 70/80 cages (where the monkeys were doing unspeakable things) was indescribable. It permeated clothes and body.

On the L1049, the toilet was outside the flight deck and in the main cabin. Prior to T/O tthe Flight Engineers would put masking tape around the edge of the crew door in an attempt to contain the smell to the cabin. We would then try to hang on as long as possible so as not to break the rather inefective seal.

I am still trying to follow up, through my colleagues, some further information about both the incident and Jack Thomas and will pass it on when successful.

With regards.

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Old 4th Oct 2010, 05:42
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Centaurus & HulaBula.

An update from a colleague

I have rung (xxxx) who was a great mate of Clydes, and he confirms the DC-4 was not Guam but Colombo. It is even in my log book, Oct. 23 1958. The S/O was in the left hand seat, Bill was in the right hand seat having a kip and Clyde was stretched out on the floor in the cockpit.

Normal procedure, draining a fuel tank to get the max. and watch the fuel pressure guage until it fluctuates, But pull back on the throttle while changing tanks until the pressure stabilises. Bit of a swing but no big deal. Passengers used to go a bit pale.

In this case the S/O did not pull the throttle back while changing tanks, then picked the wrong engine and feathered it. Good engine has now oversped. 2 out on one side. Clyde dragged himself forward and conducted the recovery. Bill had evidently switched off.

The tank selectors were quite good, much better than the DC.3, but we were always fuel marginal.

There was no crew rest except on the pax. flights where we had the last two seats in the cabin. On freighters you stretched out anywhere, preferably close to the controls.

Clyde died about 6 years ago,

Can't help with Jack Thomas.

If any further information comes to hand i will pass it on.

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Old 4th Oct 2010, 07:10
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I remember doing a SYD-MEL charter on the Beech 18 with John Williams as Capt,some time in 1969-70 iirc.
The Monkeys were stacked in their cages and being a rear door only type it was kind of creepy having 60 or so soft little hands grabbing as you slid a- long the top to the front seat.I cannot begin to describe the smell when those 985's started.
Seem's so long ago
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Old 17th Aug 2016, 13:45
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I am Clyde Johnston's daughter. I logged in to add that I grew up listening to this story. I was born in July 1958 and soon after almost lost my father in that incident. My version aligns with the version that dad's mate told Norman Wells. Dad had many wonderful flying stories - what an exciting time in aviation that must have been. Sadly, dad was afflicted with Parkinson's disease in his later years - as were some of his New Guinea flying colleagues. He passed away in 2005. I wish he had written his memoir.
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Old 18th Aug 2016, 00:43
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I flew with Clyde in PNG. What ever happened to all that film which he took with the Go-Pro of its day, the 35mm Belle & Howell Movie Camera?
Regards, Norman Wells
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Old 19th Aug 2016, 02:11
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The UK Stockport issue was a mis-rigging of the selector valves, not fuel selection per-se.
The later act of feathering 3 engines due to fuel mismanagement was a classic in not dissimilar vein to the incident below. Produced the classic line "And if the fourth engine "failed", what were you going to do THEN??"
Researched these for the HARS DC-4 archive.

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Old 19th Aug 2016, 14:10
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Probably explains why the pass mark for Fuel Management in the old days was 100% whilst doing the ground school for conversion to type.
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