24th of April 1994

Updated: Apr 25

** Update 25th of April 2022 ** I was contacted by the captain of Echo Delta Charlie, Captain Rod Lovell, and he gave some additional information and corrections to the blog. The addition and corrections are made in the blog and are recognizable by the bold text. It was on a Sunday, the 24th of April 1994, that a Douglas C-47A-20-DK (DC-3) was operating a charter flight (IFR) from Sydney to Norfolk Island with a fuel stop at Lord Howe Island, all in Australia). Onboard a crew of 4 and 21 passengers.

The aircraft after it sunk (source; © Unknown)

With all preparations complete and engines started, taxi clearance was received just before 09.00 local time. The captain was the pilot monitoring, and the first officer was the pilot flying for this sector.

At 09.07 the take-off clearance was received.

With all checks completed the take-off was initiated and the DC-3 started to accelerate down the runway without any abnormalities. At 81 knots the aircraft became airborne and started to gain altitude. At ~200 feet AGL, while the gear was retracted a series of popping sounds were audible, with the aircraft yawing to the left. The captain promptly informed ATC of their problem. With the speed around 100 knots, the engine was secured, the throttle was closed and the propellor was feathered. With the remaining engine running at full power (Manifold Pressure at 48 Inches Hg and running at 2700 rpm) the speed started to decay, the co-pilot reported that he could not maintain 81 Knots IAS, and the aircraft started to drift to the left of the extended centreline. Right aileron and near or full right rudder was used to control the aircraft.

The aircraft being evacuated, just after ditching, note the copilot leaning out the cockpit overhead escape hatch (source; © Unknown)

Initially, the captain assessed the situation as such that the aircraft was capable of climbing single-engine and a return to the field may have been possible. That assessment changed when he observed that the speed decayed below 81 knots and the aircraft was no longer climbing. He then took control of the aircraft and advised ATC they would be ditching as close as possible to the southern end of runway 16L in Botany Bay (.still under construction). The aircraft entered the water approximately 46 seconds after the captain informed ATC of their situation. All 25 occupants evacuated the aircraft before it sank, they were taken to the shore by pleasure boats. 3 of the 4 crew members were injured, and the flight attendant was administered to the hospital after sustaining serious injuries. The aircraft was a write off after sustaining substantial damage from the ditching, recovery and saltwater immersion.

The aircraft being recovered. (source; © Unknown)

The Australian BASI (Bureau of Air Safety Investigation) investigated the engine failure and subsequent ditching and published their report in March 1996.

(Available by clicking here) The report contained a large number of findings, 32 in total Additionally also 10 significant factors were identified. These varied from poor training of flight crew to oversight issues from the authorities, some of them are;

  1. The aircraft weight at take-off was above the MTOW

  2. The left propellor did not fully feather

  3. The left engine malfunction was most likely due to the incorrect assembly of the no. 3 cylinder inlet valve rocker mechanism which allowed a thrust washer to jam the valve open.

  4. Crew was not wearing full safety harness

  5. Some cabin seats were not properly secured.

The captain of the flight also provided V2 Aviation with some interesting inside information into the accident, that was not included in the BASI report with regards to the right-hand engine, a quote from his message;

"Also not in the BASI report (and in contradiction to what they published on page 14 of that report), in documents provided to me under the Freedom Of Information Act, they found the "Right engine: Twenty-five spark plugs which were recovered from the right engine were similarly cleaned gapped and tested. Of these 11 were considered to be unserviceable, either failing to fire or from electrical breaking down when being tested." No wonder the right-hand engine could not keep us in the air.

Additionally, he also provided his side of the mentioned weight and balance issue as stated in the BASI report, You can download that statement of fact by clicking here. A detailed website on the accident can be found at the following web address:

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