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Bit contentious that one. WHO was flying it? The Hudson got a bit of a bad name but it was just a bit more developed and critical than some types that came before it and had to be handled carefully and not allowed to be tail heavy or get the dead engine low.. Nev

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A classic case of a slow-reactions pilot being "behind the aircraft". Possibly aided by the cockpit distraction of a senior Minister awing a relatively humble pilot, by asking all sorts of questions, as landing procedures were being carried out.


The Hudson was noted for its rapid stall characteristics, you got only minimal warning of stall, and it caught out a number of Hudson pilots. Then there's the possibility of the learner co-pilot being the PIC, and being the one responsible.




"Not a machine for the careless or ham-fisted" .... http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/p263591/pdf/ch161.pdf


The entire book on the tragedy is available to read online, here - Ten Journeys to Cameron's Farm

Edited by onetrack
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I also recall reading somewhere about concerns regarding the pilots competency and flying skills.....

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The Hudson crash strikes a chord with my family history... my father John Harrison was meant to be on that flight as the photographer from the RAAF Public Relations Directorate. Here is his reference to the incident - with a bit of pre-amble - in his own words (excerpt from a transcript of interview done in 1991 - John Harrison, RAAF Public Relations photographer, interviewed by Daniel Connell for The Keith Murdoch Sound Archive of Australia in the War of 1939-45.)


JH: ... Anyway, I'd been there about three weeks when the question came up of the Minister, Jim

Fairbairn, making a round Australia trip in the twin-engined Percival Q6 which was owned by

the Civil Aviation Department which came under him. And then it became a matter of

somebody who'd go with the Minister and I was the one selected to do it, on the round

Australia trip with Fairbairn. I was the sole companion. He flew the aeroplane.

DC: What sort of aircraft?

JH: Percival - named after Edgar Percival - and Australian Percival Q6 - two Gypsy 6s and would

carry about six passengers, retractable undercarriage and constant speed air cruise, and by

British standards a fairly [worn?] aeroplane at that time. Well anyway, on the trip the

Minister flew the aeroplane and I did everything else.

DC: It sounds like an enjoyable government assignment.

JH: And the Minister made the speeches and flew the aeroplane and I did pretty - everything else,

including when we got around to Forrest, halfway between ...



Identification: this is side two, tape one, John Harrison. End of identification.

DC: If you could just go back a little bit.

JH: We overnighted at Forrest. Could not put the aeroplane in a hangar, it had to camp out. I had

to get the covers and so on over the engines and the cockpit. And next morning, after heavy

frost, get these covers off and I then had to hand swing these Gypsy 6s, which I managed to

satisfactorily. We then got into Adelaide and over to Melbourne on 1st August. And then I

think it was about 12th or 13th/14th August I met his private secretary in the men's room - I

think that's the word for it - of Century House, and Dick Elford, his private secretary, said,

'John, I'm sorry, I've done you out of a trip. I'm going with the boss tomorrow.' Well, that trip

'tomorrow' resulted in the Hudson tragedy at Canberra where three Cabinet Ministers and the

Chief of the General Staff - everybody on board - were killed. So that was luck number two

for me - I missed that by a whisker. So that was that....


Me: RIP those on board.

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Bit contentious that one. WHO was flying it? The Hudson got a bit of a bad name but it was just a bit more developed and critical than some types that came before it and had to be handled carefully and not allowed to be tail heavy or get the dead engine low.. Nev

Maybe the attached article throws some light on the circumstances.

Crash secret revealed_ minister was at the controls.pdf

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I guess it's confirming what was widely suspected all along.. People continue to get into strife flying assy or too slow with high power on single engined warbirds. Nev

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The casual remark from Tritton to White about Fairbairns body being found strapped in the pilots seat does not correspond with the official investigation, nor the evidence of witnesses - despite the high levels of conflicting evidence.

Remember the aircraft burnt to a shell, no fire tenders were immediately on the scene, and only one body was recognisable out of the ten victims. No harness or straps of any type would have survived the fire.

It was deemed that three people were found in the cockpit area, but even this evidence is open to conjecture.


The important thing is - no-one was found "strapped in the pilots seat" - or even "in the pilots seat". The fire consumed everything, and the bodies were spread around, two in front of the wreckage, three in the region of the cockpit, four more behind the cockpit area, and one near the tail.


The worst part, is identification of the remains of the bodies in the morgue was poor, possibly because the doctor considered the bodies to be in too poor a condition to be properly examined, or because he considered the job particularly distasteful.

Dissecting and examining burnt corpses is probably one of the worst jobs you could ever do as a medic, and one can understand the Doctors reluctance to be involved in detailed examination.

But there was a total failure on the part of all involved to mark the precise location of the bodies, and to determine as much as possible, the identification of each person.


Fairbairn was a very large man, of solid build and 5' 10" (178cm) in height. He was much larger than Hitchcock, and his bones would have showed visible, serious WW1 bullet damage.

The doctor failed to observe this outstanding arm bone damage, and the autopsies were essentially poorly done, leaving the inquiry results to be conjectured over, forever.


Fairbairn suffered from a severely damaged left arm with two fingers shot off it. His left arm was virtually useless. His right arm suffered from a permanent bend due to WW1 bullet (combat) damage, and was also weakened.

It is inconceivable that a man of Fairbairns status and level of responsibilities (for a very long time), would put his 9, largely VIP passengers at risk by taking over the pilots seat from Hitchcock, knowing full well his limited arm strength.

It is inconceivable that a man like Hitchcock, a "stolid" pilot and a person never known for risk-taking, would hand over the controls of a aircraft loaded with VIP's, even to a very senior Minister, and someone who towered over him.


It is likely that Fairbairns enthusiasm about the Hudson did lead him to enter the rear of the cockpit area and talk to the pilot and co-pilot as they prepared for landing, and made a go-around.

It is also a fact that Hitchcock was often noted for slow speeds in the descent, a fact attested to by others who flew other aircraft with him.


It is likely that Hitchcock was distracted by Fairbairns intense interest and questioning at a time when he should have been paying 100% attention to flying the Hudson, and knowing full well the Hudsons characteristic of suddenly flicking into a vicious stall, with virtually no warning, once slow airspeed was reached.

Hitchcock was not an inexperienced Hudson pilot, but the Hudson was very unforgiving of any slight relaxation in its pilots attention, particularly in the crucial landing approach phase.




Photos of the wreckage - Crash of a Lockheed L-414 Hudson I in Canberra: 10 killed | Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives


Newsreel - Canberra Air Disaster / Debris / Australia / 1940 | HD Stock Video 441-965-080 | Framepool Stock Footage

Edited by onetrack
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Just near the end of the video, you see Fairbairn carrying out an inspection of trainees - a formal occasion. Note that his right arm, showing a distinct bend, is in his coat pocket and his left hand shows the loss of the ring and little fingers. One wonders how he could control the engines of a Percival Q.6 (Petrel) with limited arm movement.



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You need both hands and a few others if you had them at times. In icing conditions for instance. Tapered wings tend to sometimes cause rapid stall. The Hudson was derived from a smaller business twin calledthe Mk1 Electra and they (Hudsons)were flown by ADASTRA AERIEL SURVEYS for years. Barons and similar can bite you just the same if you don't carry margins for manouver. turbulence and wind sheer. IF you stall, you fall.. Nev

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