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Canopy Believed Cause
Of Sabre Pilot Deaths
Investigation of three fatal Sabre jet crashes at William town R.A.A.F. Base recently had shown therev were common grounds for believing that the pilots were killed or knocked unconscious before they could fire their ejection seats, the Minister for Air, Mr. Osborne, said to-night.
I Mr. Osborne 6aid it was believed the pilots were struck on the head by the perspex canopy over the cockpit while it was being jettisoned by the firing of an explosive charge. I
To overcome this the Sabre aircraft of the R.A.A:F. would be modified by fitting a device to shatter the per spex canopy 'over the pilot's head in an emergency.
Mr. Osborne said the modi
fication could be incorpor-1 ated in all Australian Sabres including those at Butter worth in Malaya, .within about two weeks.
Until then all flying In Sabres had been suspended.
The crashes investigated by R.A.A.F. flying safety special ists to determine the common factor were:
. February 10, Flight Lieutenant Ross Hamilton Allan, 34, of 75 Squadron killed in a beach crash four miles from William town..
. March 7, Sergeant An dris Hincenbergs, 22, of No 2 Operational Conversion Unit, died in a crash into a swamp near Raymond .Ter
. April 13, Sergeant Rich-' ard Holding, 21, of No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit killed in a crash two miles east of Williamtown.
Mr. Osborne said all three accidents had occurred at low level at low speed.
'This tragic coincidence has made it apparent that an unacceptable risk can occur when a pilot attempts to jetti
son his canopy at low level and at a low speed," he said
"Consequently a new de vice has been developed urgently by the R..A.A.F technical staff.
"Before these three recent accidents R.A.A.F. Sabre pilots had only twice attempt ed to eject from their aircraft
in an emergency in "flight and both attempts were successful, one being at a low altitude."
Mr. Osborne said the new device was tested successfully on the ground at the R.A.A.F station at Wagga last week, and in flight by the Aircraft Research and Development Unit at Laverton.
It consisted of a captive spring-loaded bolt above and behind the pilot's head which would be released by the first action of the ejection se quence and would shatter the perspex canopy. The seat would then eject through the broken canopy.
The existing canopy and ejection 6eat equipment and the techniques for their oper ation, were identical with those in use in the Sabres of the United States Air Force, where nearly 500 ejections had been attempted, a high percentable of them success fully, Mr. Osborne added.