Crew escapes failing F111 By FRANK CRANSTON,
Defence and aviation correspondent
An RAAF F111C bomber was destroyed yesterday when both of its engines failed as it
was trying to take off from the Royal New Zealand Air Force base at Ohakea, near Palmerston North, about 160 kilometres north of Wellington.
Both crew ejected safely after they had tried but were unable to stop the machine because of the shortness of the Ohakea runway.
The F111, from No 1 Squadron, Amberley, Queensland, was one of four due to take part in a simulated shipping strike as part of the
current Tasmanex four-na- tion naval and air exercises off the New Zealand coast.
The aircraft had ac- celerated to more than 120 knots when both engines flamed out, leaving the pilot with only a few hundred feet of runway to try to stop it
Flight Lieutenant Curr
Flying Officer Kelly
before pulling the lever to ac- tivate the explosive charges which eject the crew module.
The aircraft continued on across a sealed airport-access road, through a fence into a low gully and ended up in a paddock. It was described lat- er as a "complete write off", the nose cone having sepa- rated from the fuselage and both catching fire.
The pilot, Flying Officer Mark Kelly, 22, of Armadale, Victoria, and the navigator, Flight Lieutenant Alan Curr, 30, of Ballandena, Queensland, escaped serious injury. Both were reported to have suffered slight back in- juries and were resting in Palmerston North hospital last night.
Yesterday's crash brings to
four the number of F111s lost by the RAAF since it took delivery of the machines in 1973. The first crashed after an engine blew up near
Armidale, NSW, in April, 1977; the second when the pilot was disabled by birds which shattered his wind- screen at the Evans Head, NSW, training range in Sep- tember, 1977; the third in October, 1978, north of Auckland, NZ, after fire- warning lights indicated the
machine was about to ex- plode.
The two crew were killed in the Evans Head crash.
The latest crash reduces to 20 the F111s in the RAAF and with four of these to be converted to reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, the effective strike force has now fallen to 16, just enough for two squadrons.
The RAAF bought 24 of the jets for $300 million about
seven years ago.
Continued on Page 8
Continued from Page 1
Including yesterday's crash, the attri- tion rate of RAAF F111s is nearing 2 per cent a year which, according to aviation experts, is well within the rate considered tolerable for advanced mili- tary aircraft. The US Navy accepts a loss rate of 2.6 per cent as acceptable and the USAF about 2 per cent.
At its current loss rate, the RAAF could expect to be without another F111 about February, 1982.
Much of the trouble with the F111, both in Australia and in the US, has been with its Pratt and Whitney TF30 engine, derivates of which have also caused problems in other US fighters.
So far this year the RAAF has lost five aircraft including an Iroquois heli- copter, a Macchi jet trainer, a Mirage fighter, a CT4 piston-engined trainer
and the F111.
The F111 was not the only loss the Australian "Tasmanex" force sustained.
On Thursday night the radar mast of the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne fell into the sea after the ship was buffeted by heavy seas and 40-knot beam winds. Its replacement is expected to cost more than $60,000.