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Two die in Fill

crash

By FRANK CRANSTON

An RAAF pilot and a United States Air Force navigation expert were killed when their F111 supersonic bomber crashed into the sea ofT Moruya late on Tuesday.

Flight-Lieutenant Stephen Mathcw Erskinc, 24, of Queensland, and Cap tain Gregory Spcnce Angcll, 33, at tached to No 1 Squadron, RAAF, Amberlcy, Queensland, died when the aircraft they were flying struck the water at high speed during night man

oeuvres.

Captian Angell was on exchange duty with the RAAF.

Wreckage including portions of the aircraft's cockpit module — also the emergency ejection capsule — were found during a search yesterday of an area about 75 kilometres cast of Moruya.

It appears from the wreckage that the crew had not had time to activate the ejection system before the impact. To engage it cither member of the crew has to pull a handle alongside his

seat.

An RAAF spokesman said late yes terday that an RAAF Orion aircraft with infra-red detector equipment and an RAN helicopter-equipped ship would continue the search for the bodies of the two men through the night.

He said a decision would be made early today whether to continue the search. RAAF officials believed the possibility of finding the bodies was

remote.

The Fl 11 was one of four taking part in simulated Harpoon surface skimming missile attacks on the RAN's FFG7-class frigate Sydney.

The Sydney and other fleet units were taking part with Royal New Zealand Navy and Royal New Zea land Air Force aircraft in a major anti-submarine and air-strike ex ercise.

Flight-Lieutenant Erskine's aircraft is believed to have been approaching the Sydney at about 900km/h and as low as 100 metres above the sea when it disappeared.

One of the other Fl 11 pilots re ported seeing a bright flash in the area

about the time the crashed Fill was

on its final run against the warship.

The crashed Fill is the fifth lost by the RAAF since they entered ser vice in 1973. It is the second fatal crash.

The four previous losses were re placed from USAF stocks but there will be difficulty in finding a re placement for the machine lost on Tuesday.

The USAF has been converting the bulk of its Fl 11 force to electronic surveillance and counter-measures aircraft for long-range penetration into hostile areas.

The Fl 1 Is were the centre of US

political controversy during their de velopment. About 500 were built in stead of the 1,500 intended.

More than 20 years after they were designed they arc still considered at the leading edge of technology and, according to the RAAF, will probably be operating for another 30 years.

The 24 RAAF aircraft initially purchased, including spare parts and other support equipment, cost $259

million.

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