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THE WIDGEON.

FAILS TO FLY.

DIVES INTO BOTANY

BAY.

| PILOT ESCAPES.

What for a few moments seemed to be a serious seaplane disaster occurred in Botany Bay yesterday afternoon, when the "Widgeon, the Australian designed and built sea boat, instead of rising into the air, nose-dived into the water.

Flight-Commander Wackett, the designer of the machine, was the pilot, and he had with him as observer Coloned Brinsmead, Con- troller of Oivll Aviation.

Looking at the senplano from the land It seemed as If it was about to tako the air, but Instead It nose-dived, and the next In- stant all that waB seen waa the tall of

tho machine abofe the water.

reclamations of fear wero uttored by the hundreds of persons who wore watching the test from tho landing stage al La Porousc, hut after about twonty seconds the forms of men wero seen holding on to the wings of the seaplane, to the great delight of the spectators, who Included Mrs. Wackett, wife or the designer and pilot.

Colonel Brinsmead, later In the evening, stated that tho Widgeon was not seriously damaged, and that a fortnight would prob- ably bo sufficient to effect repairs, whon the senbont would again be ready for tests.

None of the occupants suffered injury other than severe shock from their immersion in the icy cold water, and a shaking from being thrown out of tho machine. The Civil Am- bulance was summoned by some of the spec- tators, but It waa found that their services wore not.rerjulrod.

AN EXPERIMENTAL MACHINE.

Tho Widgeon was built by tho experimental section of tho Royal Australian Air Force, in the Federal Aircraft Works at Randwick. The machine was doslgnod by Squadron Leader Wackott, and, with tho exception of the 230 h.p. Slddoley-Puma engine, all tho material was of Australian mnko. The timber was Australian grown, and selected as a rosult of tho toBts mado specially for the Federal Government by Mr. Broadsmlth, one of the engineer-designers of tho Avro Com- pany, prior to his return to England.

In almost every particular the machine may be regarded as an experiment, and the cost of construction WBB borne by tho Dé- fonce Department for the purposo of ascer- taining how far It Is practicable to doslgn and build aeroplanes and seaplanes In Australia. This seabont was specially designed for civil aviation purposes, b»l tho tosts were watched hy Wiiig-Commaudor Williams, who officially represented the Australian Air Board, and ho stated yesterday the altitude of tho De- fence Department towards tli^s moke of sea boat would bo guided mainly by the be- haviour of the Widgeon lu Its actual flying

tests.

It was pointed out by leading members of the Royal Australian Air Forco yester- day that In many loading detuils the Wld guon varied considerably from the war stan- dard designs. There was a consenrus' of opinion nmongst tho exports that she would bo "a dirty boat," which means that she would always Bhip a great deal of water oven In fair weather, and' that there would bo gravo danger of swamping in rough seas. This opinion, given beforo the boat actually attempted to fly, waa borne out by the tests yesterday, as throughout the machine seemod to bo "nose heavy." and to have insufficient

tail control.

* Colonol Brinsmoad, who was In all the at- tempted flights yesterday, said afterwards, that it was too soon to form a'rellablo opinion lu regard either to tho soavvorthlness of tho machino or its air reliability. Ho said bo was satisfied from the tosts that the design was theoretically sound, 'and he believed that whon repaired tho future tests would show the reliability of the machine in practical work. Up to tho prosont, he said, despite the unfor- tunate accident, tho machine had acted up to anticipations. Ho attributed the accident to tho fact that the machine, when getting up speed for the elevation, was struck by a loug roller wave, which bumpod the senboat up into the air, and. In croBSlug the trough, tho nose was deflected downward, and was caught by the second roller, which smashed In the front woodwork of the boat, cuuslng tho machine to sink Instantaneously.

STO_Y Otf THE TESTS.

Tho Widgeon was taken from Randwick to La Porouso ovov a week ago, and was there subjected to final tuning up, nnd on Tuesday was launched in Botany Bay, when further tests followed, preliminary to the official tosts yes-

terday.

In the foronoon, when every thing scorned in order, the machine was started on what was hoped would bo Its first aerial Journey. Squadron-Leader Wackett was the pilot, and Colonel Brinsmead was so confident that the machine would work satisfactorily, that ho went aboard for observations of Its behaviour In

tho air.

The Widgeon started on hor initial Journoy with every indication of u successful flight. The water was skimmed as gracefully as any airman could wish, and the crowd encouraged the pilot with hearty cheers. But hardly had those died away when it was evident the machine was In difficulties, and she swerved suddenly, and struck a sandbank with con- siderable force. A searching examination proved that there had been no damage done, and a further effort was mado. This time the machine waB headed towards Captain Cook's landlng-plnce at Kurnell, but whon she got well towards tho Heads It was realised that she could not face the waters of the open bay, and she was brought back to the vicinity of the hangar without any mishap.

Colonel Brlnsmend's comment on the trip was that the machine was going admirably until she turned towards the ocean, then the waves were too much for her. They would, ho added, have presented no difficulty to a tried soaplano, but It would have boon too risky to encounter them on a trial and ex- perimental flight.

At 3.30 In tho afternoon the Widgeon was drawn up on the sands, opposito tho hangar, whoro, with dun ceremony, she was officially christened by Mrs. Wackett, wlfo of the de- signer. A rainstorm was threatening at this time, und, after a Bhort delay, the weather Im- proved and tho wind lessened. Squadron Loader Wackett then Indiented that ho would nenin mnko an effort to fly, and he and Colonol Brinsmead entered the machino amidst tho warmest wishes of tho spectators for the best

of good luck.

Thero was somo difficulty in gottlng tho engine stalled, mainly owing to tho extreme coldness of the atmosphere. The machine was taken out to tho b«y, nnd porformed a number evolutions on the water, which showed that sha was answorlng tho control satisfactorily. Tho only sign of danger was that, evon in calm water, tho boat made so much sea that there appeared, from the land danger of her ovorturnlnur. When sim got up spoed for the olevntlon tho neeldent occurred with stnrlling suddonncss. The pilot, Colonel Brinsmead, and the two medíanles were Immediately rescued by the occupnnlR of the R.A.S. Bpoed boat, which attended the Widgeon on her

trial«.

A number of anxious spectators, Including Mrs Wnrkett, chartered a launch lo go out to (ho scene of the accident, but, when they arrived alongside, it wns found that the spoort bont had the Bcnbont In tow, mid Fllght-Com mnnder Wackett, who took tho nilshnn willi philosophic calm, shouted lo his wife: "Wo aro all right: no one Is hurt."

The Widgeon was towed to shallow water near the hangnr on thn bench, and Inter was dragged ashore, when examination showed that tho damage dono wan cnmnnrntlvely lillie, n id It can bo repaired without much delay or expense. _^___-_^^_^_^___

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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