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A NOSE DIVE.
NEARLY A DISASTER.
SYDNEY, July 8.
Disaster almost overtook the Aus- tralian designed and built seaplane Widgeon, and its occupants, at the official trial in Botany Bay this after- noon. The preliminary manoeuvres on the water were satisfactory, but when an elevation was attempted the ma- chine, instead of rising into the air, nose-dived into the water.
There were exclamations of alarm from many of the spectators, who feared that the crew and Colonel Binsmead (Con- troller of Civil Aviation), who had gone aboard to take observations, would be drowned. The spectators were relieved when they saw the occupants of the machine climb on to the top of the wings of the seaplane. The machine was piloted by Flight-Commander Wackett, the de- signer ot the seaplane, who was accom- panied by two mechanics. Mrs. Wackett, who was among the spectators, hired a launch, and put off to the upturned sea- plane, but before she had gone far she saw her husband waving his arms, and heard him say: "We are all right." The Widgeon was taken from the Randwick workshop to La Perouse more than a week ago, and on Tuesday was launched in Botany Bay, where preliminary tests were made in preparation for the official trial to-day. Early this afternoon everything was put in order, and Colonel Brinsmead waa so confident that the machine would work satisfactorily that he went aboard to make observations of its behaviour in the air.
STRUCK A SANDBANK.
The Widgeon began its initial flight with every indication of success. The water was skimmed as gracefully as any aviator could desire, and the spectators, delighted with the performance, cheered enthusiastically, but hardly had the cheers died away when the machine swerved suddenly, and struck a sandbank with great force. An examination re- vealed that no damage had been done, and it was decided to continue the trial. The machine was headed towards Captain Cook's landing place at Kurnell, but when she got near the 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 mishap. Colonel Brins- mead said that the seaplane travelled splendidly until she turned towards the ocean. Then the waves were too much for her. He said that these waves would have presented no difficulty to a tried seaplane, but it would have been too risky to encounter them on a trial flight.
A little later the Widgeon was made ready for a further effort. There was some difficulty in getting the engine started owing to the extreme coldness of the atmosphere. The machine was taken out to the bay, and evolutions on the water showed that she was answering the control satisfactorily, the only sign of danger be- ing that even in a calm sea she made too much water. When the machine got up speed for the elevation from the water
the accident occurred with startling sud- denness, and all that could be seen of the seaplane was the tail end above water. Colonel Brinsmead, with Flight-Comman- der Wackett and the two mechanics, were rescued by a speed boat which attended the trial. Colonel Brinsmead said that the Widgeon was not seriously damaged, and that probably a fortnight would be suffi- cient to effect repairs. Further trials would then be made. None of the occu- pants suffered any injury other than a severe shock and immersion in the icy water.
The Widgeon was built by the experi- mental section of the Royal Australian Air Force in the Commonwealth aircraft works at Randwick. The machine was designed throughout by Flight-Commander Wackett, and, with the exception of the 230 horse-power Siddley-Puma engine, all the material was of Australian manufac- ture. The timber used was Australian grown, and was selected after tests made by Mr. Broadsmith, one of the engine de- signers of the Avro Company, before his return to England. In almost every par- ticular the machine may be regarded as an experiment. The cost was borne by the Defence Department for the purpose of ascertaining how far it is possible to design and build seaplanes and aeroplanes in Australia.
The Widgeon waa specially built for civil aviation purposes, but the tests were watched by Wing-Commander Williams (the official representative of the Aus- tralian Air Board), who said that the attitude of the Defence Department to- wards this make of seaplane would be guided mainly by the behaviour of the Widgeon during the trials. It was pointed out by leading members of the Australian Air Force to-day that in many important details the Widgeon varied from stand- ard designs in which during the war they had to face all kinds of weather and seas. The hope was expressed that the design would prove satisfactory, but there was a consensus of opinion among the experts that the Widgeon would be a "dirty" boat, which in flying language meant that it would always ship a great deal of water, even ¡n fair weather, and that there would be a danger of swamp- ing in rough seas. This opinion was given before the Widgeon attempted to fly. The machine appeared to have insufficient tail control, and to be nose heavy.
COLONEL BRINSMEAD'S VIEWS.
Colonel Brinsmead, who was aboard the Widgeon in all her attempted flights to- day, said that it was too early to form a reliable opinion regarding the sea- worthiness of the machine, or its re- liability in the air. He was satisfied from the tests that the design was theoretically sound, and he believed that when repaired the machine would prove reliable. Up to the present, he added, notwithstanding the unfortunate accident, the machine had fulfilled all expectations. He attributed the accident to the fact that when getting up speed to rise the seaplane was struck by a long roll of waves, which bumped it up in the air, and in crossing the trough the nose was deflected down and was caught by a second roller, which damaged the front woodwork of the body, causing the machine to sink instantly.