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Disaster Suggestion

IT had been suggested that a badly mutilated gannet washed up at Seven-Mile Beach might have flown   into the cockpit of the plane, Mr Justice Simpson said when the Air Court of Inquiry investigating the air dis- aster on March 10 was continued at Hobart yesterday. Evidence was given that the bird might have been killed in a collision with a "heavy, fast-moving body."

TWENTY-FIVE lives were lost  

when a Douglas airliner crash- ed into the sea near Seven-Mile Beach shortly after taking off from Cambridge aerodrome.

Mr Justice Simpson, of the Cap- ital Territory Supreme Court, is pre- siding at the inquiry, with Capt O. D. Denny, of Qantas Empire Air- ways, and Mr B. McA. Foster, secre- tary of the Australian Council of Aeronautics, as assessors. The Court is assisted by Mr H. A. Winnecke.

Mr O. J. Gillard (instructed by Johnson, Mitchell, and Laughton), appeared for the Civil Aviation Dept., and Dr E. G. Coppel, KC, with Mr C. A. Pape (instructed by Malleson, Stewart, and Co.) for Australian National Airways.

Rodney Wilton Henry, of New Nor- folk, works manager of Australian Newsprint Mills, said he was a pas- senger on the ill-fated Douglas on its last flight from Essendon to Cambridge. The trip was bumpy at times, but not unduly rough.

He saw a flash of lightning on the port side soon after leaving Essen- don, and there was a sharp noise like the sound of a large fuse blowing out. After that he listened intent- ly for engine fault, but did not no- tice any, and he did not see any sign of the lightning strike on the plane.

About half an hour after the strike Capt Spence walked into the pas- sengers' cabin, and remarked to witness that it was very cold, and he intended to bring the plane down to 4,000ft. or 5,000ft.

He described the lightning as a "hell of a crack," but it was a purely casual remark and he did not seem to be upset about it.

Michael Stanley Sharland, 141 Hampden Rd., Hobart, honorary or- nithologist to the Tasmanian Museum, president of the Field Na- turalists' Club, and author of "Tas- manian Birds," was called to give expert opinion on the suggestion that the crash might have been caused by the plane having collided with a bird.

He said that on April 8 Sgt B. H. Whittle, of the Police Dept., brought to his notice the remains of a gan- net which had washed up on Seven Mile Beach about a fortnight after the crash. The bird apparently was about 2ft. 6in. to 3ft. long, and had a wing span of about 6ft.

The gannet was fairly common in the sea and estuary waters of South- ern Tasmania, and was a fishing bird which dived on its prey from heights ranging from 50ft to 500ft.

Witness said that from his ex- amination of the remains of the bird he had formed the opinion that it had met a violent death, but it was impossible to say how death actually had been caused.

The head of the bird, one leg and foot, and the bulk of the body were missing, and it was in a badly muti- lated condition. He could not form a very reliable opinion as to how long it had been dead, but it was possible death had occurred two to three weeks before.

Witness said the condition of the bird was consistent with its having been smacked by a heavy, fast-moving body, as the whole skeleton appeared to have been disintegrated.