SHOCKING AIR DISASTER
NOTED FLYERS KILLED
CAPTAIN GROSVENOR A VICTIM
MACHINE DIVES INTO BAY TRAGEDY OFF POINT COOKE
UNAVAILING SEARCH FOR BODIES
Within a mile of Point Cooke, Wackett's Widgeon II. nose dived from a height of 400 feet Into Port Phillip Bay yesterday afternoon. Only an over- coat and a little wreckage have been recovered. The occupants of the Wid-
geon were :—
Captain the Hon. HUGH GROSVENOR, A.D.C. to His Excellency the
Governor of South Australia.
Flight-Lieutenant FREDERICK ALBERT BRIGGS, of the Royal Aus-
tralian Air Force, who was piloting the Widgeon.
Leading Aircraftsman D. C. EWEN, of the Royal Australian Air Force. Captain Grosvenor, who is the son of Lord Stalbridge, of England, was planning to fly to England in an attorn pt to break tho record of 13 days established by Squadron-Leader Kingsford Smith and Flight-Lieutenant Ulm. Fllght-Lieutenant Briggs, one of the "star" pilots of the Royal Australian Air Force, had just been given permission to accompany him. Captain Gros- venor visited Point Cooke to discuss plans for the flight with Flight-Lieuten- ant Briggs. He made the flight in the Widgeon, at Lieutenant Briggs's in-
Only one man, a mechanic at Point Cooke, saw the Widgeon take its fatal plunge into the sea. A search by air and sea disclosed only a little wreckage and an overcoat. The coat indicates that one of the victims tried to throw himself clear of the falling machine. Apparently he did not suc-
The accident,which occurred in the course of a routine test flight, is the first serious crash that has occurred to the flying-boat in Australia. The pilot (Flight- Lieutenant. F. A. Briggs). who is second instructor at Point Cooke, was testing equipment in preparation for the opening of the training course which will begin
at the school next week, He had made several flights in the Widgeon earlier in the afternoon. Shortly before 4 o'clock
Captain Grosvenor, who had arrived in Melbourne by the Adelaide Express in the morning and who had arrainged to fly with Flying-Officer Briggs to England. shortly reached the station to discuss de- tails of the projected flight. Captain Grosvenor was not an officer of the Royal Australian Air Force, and therefore could not fly an Air Force machine, But he ac- epted an invitation to accompany Flying-
Officer Briggs as passenger. The third member of the flyimg-boat's crew was Lead- ing-Aircraftsman D. C. Ewen, who had been engaged in adjustments to the machine Carrier.
The Widgeon, which had been over-
hauled and "tuned" in preparation for the school next week, appeared to be in excel- lent condition and took off without diffi- culty. The sea was choppy, and there was a fresh breeze. For about half an hour the machine manoevered in wide circles over the bay. Owing to the fact that it
had already been in the air several times little attention was paid to it's movements, especially as it's staff on the station has been considerably depleted pending the resumption of training after the holidays and those who were on duty were engaged on other tasks
One Man Sees Crash
Only one man saw the Widgeon fall
This was a mechanic at Point Cooke, who happened to be watching the ill fated machine in its progress across the bay Suddenly he was startled to see the nose of the machine dip sharply. It fell almost straight downwards and instead of flat- tening out dropped with great velocity into the water. A column of spray rose into the air, and when it had subsided no trace of the Widgeon could be seen The mechanic promptly reported the ac- cident, and orders were immediately given for every available machine on the station to fly over the spot where the Widgeon had gone down, and ascertain if possible its fate and that of it's occupants. With- out loss of time six machines were in the air circling over the bay in the vicinity of the tragedy, So distubed was the water, however, by the stiff south-westerly breeze that was blowing that the observers
on these machines could only guess the locality. In the meantime a powerful launch and a rowing-boat put out from the Point Cooke jetty in order to render assistance if there should be anybody alive to assist. So rough was the water that
the rowing-boat was obliged to put back before it had gone very far.
After a search lasting an hour one of the pilots reported having located the Widgeon lying in about 30ft of water about a mile off Point Cooke. The discovery was con- firmed by other pilots, and a launch,
directed to the spot, recovered fragments of wreckage and a flying jacket, which had apparently belonged to one of the three occupants of the Widgeon. The Widgeon was constructed largely of wood, and as little wreckage was found floating above the hull, it is believed that the machine suffered comparatively slight dam- age. The mechanic who saw the machine fall estimated its height when the dive into the bay began at 400ft. The flying- boat fell almost vertically, nose down. The streamline construction of the hull which projects about 12ft. in front of the main planes, is such that it would dive into the water with a minimum of damage if falling vertically. Officers of the Air Force last night expressed the view that all the occup- pants of the Widgeon must have been in- jured by the terrific impact of the craft with the water. The discovery of the
floating coat suggests that one of the crew had attempted to free himself as the machine was falling in the hope of jump- ing clear. In all such accidents escape is difficult unless one is free before the crash Evenin falling on to the water the impact would be sufficient to throw the occupants forward against the instrument board or the coamings of the cockpits with enough
force seriously to injure them or stun them and prevent their escape
SEARCH FOR MACHINE.
BARGES WORK UNTIL DARK.
Divers to Begin This Morning.
The Harbour Trust launch Commis- sioner with two hopper barges left Wil-
liamstown at full speed at 6 o'clock, in response to a message from the authorities at Point Cooke to the harbour master (Captain D. Kerr). The crews searched until dark. but found no trace of wreck- age, and nothing to indicate that there had been an accident. Six aeroplanes circled over head while these operations were going on, and on their return it was reported that the wrecked machine had been seen from the air. The aeroplanes and the water-craft cruise until dark in the hope of picking up the bodies of the three aviators, but at dark they had to discontinue the search.
The search will be continued this morn- ing at dawn. The launch Commissioner, with a hopper and derrick and two sets of diving apparatus, will leave Williamstown at half past 4 o'clock, in time to reach the spot where the machine sank, as soon as the light is sufficient to renew the search. An Air Force machine will work in con- junction with the harbour Trust Officials
THE WIDGEON II
and on the arrival of the launch will fly over the region of the accident to deter- mine the position of the wrecked am- phibian.
It is expected that the currents and tides in Port Phillip will carry the wreckage some distance from the site at which it was seen last night. This point has been fixed and the search this morning will follow the normal set of the tide. In this way it is expected to find the wreckage with very little loss of time, and salvage Operations will begin immediately.
The aeroplane will signal by "dipping" and in that way will guide the barge to a point above the wreck, where it will be anchored. Two divers will then descend to place tackle on the wreckage, after which it will be raised by the derrick and landed on the barge.
A DARING SPORTSMAN.
FLIGHT ROUND AUSTRALIA
Preparing for Record Journey
When Captain Grosvenor came to Aus- tralia. His Excellency the Governor of South Australia (Sir Alexander Hore-Ruth- ven, V.C.) sternley forbade him to steeple- chase or to hunt kangaroo, because those sports were too dangerous, Captain Gros- venor promptly took up aviation.
His full name was Hugh Raufe Gros- venor. He was a son and heir of Lord
Stalbridge. a British peer. He was aged 23 years. and was an old Etonian and Cap- tain on the reserve of the 7th Hussars, He was selected by Sir Alexander Hose-Ruth- ven as his A.D,C., and soon after his ar- rival in South Australia purchased a de- Havilland Moth machine. and became a keen amateur airman. Captain Grosvenor was also an amateur sportsman of no mean ability. He rode twice in the English Grand National Steeplechase over what is regarded as the stiffest course in the world
Sir Alexander Hore-Ruthven accom- panied Captain Grosvenor on an aerial trip to Whyte. Yarcowe, on one occasion, when there was a minor crash, in which, for- tunately, no one was hurt. This how- ever. did not shake Captain Grosvenor's nerve. His father is a well known yacht- man. and Captain Grosvenor was a member of the crew of the Tally-ho, which won the yearly race from Land's End to Fast-
Captnn Grosvenor will be best remem- bered through his solo flight around Aus- tralia, which was completed on June 5. During the flight he narrowly missed par- ticipating in the rescue of Flight-Lieutenant Moir and Flying Officer Owen, who in a Vellore were lost, After they had com- pleted their flight to Australia from Eng- land. On that occasion everything con- nected with Captain Grosvenor's flight went without the slightest hitch, Captain Grosvenor had intended to make a dash to England from Australia in eight days,
and for that purpose had ordered from the United States a Lockhead Vega machine.
He was to have been accompanied on the journey by Flight-Lieutenant Briggs. Cap- tain Grosvenor said that he was confident of reaching England within 10 days, and there was a possibility of the trip taking only eight days,
In an interview after his trio around Australia. Captain Grosvenor said that the trip had been really a holiday one. He had enjoyed the experience greatly, and minimised the dangers he had encountered in joining in the search for Moir and Owen The flight had demonstrated the safety of flying in Australia. Throughout the jour-
ney he had suffered no mishaps and had no occasion to make a single forced land- ing. Everything had gone smoothly, en- gine tioubles had been unknown, and he had had no difficulty in landing at the various stopping-places, In view of the tragedy, special significance attaches to his remark after a lecture to the boys of St. Peter's College on his flight. He said:—
"Flying is dead easy, And flying on a trip like mine is also dead easy. providing that everything goes right, But it takes a cer-
tain amount of experience and a certain
amount of care to see that everything does go right. Aeroplanes will improve, but at present foresight is the most necessary attribute."
The secretary of the Aero Club (Mr
J. Churchill Smith) said that captain Grosvenor had obtained his pilot's licence with the club shortly after his arrival from England. His recent performance in flying around Australia had proved him to be a most capable pilot. The club mourned the loss of one who had done much for aviation in South Australia.
Wife on Way to England.
Flight-Lieutenant Briggs was aged 30 years. and has been a member of the Royal Australian Air Force for about two years, His wife left Melbourne for Great Britain in the Jervis Bay last Wednesday, intend- ing to be in England to meet him on his
FLIGHT-LIEUTENANT F. A. BRIGGS.
arrival there after his flight with Captain Grodvenor. He was born in England, and enlisted in the Air Force shortly before the end of the war. Although he did not see war service he continued in the force, and, entering a flying-boat section, was stationed at Calshott. While there he gained considerable experience in the use
of all types of flying-boats, and was one of the first officers of the Royal Air Force. who was trained on the Southampton Supermarine flying boats. He resigned from the Royal Air Force about two years ago, intending to seek occupation in civil aviation services in Australia. On arrival he found that two Southamptons had been ordered by the Federal Minister for the Air-Force, and in view of his training
on these machines, he sought a commis-
sion in the Royal Australian Air Force. This was immediately granted. and Flight.
Lieutenant Briggs has since been one of the principal flying boat pilots in the force . He was second in command of the Flying- boat Squadron, and has made many im-
portant flights in the Southamptons, When three Melbourne Grammar School boys were drowned in the bay shortly before
Christmas, Flight-Lieutenant Briggs super- intended the aerial search for their boat, and he was pilot of the machine which found them. Flight-Lieutenant Briggs was married and had one child.
MARRIED A FORTNIGHT
Leading Aircraftsman Ewen.
Most pathetic was the fate of Leading aircraftsman D.C. Ewen, Aged about 23 years, he had been married only a fort- night. He was a promising member of the ground staff at Point Cooke, and in his two years of service had shown a consider-
able aptitude for aeroplane mechanics His wife is now living with her mother, Mrs Fitzpatrick, at Prahran.
History of the Widgeon,II
The Widgeon I I. was built at the Royal Air Force Experimental Station at Rand-
wick Sydney in 1927. The designer and builder was Wing-Commander L.J. Wac- kett The first product of the Randwick Experimental Station was a light aeroplane, followed by the first Wackett Widgeon. This machine according to Jane's "All the World's Aircraft." was not a success. Late in 1926 it was considerably modified, It was converted into an amphibian. The Widgeon I I., which was an improvement on the original Widgeon. made a successful trial flight at Mascot on February 21, 1928. Shortly afterwards Wing-Commander Wac- kett flew the Widgeon I I in the Sydney Ariel Derby, and secured third place. The
Widgeon I I., which belonged to the heavier class of machines, was designed to carry
a pilot and three passengers, and was cap-
able of taking off from land or water. It was fitted with a 385 horse power . Arm- strong-Siddley Jaguar engine. In April, 1928, Wing-Commander Wackett flew the Widgeon 11 from Sydney to Point Cooke. The flight was really a final test for the machine, which flew against head winds, maintaining a speed of 100 miles an hour. In May 1928, Wing Commander Wackett, accompanied by Pilot-Officer H.C. Owen and Aircraftsman W.K. Tomkins, left Sydney in the Widgeon I I for Singapore, where they proposed to meet the Royal Air-Force flying-boats which were on their way to Australia. The machine made an unsuccessful attempt to rise from Darwin Harbour, and only succeded in rising when all superfluous weight was removed. Wing- Commander Wackett explained the failure of the machine to rise as being due to the lighter air at Darwin. On May 13. how- ever. It was decided that Wing-Commander Wackett should not fly to Singapore. In- stead he flew to Broome to meet the Royal Air Force Flying Boats
CRASH ON HAYSTACK
Officers Condition Serious.
The condition of Flying-Officer Leo Joseph Ryan, who was injured when his aero- plane crashed at Laverton on Sunday, was reported to be very serious yesterday, Flying-Officer Ryan, who is attached to the No 1 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force, and who is aged 24 years, was
making a solo flight on Sunday afternoon,
When he was landing his machine crashed into a haystack. He suffered a fractured skull and broken ribs. He was taken in
an Airforce ambulance to the Caulfield
Military Hospital. An inquiry into the cause of the accident was begun yesterday.
but it may be several days before the deci-
son of the air accidents committee is announced