"EXPLOSION" SEEN BY T.A.A. CAPTAIN MELBOURNE, June 27: "Suddenly, about 35 miles dead ahead on my course, I saw a vivid flash of light like a bolt of lightning. It mushroomed up and lingered over the horizon for miles around for about six seconds."
This is how Capt. R. K. MacDonald, commander of the Trans-Australia Airlines (Gov ernment) Skymaster McDouall Stuart, described the flash that was the first indication of what had happened to the ill-fated Amana, the flagship of the Australian National Airways fleet. The McDouall Stuart left Guildford airport 13 minutes behind the Amana. This is Capt. MacDonald's story of what happened. "I took the McDouall Stuart on to the runway at Guildford at 9.59 p.m. The A.N.A. Sky master was about 13 minutes ahead of me. Clear Night "It was a clear night with very little ground wind. At 10.13 p.m. when we had been up about three minutes and were flying at 1,500ft. above Guildford, I set course east north-east to Cunderdin. Sud denly, about 35 miles ahead, dead on my course, I saw a vivid flash of light like a bolt of lightning. It mushroomed up and lingered over the hori zon for miles around for about six seconds. "We did not take particular notice of the flash at the mo ment because there are often fires in this district. At 10.24 p.m. when we were 7,000ft., we saw, through a break in the clouds, what appeared to be a fierce fire on the ground. We reached Cunderdin, 83 miles east-north-east on our track from Guildford to Kalgoorlie, a few minutes later. It occurred to me then that I had not heard the A.N.A. plane check back
by radio to Guildford as it passed over Cunderdin." About 10.30 Capt. MacDon aid called Guildford by radio. Airport officials told him that they had not heard from the A.N.A. plane and could not get an answer from it. "We then described the explo sion we had seen, and suspected then that there was a connec tion between it and the Sky- master," Capt. MacDonald said. "Guildford airport told me to return to the fire and investi gate. We went back about 45 miles, passed over the fire at 7,000ft. and circled four or five times at a low altitude. On the slopes rising to about 1,000ft. we could distinguish a swathe several hundred yards long through the trees. There were a number of bright, but smaller fires surrounding the main blaze. There was little doubt that the aircraft had gone down there, though we could not dis tinguish its outline. "At 11 p.m. I took bearings on York and Northam, radioed these to Guildford to enable the position of the crash to be plotted, and resumed course."