MYSTERIOUS ASPECTS OF AIR CRASH Theories About Fire And Forced Landing Three mysterious aspects puzzling those inquiring into the crash yesterday were: (1) How did the survivor, Mr. Forwood, escape from the burning wreckage? (2) why did not the plane make a radio call to Guildford when it encountered trouble? and (3) was it attempting to return to Guildford airport or looking for a cleared field?
These were some of the prob lems that confronted Depart ment of Civil Aviation experts when they began a preliminary inquiry at the scene of the crash yesterday. No detail was left unexamined as the of ficers combed the wreckage. Although dazed and half stunned, Mr. Forwood said after the search party reached him that he had been thrown from the plane. It was not known last night whether he was wearing a safety belt, but one aviation authority consid ered that he must have been wearing a belt at the time of the crash, otherwise he would have been thrown much farther from the plane and received more severe injuries. The im pact of the plane crashing into the ground at 250 m.p.h. would have been sufficient for Mr. Forwood's safety belt to have been wrenched from the seat. "How he is alive, goodness only knows." said one official surveying the flattened and smouldering wreckage. "It was a one in a million chance of survival. His burns could he explained by his being bathed in petrol thrown from the machine as it crashed." Radio Silence Of Plane What remains a riddle to the experts is why the Skymaster crew failed to notify the air traffic control office at Guild ford that the plane was in trouble. A radio-operator was among the five crew members and, provided the radio was operating, it would normally be a simple matter to tune in to radio conversation with the control office. The plane's radio was operat- ing normally just after it be came airborne. The control office was notified by Capt. Chappell at 9.59 p.m. that the Skymaster had set course for
Adelaide. It was only 15 min utes later that the plane crashed. No distress message of any kind was received from the aircraft. It was considered by one avi ation official that the radio silence indicated that the plane had encountered sudden trouble and that there was no chance to send an SOS. However, it was also suggested that it only took a matter of seconds to send a distress message and if the plane was at its prescribed height of 9,000ft. there should have been ample time to send the message. Guildford aeradio station maintains a constant watch by night and day. Evidence Of Fire What caused the crash? This question may never be answered conclusively, but it appears that the Skymaster was on fire just before it crashed. There is evidence to support this at the scene of the disaster. A tall whitegum, which was one of the first of the trees to receive a glancing blow from from the slewing aircraft before it disintegrated into the menacing countryside a few hundred yards away, bears scorches from the plane 20ft. above the ground. As the aircraft clipped this tree, it ripped off a piece of the port wing which dropped near the tree badly buckled and burnt. More wreckage just as twisted and burnt was found at the base of the next tree only a few yards away. As the main blaze and explosion occurred 200yds. farther down
the slope, it is considered un likely that the wreckage-some of it fairly heavy-was thrown from this spot. It is thought that the burning parts dropped off as they struck the trees. Support for this theory also came from several eye witnesses who said that they saw the plane burning in the air before it struck the ground. Mrs. Mavis Reiners. who lives eight miles south of the scene of the crash, said that she saw flames in the sky and then heard a loud explosion. A re port received in York from a man living between York and Northam said that he heard the plane and saw what ap peared to be flames. Skymasters are equipped with press-button fire extinguishers in the engines. They are con trolled from the pilot's cabin. There were also chemical foam extinguishers in the plane. Direction Of Flight From the direction in which the Skymaster was heading when it crashed into the heavy timber it is thought that the plane could have been turning back towards Guildford air port or making for a cleared field only a few miles away. It left Guildford on a course of 082deg., the normal course which takes it between York and Northam and a few miles south of Cunderdin on the trip to Adelaide. The Skymaster was apparently on track as it usually passes over the Berry Brow property. Yet, when it crashed, it was not heading in an easterly direction but to wards the north. There was little wind at the time-cer tainly not sufficient to worry the big airliner in a forced landing crosswind but it is possible that the plane could have been making for one of the few cleared paddocks in the
vicinity. Visibility was not good but there was moonlight and the cold night air had given the fields a glossy effect which might have made them even more apparent from the air. There is no emergency land ing strip in the York area. The nearest place in which a Sky master could put down in safety would be at the former Royal Australian Air Force station at Cunderdin.