AMANA AIR DISASTER INQUIRY OPENS Water In Fuel Suggested As Possible Cause Water in the fuel tanks would be suggested as a possible cause of the crash of the Australian National Airways flagship, Amana, said Mr. L. D. Seaton, K.C., who is appearing for the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor at the inquiry into the crash. The inquiry opened at the Supreme Court yesterday.
The Amana, with 29 passen gers and crew aboard, crashed near York shortly after 10 p.m. on June 26 last year. Only one person was not killed instantly and he died from his injuries some days later in the Royal Perth Hospital. About 50 witnesses will be called to give evidence before Mr. Justice Simpson, of the Can berra Supreme Court, who is being assisted by two assessors Mr. D. B. Hudson, a Qantas Em pire Airways aeronautical engi neer, and Capt. J. W. Bennett, a British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines pilot. Throughout yes terday's hearing a number of per sons listened to the proceedings from the public gallery. Mr. B. Simpson is appearing with Mr. Seaton; Mr. H. Win necke, K.C., and Mr. J. Leckie for the Department of Civil Avia tion; Mr. G. Pape for Austra lian National Airways; Mr. R. I. Ainslie for the Vacuum Oil Co.; Mr. R. Holmes for the widow of Mr. Stanley Ernest Baker, and his employers, Ampol Petroleum Ltd.; Mr. F. T. P. Burt for the Australian Air Pilots' Association; Mr. F. W. Miller for the Pro fessional Officers' Association; Mr. L. T. McGowan for the Pro fessional Radio Employees In stitute; and Mr. K. J. Brown for the Civil Air Operations Officers' Association. Engine 'Rough' In his opening address, Mr. Seaton said that evidence would be called to suggest that water was in the fuel and that it caused engine failure. Evidence would also show that the engines and fuel were examined when the air craft left Sydney. At Melbourne, Parafield and Guildford there was refuelling but no check of the weatherheads was made to see whether there was any for eign body in the petrol. On the trip from Adelaide the pilot re ported some roughness in one engine but that roughness disap peared before Guildford was reached. The last message received after the plane left Guildford said that it was climbing to 9,000ft., Mr. Seaton said. Civilian witnesses who lived at various points on the route would be called and they would give evidence of the bad functioning of the plane and of having heard it backfiring. Mr. G. Inkpen, who, with an employee, was first at the scene of the accident, would describe what he saw. Mr. Seaton said that he also hoped to call Police-Inspector Blight, who would tender a statement made to him by Mr. E. W. Forward, who survived the crash for a few days. Although the statement did not throw. much light on the crash, it would discount the theory that the plane caught fire before it crashed. Technical witnesses would be called to show that No. 4 engine was not functioning at the time of the impact and that there was some corrosion in the engine caused by water in the fuel. 'Short Of Time' The first witness was Lindsay Gordon Reading, of Belmont, a foreman engineer of A.N.A. at. Guildford, who said that he superintended the turn-round of the plane and inspected the pilot's trip report. This reported that there had been a slight rough ness in one motor between Para field and Rawlinna. When it arrived at Guildford the Amana was refueled by a Vacuum Oil Co. tanker and he made a check of the fuel caps and covers. Under his instruc tions the tanks were dipped. The weatherheads of the two auxiliary petrol tanks were drained because the men were short of time and the departure of the plane would have been delayed if the weather heads of all six tanks had been drained he said. Witness said there was no suspicion of water in the two auxiliary tanks. It was the usual routine of the com- pany to have all weatherheads ex amnined. Replying to Mr. Holmes, wit ness said that about 100 gallons of fuel would have been used from the time the engines were started to the time the plane reached 500ft. and if water had been in the petrol it should have been noticed by then. Tanks Dipped Reading said that he had on rare occasions found water in the petrol but only a few drops. It would have taken from 25 to 30 minutes to drain all the weather heads. August Edric James Sheridan, of Belmont, an aircraft mainten- ance engineer, said that he dipped the tanks after refuelling but he did not know how much petrol was in the tanks before and. He told the captain of
the plane, together with the dis patch clerk, that it was all right to leave. Harold Jack West, of Craw ford-road, Inglewood, an air maintenance engineer, said that he had made a visual check of the plane. He thought that it would be an exceptional occas ion for the weatherheads not to be drained. William George Usher, of Fal kirk-avenue, Maylands, said that he gave the passengers their seat checks but did not know that cinematograph film was be ing loaded aboard as part of the cargo. He agreed with Mr. Win necke that restrictions were in force on the transport of film in excess of 3,000ft. He did not know that 8,500ft. of film was loaded on to the plane. Romney Edward Moran, of Circe-circle, Nedlands, senior area controller of the Depart ment of Civil Aviation, said that Capt. Chappell, of the Amana, obtained the weather forecast from his office at 9.20 p.m. and on his flight plan estimated that he would travel as far as Kal goorlie at 9,000ft. He worked out that that height would be attained 60 miles from Perth. Last Message Gordon Santo Crimp, of Mel ville, a senior area controller at Guildford, said that he heard the Amana call aeradio and report that it was on course and climb ing to 9,000ft. The pilot said: "Perth aeradio. Able Nan Able on course and flying to 9,000ft." He heard nothing further from the Amana. At 10.24 p.m. the captain should have reported that he had reached Cunderdin, but the T.A.A. air craft which had taken off shortly afterwards called and asked whether the Amana had reported at Cunderdin. The T.A.A. pilot said that he had seen a vivid flash and had passed over a fire. Witness asked him to turn back over the site of the fire and pin point it. Clarence Able Harper, of Min ora-road, Claremont, an aero drome attendant, employed by the Vacuum Oil Co., said that he was on the tanker which was used to fuel the Amana. During the morning, as on every morning, the tanker was filled and tested for water and other foreign bodies. He made a further check at 6.30 p.m. and found that it was clear of water. He had known of no cases where airlines had complained of water in the petrol. "I have found very small quanti ties of water on rare occasions," he said, "but just about a table spoon or two." He added that the same. tanker bad been used to refuel other planes on that and the following day. At this stage the inquiry was adjourned until 10.30 am. today.