WEATHERHEAD TESTS ON AMANA Evidence By Attendant At Essendon Airport Because it had not been the practice of Australian National Airways to have the weatherheads of planes in transit drained when they landed for refuelling, those of the Amana were not checked before it departed from Essendon airport on June 26, on its last trip to Perth.
This was stated in evidence yesterday before the Air Court of Inquiry into the loss of the Amana - which crashed near York and caused the loss of 29 lives as it was returning to the Eastern States - by Walter George Mansfield, of Devon shire-parade, North Essendon, a senior tarmac attendant for A.N.A. at the Essendon air port. He said that it was the practice to have a daily inspec tion of weatherheads on air craft. In the case of those which would be in transit for more than 24 hours the check was made every 35 hours. Such an aircraft was given a "35-hour ticket." Witness said that since the crash new orders had been issued that weatherheads had to be drained after each refuelling. At the time of the servicing of the Amana he had been operating on the in structions contained in the main tenance manual issued by A.N.A. to its maintenance staff. Judge's Query Witness said that the manual, so far as he knew, was approved by the Department of Civil Avia tion. Mr. G. A. Pape (for A.N.A.): Did that portion of your manual require you to drain weatherheads after refuelling when merely at a transit stop? Witness: No. Mr. Justice W. B. Simpson who, with the assistance of two asses sors, Mr. D. B. Hudson and Capt. J. W. Bennett, is conducting the inquiry, asked Mr. Pape if he was prepared to tell him if the wit ness was to stand the blame for not carrying out the company's instructions to check the fuel at Essendon, or whether A.N.A. was admitting that it had never given him instructions, or whether he would prefer not to answer. Mr. Pape: I am not in the wit ness box, but in point of fact - Mr. Justice Simpson: I am not asking you that. I am asking you if you would like to answer. Mr. Pape: No. I would not. Mr. H. A. Winnecke. K.C. (for the Department of Civil Avia tion) pointed out that there was a section in the manual which indicated that it was to be read with regulations issued by the Department of Civil Aviation, which were not to be overridden. "Difficulties" Mr. Winnecke. handing the manual to witness, asked: Have you seen this book before? Witness: I am not very familiar with it. Mr. Winnecke: Do you know there is nothing in this which en titles you to disregard Air Navi gation Orders, although it is your company's book? Witness: Yes. In earlier evidence Mansfield said that the captain of the Amana on the trip from Sydney to Melbourne had reported a couple of difficulties, including radio interference from No. 3 motor. He had had the faults fixed before the plane departed. In reply to Mr. Winnecke, who asked whether he had heard that there had been more trouble with the interference from the motor on the trip to Perth, witness said that the fault may have broken out again. Capt. Douglas Keith McDonald, of Ascot Vale, Victoria, the pilot of the Trans-Australia Airlines (Government) plane which left Guildford aerodrome after the Amana, said that he saw a bright yellow flash at 10.13 p.m. and that when his plane reached the scene there was a "line of fire." To Mr. F. T. P. Burt (for the Australian Air Pilots' Associa tion): It was laid down by the Civil Aviation Department that all weatherheads should be drained before flight. Since the accident ground engineers had had to show the specimens of the petrol taken from the weather heads to the pilots for inspection. Last Minutes A graphic account of the last minutes of the Amana was given by a farmer's wife, Mavis Ann Reimers, of Broadlands farm, near York. When she first heard the noise of the aircraft, she said, the engines sounded quite normal, but after a period in which she could have counted 12, they sud denly cut out. In a further half-minute, the engines roared again. They were then much closer to the farm. She jumped up and ran outside her house and there was such a loud noise that she thought it was a truck com ing at great speed down the hill towards the farm. "I then realised it was a plane," witness said. She heard it turn
away from her and thought it was all right and going back to- wards Guildford. She thought it was swerving around trying to gain height. It then seemed to run smoothly again, but the en gine suddenly cut off and she saw a big ball of fire, pink in colour, blossom in the sky. After that it was quiet. "I then heard a ter rible tearing noise and the en gines still seemed to be going." witness said. After that there was a big bump, followed by a smaller bump and then silence. Mrs. Reimers was one of a number of witnesses called yes terday to testify to what they saw and heard of the plane as it passed over their homes on its last flight. Uneven Engine Several of the witnesses spoke of having heard the plane back firing. Nelma Halsey Ley, of York-road, Greenmount, said that she gained the impression that one engine was not functioning evenly. Philip Sydney Bunney, an ac countant for the Vacuum Oil Co. living at Darlington, spoke of irregular flashes having come from the exhaust of the port side out board motor. Ronald John Batchelor, a flight-sergeant in the R.A.A.F., said that when the plane passed over his home in National Park he considered that it was only half the usual height for the Sky masters. Judith Ann Quarmey, a 14 year-old schoolgirl, of Clackline. said that she was in her kitchen doing her homework when she heard "a rumble" from the plane which worked up to a climax. She ran outside and the rumble stopped suddenly, but another rumble came afterwards and she saw a flash and heard a dull ex plosion. Robert Quarmey, her father, said he thought the noise of the engine sounded like a truck when he was inside the house. He ex pected to see a big truck crashed into the fence outside his home when he went outside, but instead he saw the dying glow of what had been a flash in the distance. The inquiry was adjourned until 10 a.m, today. Mr. L. D. Seaton, K.C., with him Mr. B. Simpson, is appearing for the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor: Mr. Winnecke. K.C. and Mr. J. Leckie for the Department of Civil Aviation; Mr. Pape for A.N.A.; Mr. R. Holmes for the widow of Stanley Ernest Baker and his employers. Ampol Petroleum Ltd.: Mr. R. I. Ainslie for the Vacuum Oil Co.; Mr. Burt for the Australian Air Pilots' Association; Mr. F. W. Mil ler for the Professional Officers' Association: and Mr. L. T. Mc Gowan for the Professional Radio Employees' Institute.