AMANA INQUIRY QUESTION OF WATER IN AIRCRAFT FUEL Mr. H. A. Winneke, K.C., told the Air Court of Inquiry on the Amana crash yesterday that the Department of Civil Aviation was concerned about the question of water and petrol in aircraft and was conducting intensive investigations into the matter.
The inquiry is being held to determine the cause of the crash of the Amana, which was the Australian National Airways' flagship, near York on June 26 last, with the loss of 29 lives. The president (Mr. Justice Simpson) is being assisted by two assessors, Capt. J. W. Bennett and Mr. D. B. Hud son. Mr. Winneke is represent ing the Department of Civil Aviation. The main witness yesterday was Cuthbert Allan James Lum, of Sandgate-road, Brisbane, super intendent of air navigation in Queensland for the Department of Civil Aviation and, at the time of the crash, Acting-Chief Inspector of Air Accidents. He was in the witness box for nearly four hours and was subjected to lengthy cross-examination by counsel. "Pocket" In Tank Referring to the possibility of water having been in the fuel tanks of the Amana, witness re lated a personal experience in 1946 when he was flying an R.A.A.F. DC3 aircraft from Mel bourne to Perth. He said that during the trip he landed at Ceduna for refuelling and after he had taken on the fuel he drained the weatherheads of the aircraft but detected no water.
He then started the engines and had a normal take-off. After the plane had been in the air for about 20 minutes, he said the starboard engine began to run roughly and later the port engine also showed some rough ness. The roughness was inter mittent and there was backfiring. He returned to Ceduna and again drained the weatherheads. Pure water ran out of them and he continued to drain until only petrol was running through. He had no further trouble during the flight and formed the opinion that water must have formed in a "pocket" in the tank. "Inexplicable" Mr. R. I. Ainslie (for Vacuum Oil Co.) said that up to 150 gallons of fuel remained in all tanks when the Amana arrived in Perth. He asked witness whether it was possible that the aircraft could have taken off from Ade laide and flown to Perth with water in its tanks. Witness: Based on my own ex perience I would say so. To Mr. Justice Simpson: After the incident in which he was in volved witness reported it to his squadron in the R.A.A.F. He believed that the same "inexplic able position" that he had found was still existing in certain air craft. Mr. Ainslie suggested that the pilot of the Amana might have pressed the feathering button in the control cabin for No. 4 en gine in mistake for No. 1 and subsequently cut off the power in No. 1, leaving only Nos. 2 and 3 engines working on full power. No. 1 would have been windmill ing (revolving without power) and No. 4 feathered and rotating on full power, he suggested. Witness said that he could ex press no opinion on how the plane would have reacted in such circumstances. Witness said that he had visited the scene of the Amana crash but he could find nothing to indicate that there was any failure of the airframe, control surfaces or any other portion of the aircraft before the crash. Ap parently none of the fire damage had occurred before the impact. In reply to Mr. Winneke he said that it was his opinion that the aircraft failed to maintain height, probably due to the loss of engine power. Judge's Request At the opening of the hearing yesterday Mr. Justice Simpson said that in view of the evidence of one witness concerning corro sion of some parts of the en gine, he would like to have evi dence as to the history of cor rosion in R2000 engines (used in DC4 aircraft) in the past. He asked whether A.N.A. or the De partment of Civil Aviation had discovered any similar evidence in other engines or whether it was local to those particular en gines. He also asked for some evidence on what was done to the individual engines of the Amana between the time of over haul and the time of the acci dent, particularly in relation to the changing of spark plugs. Mr. Justice Simpson said that he wanted information on whether A.N.A. had made any investiga tion of reports of rough running in R2000 engines. After an adjournment of about half an hour Mr. Justice Simp son said that he had been in formed that the evidence which he required would be brought forward. Mr. L. D. Seaton, K.C., with him Mr. B. Simpson. is assisting the court: Mr. Winneke. K.C., with him Mr. R. J. Leckie, for the De partment of Civil Aviation: Mr. G. A. Pape for A.N.A.: Mr. F. T. P. Burt for the Australian Air Pilots' Association; Mr. Ainslie for Vacuum Ol Co. and certain of its em ployees; Mr. P. W. Miller for the Professional Officers Assocn; and Mr. L. P.. McGowan for the Professional Radio Employees' As sociation .