AMANA INQUIRY "GRAVE DISABILITY" OF OIL COMPANY The Vacuum Oil Company had not the "faintest suspicion" that evidence of water being in the fuel of the Amana would be brought forward until they heard rumours to that effect only a few days before the Air Court of Inquiry opened its sittings in Perth.
This was stated by Mr. R. I. Ainslie, for the company, at the conclusion of the 10th sit- ting day on Saturday. The in- quiry, which is being conducted by Mr. Justice Simpson, with the assistance of two assessors, Capt. J. W. Bennett and Mr. D. B. Hudson, is being held to determine the cause of the crash of the Australian Na- tional Airways flagship, Amana, near York on June 26 with the loss of 29 lives. Mr. Ainslie said that it was not until the day before the inquiry started that he had any definite knowledge that such information would be brought forward. "I feel my clients have been under a grave disability," he declared. "They were obviously not able to make any tests which, if they had been carried out, would have been of great assistance to the court." They had not had any time to call expert evidence for the benefit of the court. He asked Mr. Justice Simpson whether, when he concluded the hearing of the inquiry in Perth, he would allow it to remain open in case the company had any fur- ther information to put before the court. He had been in the position that he had been trying to learn what the basis of the evidence was as the inquiry con- tinued and he suggested that in any future inquiries of a similar nature all parties vitally interested should be told what evidence would be called. Water In Tanks After hearing views from other counsel, Mr. Justice Simpson ad- journed the inquiry until 10 a.m. today. Earlier in the sitting Robert William Osborne, of Box Hill, Victoria, the assistant superinten- dent at the Vacuum Oil Co.'s depot at Essendon, said that a test of the six underground tanks at the aerodrome was made every morning about 7.30 o'clock. A tank-waggon on June 26 re- fuelled a DC4 leaving for Ho- bart and a DC4 leaving for Syd- ney before it was topped-up to fill the Amana. In reply to Mr. L. D. Seaton, K.C. (assisting the court), wit- ness said he had heard of a Con- vair, which after being refuelled in Sydney on June 13, 1949, was found to have 100 gallons of water in its tanks. He was told of the incident but he did not know that the refuelling em- ployees had been dismissed as a
result of it. He had not heard of a DC4 plane which flew to Perth from the Eastern States on June 23, 1949, having to land on three motors nor did he know that water was found in the fuel tanks. Two other witnesses from Para- field also gave evidence of the refuelling of the Amana on June 26. Recalled to the witness box, Ian Thompson Perry, of Seven- street, Yarraville, Victoria, an aeronautical engineer of the De- partment of Civil Aviation, said that he had a theory that if the centrifugal booster pump which drew petrol at pressure from the fuel tanks was turned on, petrol would go into the fuel pipes first even if water was above the level of the pump. With the motion of the pump the water would form a lip and allow the lighter liquid to flow through. If the booster pump were then turned off, he continued, the water, being the lowest liquid in the tank, would then flow into the pipes and be drawn into the engines. A similar theory was also given by Charles Wilfred Gibbs, of McKinnon, Victoria, the chief engine-expert of the Department of Civil Aviation, who was also recalled to the witness box. He said that a certain amount of water would be sucked through by the booster pump but it would be trapped in the filter chamber. After the pump had been turned off so the water would flow through. He said that for his theory to be work- able it would have been neces- sary for at least five gallons of water to be in the tank. It was an "amazing and disturbing fact," he said, that in spite of the pre- cautions taken by oil companies to prevent water getting into the fuel it did get in, sometimes in appreciable quantities. Several highly technical ques- tions were then put to Gibbs by Mr. Hudson, who is aeronauti- cal engineer for Qantas Empire Airways. After Gibbs had given some equally technical replies Mr. Justice Simpson said jocularly: "You two are enjoying your- selves too much." Mr. Seaton, K.C., with Mr. B. Simpson is assisting the Court; Mr. H. A. Winneke, K.C., with Mr. R. J. Leckie, for the Department of Civil Aviation; Mr. G. A. Pape for A.N.A.; Mr. Ainslie for Vacuum Oil Co. and certain of its em- ployees; Mr. F. T. P. Burt for the Air Pilots' Association; and Mr. R. Holmes for the widow of E. S. Baker and his employers, Ampol Petroleum Ltd.