FINAL EVIDENCE IN AMANA INQUIRY A routine check of Capt. Chapple, who was in charge of the Australian National Airways flagship Amana when it crashed near York on June 26 last, had shown that his cockpit procedure could not be faulted.
One of the last witnesses at the Air Court of Inquiry into the Amana crash said this in evidence yesterday. Capt. Fred erick Thomas Patterson, of Es sendon, assistant operations superintendent of A.N.A., and Capt. Arthur Lovell, of Mel bourne, chief pilot of A.N.A., were the concluding witnesses. Capt. Lovell said that he had made a routine check of Capt. Chapple on February 27 last year during a trip from Mel-, bourne to Hobart. Capt. Chapple's flying ability, he said, was found to be quite satisfac- tory. The inquiry into the crash, which cost 29 lives, began on February 6 and will end today. The official transcript of all the evidence contains more than 260,000 words. Mr. Justice Simpson is conducting the in quiry, assisted by two assessors, Capt. J. W. Bennett and Mr. D. B. Hudson. After the 67th wit ness had been heard yesterday, counsel began their addresses to the Court. Four Points Mr. L. D. Seaton, K.C. (as sisting the Court) said in his ad dress that four points had to be considered-whether the crash was due to (a) failure of the air frame, (b) a mechanical fault, (c) failure of the cockpit crew, or (d) some external contributory factor. His submission, he said, was that the evidence could lead to only one conclusion and that was mechanical failure, which was not sufficient to show that it caused the crash. There was little doubt that No. 4 propeller was feathered, but the fact that the pilot did not re port back by radio to Guildford suggested to him that the crew intended to continue on. In spite of the evidence of the perfection of the system used by the Vacuum Oil Co. to prevent water getting into the fuel it was still found present in aircraft tanks and it was still found necessary to drain weatherheads after re fuelling. There was partial engine fail ure, Mr. Seaton said, but not suf ficient to cause the crash. It was not possible to explain the loss of power in any other way other than by some failure of the crew resulting from inadvertence. Mr. H. A. Winneke. K.C. (for the Department of Civil Aviation) said that No. 4 engine was found to be feathered but evidence had been given that unfeathering action had been taken. The in ference to be drawn from the un feathering action might well have been that the pilot found he had insufficient power and had to bring the engine back again, if possible, in an attempt to in crease power. It was not difficult to say that, having shut down No. 4 engine, the pilot could not continue be cause of water trouble in one or more of the other engines. If there was a common supply through the cross-feeds then it made it more possible for water to run through all engines. "It is possible to conclude that en gine failure was caused by water in the fuel," he said. "If water was there, how did the plane leave the ground? I would say that no evidence can be found because the experts say they do not know and they are still mak ing investigations into the sub ject." "Sudden" Trouble Mr. F. T. P. Burt (for the Air Pilots' Association) said that it seemed that when technical evi dence failed to determine any structural or mechanical defects in air crashes of this sort then the failure of the aircraft was
immediately attributed to the pilot and crew. He wished to attack that whole type of reason ing. It was up to Mr. Seaton to bring evidence forward to substantiate such a suggestion, and none had been brought to the Court. "This attitude is common in air crashes of this type, and it is merely the result of a process of elimination," he declared. "It is an attitude that is adopted at the expense of the crew." It was almost a suggestion that the pilot was committing suicide, and it was beyond the realms of possibility that he would cut off all his fuel supply, Mr. Burt said. Whatever the cause might have been it might be assumed that the onset of the trouble was "sudden and probably very ter- rifying." It was possible that the two inner motors were affected by water also, but were flushed out by a further resurgence of power. "No Water" Mr. R. Holmes (for the widow of E. S. Baker and his employers, Ampol Petroleum Ltd.) held that there was a possibility that there was an airframe failure in the elevator section. This would have explained why no radio re port had been sent through to Guildford, for it would have oc- cupied the three pilots in the cockpit to hold the plane steady as the speed was increased in an attempt to maintain height. Mr. R. I. Ainslie (for the Vacuum Oil Co.) said that it was established beyond doubt by the company's records that no water could have been pumped into the Amana on refuelling at Guildford. Records showed clearly that the tanker which refuelled the Amana had been filled from the same underground tank which several days previously had been used to fill other aircraft. An ex pert who had reported on the evidence of corrosion had said that it could have been the re sult of damp air, dew, rain or water in the fuel, but he could give no definite opinion. The engine expert for the Department of Civil Aviation had not ex amined the engine until nine weeks after the crash. Mr. Ainslie will complete his address today and will be fol lowed by Mr. G. A. Pape (for A.N.A.).