VH-FAC Wewak Star

 

Type: L-18-56 Lodestar C-60A-5-LO
MSN: 18-2553
Previous Identities: 42-56060
LT931
VHRDA (callsign) *
VHRDQ (callsign) *
VHRDT (callsign) *
VH-AKY (NTU)
Subsequent Identities: ZK-BMC

History:

15JUL43
To United States Army Air Force (USAAF) as C-60A-5-LO serial 42-56060. (Source: 2)
26AUG43
Delivered under lend lease to Royal Netherlands Military Flying School as LT931. (Source: 3)
  NOTE: This aircraft was originally shown as LT932 but this is now believed to be incorrect and that it is in fact LT931. The following entries from the RAAF status card (Source: 1) apply to LT931.
05SEP43
Accepted by NEI Militaire Luchtvaart (Army Aviation Corps) at Brisbane. Aircraft was ferried by a USAAF ATC crew. (Source: 3)
01OCT43
Attached to 18SQN NEI. (Source: 3)
09OCT43
Received 119SQN NEI at Canberra. (Source: 3)
NOV43
119SQN made three supply flights from Canberra to Batchelor, NT with LT931. (Source: 3)
10DEC43
Received at NEI Pool Sqn. (Source: 3)
  Named Princess Margareth (when?)
01FEB44
Assigned NEI Transport Section Melbourne (TSM) ex NEI Pool Squadron. (Source: 3)
MAR44
Withdrawn from service for overhaul. (Source: 3)
14APR44
Transferred to 37SQN RAAF for ferrying to ANA, Parafield for overhaul. (Source: 3)
MAY44
Allocated callsign VHRDA. (Source: 3)
18JUL44
Aircraft taken on loan from NEI by RAAF and allotted 37SQN ex 1AD. (Source: 1/3)
19JUL44
Received 37SQN. (Source: 1)
02AUG44
Handover from NEI completed. (Source: 1)
07NOV44
Received from 2NEI Transport Sqn as VHRDQ. (Source: 3)
19APR45
Allotted 1CU ex 37SQN for special duty. (Source: 1)
  Allotted callsign VHRDT. (Allocation does not appear on status card)
*
The reported use of three callsigns RDA, RDQ & RDT requires further study.
27APR45
Issued 1CU ex 37SQN. (Source: 1)
02MAY45
Received 37SQN ex 1CU. (Source: 1)
05JUN45
Allotted and issued ANA Parafield for major overhaul. (Source: 1)
08JUN45
Received ANA Parafield ex 37SQN. (Source: 1)
05SEP45
Allotted 37SQN ex 1AD on receipt from ANA. (Source: 1)
18SEP45
Issued 1AD ex ANA Parafield. (Source: 1)
28SEP45
Allotment to 37SQN cancelled. (Source: 1)
11OCT45
Alotted 6CU ex 1AD. (Source: 1)
25OCT45
Received 6CU ex 1AD. (Source: 1)
05FEB46
Allotted NEI Pool ex 6CU. (Source: 1)
11FEB46
Received NEI Pool ex 6CU. (Source: 1)
19FEB46
Allotted CMU Tocumwal for repairs to fuel tanks. NEI Pool to arrange delivery. (Source: 1)
12MAR46
Received CMU Tocumwal ex NEI Pool. (Source: 1)
MAY46
CMU Tocumwal had begun cleaning of fuel tanks of LT931 prior to sealing with Pliobond. CMU had begun the sealing process of another NEI Lodestar not identified and were in the final stages of cleaning the tanks of another NEI Lodestar not identified. (Source: 4)
01OCT46
To be stored Category D. (Source: 1)
  Transferred to the Foreign Liquidation Commission. (Source: 3)
06JUL48
Sold by Foreign Liquidation Commission to "an American citizen in Manila. Collection by purchaser being expedited." (Source: 1)
28JUN49
To be released to James Hosie or agent. (Source: 1)
18JUL50
Aircraft removed from CMU Tocumwal at 0600 hrs. (Source: 1)
21JUL50
"Mr Douglas Fawcett, 21 Monterey St, Kogarah, NSW produced original disposal documents contract of sale and also other documents which establish ownership." (Source: 1)
  NOTE: Source: 3 claims that LT931 was returned to operations in the NEI and written off in the NEI on 27FEB47. Although this throws doubt on the identity of LT931, the preceding entry on 21JUL50 suggests that the sale was under some scrutiny and given that the aircraft was identified by the RAAF only as LT931, it is expected that the "original disposal documents" would have been checked against the identity of the aeroplane as it went through the gate at Tocumwal on 18JUL50.
02SEP50
Registration application from Air Cargo Pty. Ltd., Bankstown signed by Doug Fawcett. Previous identity quoted as C-60A c/n 2553 previously 42-56060. (NAA)
SEP50
DCA allocate registration VH-AKY. (NAA)
03OCT50
DCA memo allocated VH-FAC in lieu of VH-AKY on request of Mr Fawcett. (NAA)
09DEC50
Test flown at Bankstown after CofA overhaul. Aircraft configured as a freighter with two crew. (NAA)
50
Leased to Gibbes Sepik Airways, PNG as VH-FAC. The aircraft was named Wewak Star.
APR51
Converted at Bankstown to carry forty (40) passengers. (NAA)
Aircraft returned to service with Gibbes Sepik Airways.
07MAY51
DCA Port Moresby requests DCA Head Office to send a copy of the Load Chart for VH-FAC and asks if the aircraft has been approved to carry 40 passengers. (NAA)
26JUN51
Damaged in a forced landing at Jacquinot Bay due to fuel exhaustion and navigational difficulties. There were no injuries to the two crew, Wiza and Flanagan. (NAA)
The aircraft incurred only minor damage and was subsequently flown to Lae for repairs.
08AUG51
DCA report that aircraft is under repair. (NAA)
31AUG51
DCA report that permanent repairs have been completed and that the CofA suspension has been lifted. (NAA)
21NOV51
CofA renewed at Wewak. (NAA)
28FEB52
CofA renewed at Bankstown. (NAA)
MAY52
Miss Patricia Graham joined Gibbes Sepik Airways as the first female commercial pilot in PNG. Initially flew as First Officer on Lodestar and later Captain on Norseman.
13NOV52
Memo from DCA Port Moresby to DCA Head Office advising that as a result of an inspection by a Departmental surveyor the CofA has been suspended and that the aircraft is not to be flown commercially pending a complete overhaul. (NAA)
  Gibbes Sepik Airways originally leased VH-FAC in anticipation of gaining an airline licence between Port Moresby and Sydney. GSA applied for such a licence in April 1951 but DCA refused the application on the grounds that the route was already served by Qantas and Trans Oceanic Airways.

"The leased Lodestar which remained in the Gibbes Sepik Airways fleet until 1953 was a financial and operational embarrassment right from the start. It was expensive to operate, unserviceable for long periods, and unsuited to the type of internal operations the company conducted. The company had attempted unsuccessfully to have the lease with Fawcett Aviation terminated soon after the aircraft's arrival."
("Sepik Pilot" by James Sinclair)
04JUN53
Departed Port Moresby for Cairns on return to Fawcett Aviation. (NAA)
09JUN53
Memo from DCA Port Moresby to Head Office: "VH-FAC owned by Fawcett Aviation and operated by Gibbes Sepik Airways has been unservicable at Port Moresby for approximately 10 months. Captain Wiza, the normal pilot of this aircraft, requested to ferry it to Sydney with Engineer Clayton as second pilot." Memo goes on to say Clayton has a Private Licence only. Approval refused due to the poor condition of the aircraft and the fact that Wiza did not have an instructor rating. Fawcett was phoned and told that he would have to provide a suitable commercial pilot as second pilot. Later Mr. Blair arrived in Port Moresby and DCA approved the ferry flight. VH-FAC was satisfactorally test flown at Port Moresby. (NAA)
27AUG54
Struck off the register as withdrawn from service.
JUL56
Sold to Fieldair Ltd of NZ.
SEP56
Fairey Aviation at Bankstown began converting the aircraft to an aerial topdresser with a 4 ton capacity rubber hopper.
20OCT56
Made many flights between Bankstown and Camden in the period 20OCT56 - 10NOV56 testing the hopper and radios. (Source: 2)
01NOV56
Five flights between Bankstown and Camden to test the hopper. (Source: 2)
02NOV56
Four flights between Bankstown and Camden to test the hopper. (Source: 2)
06NOV56
Test flight. (Source: 2)
10NOV56
Test flight - radio equipment. (Source: 2)
10NOV56
Registered ZK-BMC and named Makutonga.
14NOV56
Departed Bankstown crewed by Bob Allen, Chief Twin Engine Pilot for Fieldair. He was accompanied by Engineer Charles Brodie who navigated. Also on board was a Capt. Eidy. The aircraft landed at Coffs Harbour two hours later. (Source: 2)
(Previous reports that the aircraft was crewed by Lionel Van Praag and Titus Oates are evidently incorrect)
17NOV56
Departed Coffs Harbour for Norfolk Island (5 hours) where they refuelled. (Source: 2)
17NOV56
Departed Norfolk Island for Whenuapai, NZ (4 hours 15 minutes). (Source: 2)
19NOV56
Departed Whenuapai for Gisborne (1 hour and 15 minutes). (Source: 2)
20OCT57
Crashed near Upper Bideford, NZ. Aircraft struck high ground in deteriorating weather. Both occupants were killed and the aircraft destroyed by impact and fire.

 

SOURCES
1
RAAF Form E/E.88.
2
Graeme Mills who knows Bob Allen personally and has inspected his log book.
3
Boer, Dr P.C., Netherlands East Indies Air Transport units of the Militaire Luchtvaart KNIL (Army Aviation Corps of the Royal NEI Army) and their aircraft in Australia and Java, 16 January 1943-1 November 1946, February 2020.
4
NAA, Series A9186, RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] Aircraft Depots 4-7 May 42 - Jul 47

 

Issue Date Remarks
7 11JUL22
Corrected Dutch identity from LT932 to LT931.
Added RAAF history from the status card of LT931.
Added references from Source: 3.
6 03DEC21
Added an image from the State Library of NSW.
5 03APR16
Refreshed page layout with no change to data.
4 27DEC15
Added more information and a correction to the details of the ferry flight to NZ in NOV56. Thanks to Graeme Mills.
3 04MAY12
Added details of a test flight on 18MAY44 thanks to Nigel Daw.
2 05MAR06
Major update drawn from the aircraft file in the National Archives of Australia. Thanks to Geoff Goodall.
1 18MAR99
Original issue





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