VH-FAC Wewak Star


Type: L-18-56 Lodestar C-60A-5-LO
MSN: 2553
Previous Identities: 42-56060
VHRDT (callsign)
Subsequent Identities: ZK-BMC


Built as a C-60A-5-LO for the USAAC as 42-56060
Transferred under lend lease to Netherlands East Indies Air Force as LT-932
NOTE: This aircraft is also reported as LT-931 but LT-932 is believed to be correct. Because of this uncertainty and because the RAAF status cards are indexed under LT numbers, the RAAF usage of this aeroplane is not shown
44 Allotted to 37 Sqn RAAF on loan from the NEIAF. (This applies equally to LT-931 or LT-932)
The aircraft retained its Dutch LT serial while on loan to the RAAF although it is believed that it was allocated the radio call-sign VHRDT.
18MAY44 Test flown as LT-932 by Bronte Pannell with F/O Heath. He was then with No. 34 Sqn RAAF at Parafield. (Source: Log Book of Bronte Pannell via Nigel Daw)
02SEP50 Registration application from Air Cargo Pty. Ltd., Bankstown signed by Doug Fawcett. Previous identity quoted as C-60A c/n 2553. No mention of earlier history. (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: 1)
01NOV56 Five flights between Bankstown and Camden to test the hopper. (Source: 1)
02NOV56 Four flights between Bankstown and Camden to test the hopper. (Source: 1)
06NOV56 Test flight. (Source: 1)
10NOV56 Test flight - radio equipment. (Source: 1)
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: 1)
(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: 1)
17NOV56 Departed Norfolk Island for Whenuapai, NZ (4 hours 15 minutes). (Source: 1)
19NOV56 Departed Whenuapai for Gisborne (1 hour and 15 minutes). (Source: 1)
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.


Graeme Mills who knows Bob Allen personally and has inspected his log book.


Issue Date Remarks
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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