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FACT, TRIVIA AND PEOPLE
ASSOCIATED WITH THE FIRST AVRO ANSON
TO ENTER THE CIVIL REGISTRY
VH-AGG

by Tom Carpenter

(This is a facsimile reproduction of a document prepared by Tom Carpenter on 6th December 1995)

 

Towards the end of the war Adastra Aerial Surveys was granted a contract to photograph and map the state of Victoria at a scale of 10 chains to the inch (see photo 1.). Condition of the contract was that Adastra could request from the R.A.A.F. any type of aircraft they thought appropriate to act as a camera platform to carry out this task. The Anson was chosen, and the decision coincided with the visit to Australia of the famous Lancaster bomber "G for George". Qantas took the opportunity to evaluate the Lancaster and some time later used Lancastrians on the London Mascot mail service.

I believe that Adastra's Chief Engineer Eric Haynes, flew from Mascot to Victoria in G for George to inspect and take delivery of their first Anson from Bairnsdale early in 1945. Is it a coincidence that this aircraft was registered VH-AGG? My first contact with AGG was when I joined Adastra's staff as a Field Engineer in June 1945 to find that its Certificate of Airworthiness was well under way. To take the Anson into the field I required endorsements on both the airframe and Cheetah IX engines, so in the August examination I sat a two and a half hour paper on each of these subjects, thus becoming the first LAME in Australia to sit the written examinations. Eric Haynes was required only to do an oral examination.

The C. of A. was granted and VH-AGG started her crew training and camera tests, culminating in October 1945 when Joe Linfoot (Pilot) John Howard (Nav. Photographer) and Tom Carpenter (Field Engineer) (see photo 2.) departed Mascot for Victoria, not to see Sydney again for over 10 months. Another first came when we discovered that the R.A.A.F. had in theory solved the problem of exhaust valves overheating in Ansons. I was given permission to read their data at R.A.A.F. Headquarters Victoria Barracks, St. Kilda Road, and it suggested that valve guide temperatures could be lowered by more than 10 degrees by changing the standard engine cowlings for Oxford type cowlings. The R.A.A.F. even had the modification sets available at Laverton but had not fitted them. Thus I became the first LAME in Australia to fit Oxford type cowlings to VH-AGG. In about March of 1946 Adastra's second Anson VH-AGO was sent to Ballarat to become my second conversion (see photo 3.)

On our return to Mascot in about September 1946 I was given the task of compiling a list of spare parts required to service seven Ansons for seven years - locate, collect and transport them to Mascot. Ballarat and Point Cook had everything I required so the task was easy.

How many people have spun an Australian Civil Registered Anson? Perhaps I can claim another first. On the 20th March 1948 while flying at 13,300 feet in VH-AVT on aerial photography, a wrist pin failed and jammed the crank shaft of the starboard engine - subsequent examination found that the pistons, master rod, articulating rods etc., were in small pieces and that the crank shaft, at the propellor boss, had about a 3/8 inch shear or twist in it (see photo 4). All of the components attached to the crank shaft were gone, leaving only the propellor and the balance weights (with nothing to balance) - the result was a shocking vibration and twisting motion of the starboard wing. Natural reaction, reduce speed and try to reduce the shocking noise and vibration. We can only assume that the starboard wing stalled 10-20 knots before the port wing. We were flicked inverted, but we don't have any clear thoughts as to what took place until Joe Linfoot somehow regained control at about 10,000 feet. We have talked about it a good deal but nothing is very clear - however the next 27 minutes will live with me till the very end. We were based at Benalla but Mangalore appeared closer - could we get there? Please let the engine fall off before the wing! The way the metal tank covers were twisting on the top surface of the wing, I was betting on losing the wing! At last over Mangalore at about 2,000 feet - do we dare lower the undercarriage? Yes - but at what speed may the wing stall again? Do we use Flap? - No way! So a rather high speed landing was made and as the aircraft slowed, it was allowed to leave the runway and come to a stop on the grass. It may seem strange, but as all three of us put our feet on Mother Earth, our legs buckled and that is how the groundsman found us - three grown men lying on the grass, laughing hysterically. John Howard was a non drinker, but that afternoon in the Avernell Hotel, we all consumed our fair share of beer.

As cameras and requirements changed, the work of Adastra's Ansons was superseded by their Lockheed Hudsons, which had the ability to provide a camera platform above 30,000 feet. My last flight in AGG was with Joe Linfoot from Mascot to Wallace Island 9th October '52 (but it was no longer an Anson but Adastra's first Hudson). My last flight in an Anson, and as a member of Adastra's staff was the next day, a flight from Wallace Island to Mascot in VH-AGO flown by Bob Bell.

Having boasted about several "firsts" I now thank God for a "last". Of the three members of the Adastra crew to fly the first Avro Anson on the Civil Register, I am the last one alive. Joe Linfoot lost his life in a Hudson on Horn Island, and John Howard lost his life in a Pilatus Porter at Cooma.

T.W. Carpenter
6th December, 1995.



Editor's Notes:

1 LAME = Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer.
2 Lancaster Mk I W4783 "G for George" arrived at RAAF Amberley on 8th November 1942. It's last flight was to Canberra on 24th September 1945. The aircraft is now displayed in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
3 Photos 1 and 4 which were unavailable at the time of writing (25FEB05) were added on 28AUG05.
4 The identity of the Anson which suffered the engine failure described in para 5 was not stated previously and therefore it could have been assumed that it was VH-AGG. It later emerged that the Anson involved was VH-AVT. This page was amended accordingly on 7th May 2005.

 

The History of Anson VH-AGG