VH-DAS


Type: Douglas C-47-DL
MSN: 6051
Previous Identities: 41-38668
VHCHF (radio call-sign)
VHCHJ (radio call-sign)
VH-AEO


Note: Although this aircraft never served with Adastra, it was the only heavy, aerial survey aircraft retained by East-West Airlines after its takeover of Adastra.

 

 


History:

10NOV42 Handed over to the USAAF at Long Beach as 41-38668. (Source: Nigel Daw)
29NOV42 Delivered to the USAAF at Mobile, Alabama. (Source: Nigel Daw)
12JAN43 Delivered to the 5th Air Force at Archerfield, Brisbane, Australia. (Source: Air-Britain)
  Allotted to the 22nd Troop Carrier Squadron with radio call-sign VHCHF. (Source: Fred Niven)
  Allotted to the 39th Troop Carrier Squadron and based mainly at Mareeba, Qld. (Source: Fred Niven)
  Allocated radio call-sign VHCHJ and named "Geronimo" (Source: Allan Bovelt)
23JUN43 Damaged in an accident at Charters Towers but rebuilt. (Source: Fred Niven)
10JUL44 Handed over to the Commonwealth of Australia/Department of Civil Aviation at Essendon along with 11 other C-47s for the Government's planned post-war airline. (TT: 1888:00) (Source: Fred Niven)
12JUL44 Allotted to ANA for conversion to a 24 seat airliner. (Source: Fred Niven)
09MAR45 Registered VH-AEO as a DC-3C-S1C3G to the Commonwealth of Australia/DCA for operation by Australian National Airways. (TT: 6445:00) (Source: Fred Niven)
Certificate of Registration No 792 (Source: AustAirData)
46 Chartered by Guinea Airways. (Source: Fred Niven)
13JUN46 Operated Adelaide-Maree-Oodnadatta-Alice Springs-Daly Waters-Katherine-Darwin under charter to Guinea Airways. (Source: Fred Niven)
18JUN46 Delivered to Trans-Australia Airlines and named "Cunningham". (TT: 7383:00) Although TAA records state that the aircraft was subsequently renamed "Clive Murray" (or just "Murray"?) it is not known if and when this was implemented. (Source: Gordon Reid)
25JUN46 Registered to Australian National Airlines Commission (TAA) (Source: AustAirData)
03JUL46 Entered service with TAA on a crew training detail. (Source: Gordon Reid)
02DEC46 Operated TAA's first scheduled service to Adelaide (Parafield) from Melbourne (Laverton). Commanded by Capt D.K. McDonald with First Officer Gil J. White and Hostess A. Kitching. (Source: Gil White)
48 Leased to Qantas Empire Airways as a freighter. (Source: Gil White)
17JAN57 Delivered to Bankstown for aerial survey conversion by Fairey Clyde Aviation. (Source: Gordon Reid)
08JUN57 Features of the survey conversion included:
DME (2)
Radio Compass (2)
Ground Position Indicator.
Sperry Autopilot with height lock.
Additional astrodomes on each side of the fuselage immediately behind the cockpit for the benefit of the navigator.
Specially made propellor spinner covers to prevent oil sludging up in the prop dome in low temperatures at high altitudes.

The conversion was designed and managed by:
Allan Vial (S.A. Lands Dept)
in consultation with:
Rod Manuel (Engineering Manager, Fairey Aviation)
Bert Morgan (TAA Engineering Inspector)
Amalgamated Wireless Australasia
National Instruments Company

Allan Vial recalls:

"The prop spinner covers were specials, organised by Fairey and TAA to stop sludge. It was often about -50C at operational height which we maintained for about 4 hours. In test flying between Sydney and Brisbane it got down to -65C. On survey flying there was no need to 'exercise' the props, as was the case with normal props at altitude. The props were standard DC-3 paddle blades; if my memory serves me right, they came from the RAAF. The astrodomes were to give the navigator a greater field of view. We fitted a very modern Sperry autopilot, with height lock, so all the pilot had to do was lock on to the altitude I gave him, then just use the turn control and constantly centralise the Sperry Zero Reader indicator which had an expanded base, in that 5mm equalled one degree. Highly accurate course keeping and tracking eliminated very costly 'gap runs'; the bane of all map makers. The navigator had the master control at his station right behind the pilot; he set and changed, as required, the course to fly on his Master and it was instantly reflected on the pilot's indicator. Dutch Professor N. Schermerhorn who, whilst on a trip to Australia in 1966, examined VH-DAS and commented it was the best air survey aircraft in the world. At that time he was a world authority in photogrammetric matters, when the best air survey cameras were made by Wild of Switzerland. We had the RC5, RC7 and the RC9 (which used glass plates - for specialised engineering projects flown at low level - some we did at 1000 feet - glass eliminated any distortion which was always in film - which posed other problems in film development and tension applied when the film was being transported in the camera.). The two most experienced Captains on VH-DAS, working out of Adelaide were Bob Newman and Ray White."
08NOV57 Survey modifications completed. (Source: Allan Vial's log book)
08NOV57 Test flying began at Bankstown. (Source: Allan Vial's log book)
08NOV57 Test flight from Bankstown. Capt Boyd, F/O J.R. Baxter. (1hr 15min) (Source: 1)
13NOV57 Flown from Melbourne to Laverton. Capt Whyte, F/O J.R. Baxter. (15min) (Source: 1)
14NOV57 Flown from Laverton to Melbourne. Capt Whyte, F/O J.R. Baxter. (15min) (Source: 1)
15NOV57 Flown from Melbourne to Bankstown. Reached 24,000 feet. Capt Boyd, F/O J.R. Baxter. (5hr 10min) (Source: 1)
15JAN58 Test flying completed at Bankstown. (Source: Allan Vial's log book)
16JAN58 Arrived at Adelaide. (Source: Allan Vial's log book)
28JAN58 Registered VH-DAS to the Australian National Airlines Commission. (Source: AustAirData)
Leased to the Government of South Australia Lands Commission but operated and maintained by TAA. Named "Pathfinders"* but it was soon renamed "Clive Hambridge" in honour of the South Australian Surveyor General who, ironically, had opposed the project! (Source: Allan Vial)
(* Allan Vial served in Don Bennett's wartime Path Finder Force)
Delivered to Adelaide on this date as the replacement for the Robbys Aircraft Co. Anson VH-RAS which had operated the Dept of Lands survey contract from February 1952 until June 1957. (Source: Nigel Daw)
02FEB58 Operated its first survey flight after conversion. (Source: John Wilson)
20NOV61 Flown from Lake Eyre to Broken Hill. Capt Rogers, F/O J.R. Baxter. (45min). (Source: 1)
21NOV61 Flown from Broken Hill to Lake Eyre. Capt Rogers, F/O J.R. Baxter. (1hr 30min). (Source: 1)
21NOV61 Flown from Lake Eyre to Broken Hill. Capt Rogers, F/O J.R. Baxter. (40min). (Source: 1)
NOV62 Painted in TAA's mainland livery. (Source: John Wilson)
19MAY65 Noted in Hangar 7 at Eagle Farm, Brisbane stripped of paint and under overhaul. (Source: Ron Cuskelly)
27JUN71 Noted at Eagle Farm, Brisbane for maintenance. (Source: Ron Cuskelly)
JUL-AUG74 Noted at Eagle Farm, Brisbane for maintenance. (Source: Ron Cuskelly)
03SEP74 Noted at West Beach, Adelaide. (Source: Nigel Daw)
28FEB75 Sold to East-West Airlines. (TT: 41206:00) (Source: Gordon Reid)
01MAR75 Operated under lease to the South Australian Department of Lands. (Source: John Wilson)

The following account was contributed by Charles Vincent: "East-West Airlines commenced their contract with the Department of Lands at the beginning of 1975 having signed an agreement similar to the contract with TAA. The pilots were based in Adelaide together with a resident engineer who moved from Tamworth. The Captain, Neville Maguire, also moved from Tamworth and the FO Martin Robinson who was originally on DAS as a TAA F/O , resigned and joined EWA. Martin was replaced by John Clifford. East-West rented an office in the TAA hangar and kept a few spare parts there. To the credit of EWA personnel they were very innovative with the operation of the aircraft . One of their initiatives was to climb using a higher cylinder head temperature. The theory being it kept the airspeed up and thus helped with the cooling and rate of climb. EWA flew 820 hours in their two year contract. There was an overlapping period with the AC 690 Turbo-Commander VH-DLK which commenced in September 1976. The last few flights of DAS were Ministerial ferry flights to the far north of the State and Public Building flights to the Pitjantjatjara country.
JUN75 Flown to Tamworth for painting in East-West colours. (Source: Gil White)
23JUL75 Returned to West Beach, Adelaide after painting in Tamworth. (Source: Nigel Daw)
21SEP76 Rockwell Turbo Commander 690A VH-DLK was delivered to West Beach, Adelaide as the replacement for the DC-3 VH-DAS. (Source: Nigel Daw)
21DEC76 Lease to the South Australian Department of Lands terminated. (Source: John Wilson)
21DEC76 Ferried from Adelaide to Tamworth and withdrawn from service. (Source: Nigel Daw)
17MAR77 Struck off Register as withdrawn from use. (Source: AustAirData)
MAR77 East-West Airlines advertised for sale the remaining aircraft of their Adastra subsidiary:
Aero Commander 500A VH-AGA
Beechcraft V35 VH-CFV and
DC-3 VH-DAS. (Source: Roger McDonald)
DEC78 Sold to Travmar Holdings Pty. Ltd. and moved (flown or trucked?) to Maitland for spares. (Source: Fred Niven). VH-DAS was photographed at West Maitland in April 1979 in a condition which suggests that it was flown in.
81 Travmar ceased trading. (Source: Gil White)
83 Used as a prop (along with several other DC-3 hulks in Australia and New Zealand) in the movie "Sky Pirates". The airframe of VH-DAS was trucked to Cairns and portrayed as having crashed into the sea. For the filming it carried the fictitious tail number "6903077" and the name "Miss Fortune".
  On completion of filming, the airframe was transported to Tonkins Metal Industries scrapyard in Cairns. (Source: Gil White)
APR84 In late April, the wreck was rescued and transported to Kuranda on three semi-trailers. (Source: Gil White)
26JUL84 Noted at Kuranda, Qld being assembled into a crash diorama. (Source: Ron Cuskelly)
The wreck is still present at the time of writing in 2006.
OCT91 Allan Vial inspected the wreck at Kuranda and confirmed that it is VH-DAS: "I checked the camera hole which was on the starboard side, just a little forward of the entry door. It has a metal slide to protect the camera. It slid along, in two slides, on the outside. All of our special electrical cabling, from the navigator's station, to the camera bay, was still in place, being exposed in odd places where there were holes broken in the external bottom skin."

 

SOURCES
1
Log Book of the late J. Russ Baxter donated by his family to the South Australian Aviation Museum. Details of test flying after survey mods extracted by SAAM Librarian, Nigel Daw.

 

 

Issue Date Remarks
6 06FEB16
Added a new image thanks to Geoff Goodall.
5 26MAR14
Added details of survey flying in NOV61. Extracted from the log book of J.R. Baxter thanks to Nigel Daw of the SAAM. Refer Source: 1.
4 22MAR14
Added details of test flying after survey mods. Extracted from the log book of J.R. Baxter thanks to Nigel Daw of the SAAM. Refer Source: 1.
3 28OCT07
Major update with new information and several new images courtesy of Allan Vial and Charles Vincent.
2 14MAY06
Added a report that VH-DAS was advertised for sale in March 1977. Thanks to Roger McDonald.
1 13MAY06
Original issue. Thanks to all contributors named in the chronology, particularly Allan Vial, DFC, OAM, OPR (Pol).