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by Wal Bowles


About mid May 1963 at Tennant Creek, Hudson aircraft VH-AGE had a starter motor failure. VH-AGE was equipped with Pratt and Whitney twin row Wasp engines – I would never have considered doing what we did had it been a Hudson with single row Cyclones. The significant difference in this situation is that the Twin Wasp had a starter motor separate from the feathering motor whereas the Cyclone’s starter motor also doubled as a feathering motor. The only function of the starter motor of the Pratt & Whitney engine was to turn the motor for starting and if we could do this and get the affected engine started, we could make good use of the existing brilliantly clear atmospheric conditions. The weather was excellent for photography and looked like staying that way for some days. To get a replacement starter motor from Sydney to Tennant Creek would take about 5 days. The crew was enthusiastic to make the most of the clear conditions and absence of cloud. Mike Wood and the engineer, Skeeter Clayton, made a guestimation that the engine could be primed with about a half a film tin lid of fuel drained from the fuel tank drain points. Mike climbed onto the wing and deftly threw the fuel down the air intake. Then with me in the cockpit and all other crew members on the end of a rope, the other end of which was looped loosely over one propeller blade, they “swung the prop”. The blade moved through about 60 degrees, until it was pointing downwards, the rope fell to the ground as was intended, and the engine started every time! From memory, we started the engine on five separate days of excellent weather, until a serviceable replacement starter motor arrived from Sydney. Needless to say we parked the aircraft away from prying eyes when we used this starting technique!

Wal Bowles
11th February 2003



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