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by Mike Wood


The Westinghouse DC-6B at Perth in April 1970.
Photo: Geoff Goodall.
(This image is linked to a larger version.)

Westinghouse first contacted Adastra in this context in January 1970. Their Sydney representative, Wallace Riley, suggested a possible liaison for survey work with the DC-6 and requested information on suitable landing sites, firstly in Western Australia. To this end, I visited the Department of Civil Aviation at Waverton seeking performance charts for the aircraft, but none was available.

Adastra was interested in the proposed survey as it was to be the first use of Side Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) in Australia. This technology provides imagery suitable for geological assessment regardless of cloud cover. When visual navigation was not possible, the survey flight pattern would be controlled by Doppler.

During February-March 1970, I had further meetings with both Riley and their operations Manager, Peter Purvis. I assume that by this time we had obtained sufficient information to answer their queries. It was decided that Perth and Kalgoorlie were the only two acceptable bases in W.A. for the proposed survey.

The Westinghouse DC-6B N6105C arrived in Sydney on Friday 27 March 1970 and flew direct to Perth the following day. I was assigned to the crew, initially in a liaison capacity, but as it turned out, I flew the majority of the operation as navigator. Their navigator was a maritime officer who had been seconded to the crew for the trans-oceanic legs from the U.S. It was obvious from the start that he was unfamiliar with survey techniques, and as Adastra had been using Doppler since 1965 (in the DC-3 VH-AGU), Peter Purvis asked me to do the navigating for the project.

The survey was completed in three sorties:

30 March 1970 9 hrs 45 mins
31 March 1970 8 hrs 40 mins
02 April 1970 10 hrs 25 mins

Regretfully I did not record any other details such as the survey area (it was north of Kalgoorlie), weather conditions, flight line direction or altitude. I do recall, however, that in spite of flying over broken stratus on the three days, there were enough breaks to identify accurate pin-points to reset the Doppler. As a result, the survey was a breeze, no reflights were needed and I returned to Sydney by TAA on 3rd April.

This W.A. job was our only direct operational link with Westinghouse but we continued supplying them with information relevant to future work. This included I.F. charts for Indonesia, maps for New Guinea and weather summaries for both areas. Then on 22 June 1970, a Mr Fred Hughes, their O.I.C. Flight Operations, arrived in Sydney. Next day I accompanied Hughes, Purvis and Riley to Canberra and introduced them to our contacts in the Department of National Mapping, Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Army.

There could have been further administrative links, but my association finished there. The survey season was in full swing and I was away from base most of the time until December.

Anecdotal Memories:

When the DC-6 first landed at Mascot, I was surprised at the number of passengers on board. Next day on the flight to Perth, I realised that these passengers were all part of the crew. Now it was about this time that Lionel Van Praag, Jack McDonald and myself were near the end of the conversion of our several light aircraft to the two man crew mode. (Cessna 206 VH-DGD was left with the three crew setup for navigator training). You would understand then, how incredulous I was to be on a survey operation with a crew of 13 persons! The crew comprised two Pilots, a Navigator, a Flight Engineer, an Operations Manager, two Mechanics and six Technicians.

The DC-6 as a survey vehicle was also an eye-opener. It was fitted with numerous bunks, dining and lounge areas, full galley, coffee maker and a Coca-Cola dispenser. My next few flights were in the spartan Cessna 185 VH-AGE!

Mike Wood
29 June 2005


Crew of DC-6B N6105C for the 1970 Survey in W.A.
Captain Dick Roberts Bendix Corp.
First Officer Paul Hendrikson Bendix Corp.
Navigator Don Lamer Bendix Corp.
Flight Engineer M. (Doc) Cramer Bendix Corp.
Operations Manager Peter Purvis Westinghouse
Mechanic A. Sonnenleiter Westinghouse
Mechanic A. Owensby Westinghouse
Technician Lloyd Chastant Westinghouse
Technician Mike Bulkley Westinghouse
Technician Don Holcombe Westinghouse
Technician John Tomchay Westinghouse
Technician Bill Pasquill Westinghouse
Technician Jerry Fenster Raytheon

(Crew names supplied by Mike Wood)


Recorded Movements of DC-6B N6105C in Australia
27MAR70 Arrived Sydney
28MAR70 Positioned Sydney to Perth
29MAR70 Noted at Perth (Guildford)
30MAR70 Departed Perth for survey in Kalgoorlie area
31MAR70 Departed Perth for survey in Kalgoorlie area
02APR70 Departed Perth for survey in Kalgoorlie area
24APR70 Departed Perth for Townsville
08MAY70 Noted at Lae, PNG.
16MAY70 Noted at Sydney
20MAY70 Piper Aztec VH-COB of STOL Air Services went missing on a flight from Gurney to Esa'ala. DC-6B N6105C, which was engaged on survey work in PNG, joined the search several days after the Aztec went missing. It wasn't until the end of the month that the wreckage was located by the pilot of an unidentified light aircraft. All nine on board the Aztec had perished. (Source: "Balus Vol II" p.121 by James Sinclair)

(Supplied by Mike Wood and Geoff Goodall)


History of Douglas DC-6B N6105C (msn 44105)
Delivered to Pan American as N6105C as "Clipper Sam Houston". Later renamed "Clipper Nurnberg".
Stored at Miami, Florida.
Sold to Air Lease Inc.
Sold to Pacific Airmotive Corp.
Sold to Westinghouse Electric Corp.
Noted at Oakland, California with large "Earth Resources" titles.
Sold to Bellomy-Lawson Aviation, Miami, Florida as N6105C.
Converted to freighter as DC-6BF
Noted at Miami on lease to Carabische Lucht Transport Maatschappij.
Returned to Bellomy-Lawson Aviation.
Leased to British West Indian Airways.
Leased to Chicago Air Freight as N6105C.
Returned to Bellomy-Lawson.
Reportedly re-registered N620A (report may be suspect).
Sold to Pan African Airlines (Global Aviation Ltd) of Lagos, Nigeria as 5N-APS. (Pan African was a CIA backed operation).
Delivered ex Miami to Pan African Airlines.
Registered to Professional Aviation Corporation (reportedly as N6103C which may be a typo).
Photographed at Miami in Pan African livery as 5N-APS.
Registration 5N-APS removed at Miami and repainted as N6105C.
Repainted as HP-894 at Miami and departed same day on delivery to Inair of Panama.
Withdrawn from use. Ultimate fate unknown.

(Supplied by Gordon Reid and Geoff Goodall)


The former Westinghouse DC-6B at Miami, Florida in September 1980.
Photo: Ron Cuskelly.
(This image is linked to a larger version.)


Added a reference to N6105C participating in the search for a missing Piper Aztec in PNG in May 1970.
Times shown in the original issue were thought to be departure times ex Perth but Mike Wood has pointed out that they actually represented sortie duration times. All references have been amended accordingly.
Original issue.