VH-INA Flt 216 to Adelaide/Perth:

On the 14th April 1964 I was the Senior Tarmac Traffic Controller for Ansett ANA and was witness and part
of one of the most thrilling and nerve racking incidents in Australian Civil Aviation history.
 
Flight 216 was the 13:00 hours service to Adelaide & Perth and was usually operated by a DC6B aircraft. It wasn’t a big volume passenger  service requiring an L188 Lockheed Electra. These aircraft did the direct Melbourne/Perth service Flight 210 departing 18:15 most days and returning the following morning at 06:30. Perth being 2 hours behind EST. (DST was not operating back then). The return flight left Perth around midnight and flight time was a little over 4 hours due to the high tail winds across the continent at the height which they flew. The East/West section took around the 6 hours to complete.
 
The 6B was the ideal airplane for 216, big and comfortable, we sometimes used them on the Melbourne/Sydney/Melbourne route when traffic demand was heavy. A good reliable airplane except for this one incident.
 
I dispatched the flight on time, chocks away 13:00 notified the Traffic Office so they could send the DX message off to Adelaide & Perth, everything normal and quiet for that time of the day. My next flight out if I recall correctly was 238 another west bound flight this time Adelaide via Mt. Gambier at 14:50.
 
As per normal I stood around to watch the flight take off after doing it’s run-up; aircraft using aviation gasoline (high octane avgas) like the DC 3s 4’s & 6’s had to run their engines and go through a procedure prior to take off. Turbo props like the Electra’s & Viscounts didn’t; like the jets of today they used a jet fuel, kerosene for want of a better word and once their motors were running it was up up and away sort of thing. But the piston engined aircraft had to follow procedure.
 
There was very little wind that day and they were using the North/South runway taking off to the south. The ground engineer and I stood watching 216 toddle down the runway and lift off, slowly. Then from the starboard engines a stream of dark gray/black smoke trailed; looked a bit like the trail left by an Electra on take-off except just coming from the one side. We didn’t really think much of it just made the comment about the unusualness of the smoke.
 
Next thing we know, big trouble Flt. 216 VH-INA had thrown a prop. What we had been watching, but didn’t know, was right at that moment the aircrafts No.3 engines propeller had sheered off and fallen in bits to some gardens in Essendon, a fairly highly populated town next to Moonee Ponds where Dame Edna Everidge lived (she wasn’t a dame then, ). The airport was immediately shut down.
 
There was no panic just a sense of urgency all through the airport. The ground engineer and I made our way to the cockpit of the 700 series Viscount scheduled to do 238 and switched on the radio so we could follow what was going on. 238 was going no where and everything was at a standstill.
 
A DC3 was scrambled and piloted by Capt. Peter Gibbes, Ansett’s Director of Ops and Reg Ansett‘s chauffeur: he was the bosses chopper pilot. Reg Ansett lived down on the Mornington Peninsula and didn’t like commuting by road so he used a Bell 47J2 helicopter. He also conned the government to build and allow a helicopter pad on the Yarra for his convenience, smart cookie Reg, best man I ever worked for; and he was on his way to the airport (by road for once) .The whole saga went on for a couple of hours or so. 
 
Listening to the two crews you couldn’t help but be astounded by their calmness. The DC3 crew were giving instructions to the skipper of the 6B advising him to shake the aircraft to try and dislodge the engine from it’s casing. They were flying over Port Phillip Bay at this time. Eventually a cheer went up when the engine broke loose and plummeted into the waters of the Bay and the aircraft appeared safe.
 
Next step was to get the plane back on deck at Essendon, all the emergency vehicles were out in force and the skipper brought the ship down on the East/West runway, approaching from the east. He made a perfect touchdown, and opted to bring his crippled ship back to the terminal. He was given the option of stopping and evacuating from where ever he came to rest. 
 
I immediately gave him a bay number, I’m not sure now of the number I think perhaps it was 11, anyway it doesn’t matter it’s immaterial and I took up my spot and marshalled the aircraft into the same spot that it left from over 2 hours earlier.  Had one of the photo’s I’m attaching been taken 10 or 20 seconds later I’d have had my head in the picture. You can see in this picture the empty socket where No.3 once was.
 
The First Officers cockpit window was completely covered and black from the oil and the flight crew had no idea what the aircraft looked like from the outside. You have to wonder whether or not they would have been so calm had they have known the extent of the damage, Frankly I don’t think that it would have made any difference to them, they just seemed to take it as being all in a days work.
 
After I signalled the skipper to cut the engines he gave me a thumbs up and then propped his backside through his open cockpit window.  
Reg AnsettAbout ten seconds later there was Reg Ansett himself in the cabin shaking the hands of the flight crew. Being a pilot himself he was with his men the whole time in spirit he was like that, a great man. Swore like a trooper but nothing vulgar . Now I’ll see if I can add some of the pictures that I mentioned;

 

 
 

 

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