Surviving a Mid Air Collision
September 29, 1940: A mid-air collision takes place over Brocklesby, New South Wales. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) opened a flight training school in July 1940 to train pilots for combat during World War II. No. 2 Service Flying Training School was based at RAAF Station Forest Hill near Wagga Wagga, NSW. At the time, pilots were being trained on Avro Ansons, a British twin-engined aircraft use throughout the British Empire by their forces. The planes were primarily used for training and on this day, two planes took off from the base for a cross-country training exercise.
Tail number N4876 was piloted by Leonard Fuller (22) and Menzies Sinclair (27) was navigator. The second plane, tail number L9162, was piloted by Jack Hewson (19) with Hugh Fraser (27) as navigator. All men were classified as Leading Aircraftmen. The planes were to travel to Corowa, then to Narrandera, and then return to Forest Hill. They were at an altitude of 1,000 feet and making a banking turn when Fuller lost sight of Hewson’s aircraft which was beneath him. They collided in mid-air. It was described as a grinding crash and bang. The propellers struck each other and bit into the engine cowlings. The two planes remained wedged together with the lower plane’s turrets rammed into the upper plane’s left wing root.
Both engines on the upper plane were knocked out. The lower plane’s engines were working at full power. Fuller, the pilot of the upper plane, was able to control both planes with his ailerons and flaps and began looking for a place to attempt a landing. Both navigators were able to bail out immediately. Hewson, the pilot in the lower plane, had been injured during the impact but he, too, managed to bail. Fuller flew about five miles after the collision before he was able to find a large field where he managed to set down the two planes. The planes slid along the bumpy grass for about 200 yards before coming to stop. Fuller proclaimed the landing had been better than those he had been able to make the day before when practicing at the airfield.
The accident made the news worldwide and Fuller was honored as a hero. Not only did he keep the planes from crashing and causing harm to those on the ground, but he managed to save about £40,000 in military hardware as the top plane was able to be removed and returned to service. The lower plane was used as an instructional airframe. Hewson’s injury was treated and he returned to service and was discharged in 1946. Sinclair survived the war, Fraser and his crew were killed on January 1, 1942 during another training exercise. Fuller became a decorated pilot and after seeing action and was posted back home as a flying instructor. He died on March 18, 1944 when his bike collided with a bus.
Well, sir, I did everything we’ve been told to do in a forced landing—land as close as possible to habitation or a farmhouse and, if possible, land into the wind. I did all that. There’s the farmhouse, and I did a couple of circuits and landed into the wind. She was pretty heavy on the controls, though! – Leonard Fuller
It’s amazing what one can do when one doesn’t know what one can’t do. – Jim Davis
Even against the greatest of odds, there is something in the human spirit — a magic blend of skill, faith, and valor — that can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory. – Walter Lord
One of man’s most amazing self-deceptions is his pretense of having self-control while his life flies apart before his very eyes. – Vernon Howard
Also on this day: Come Up and See Me Some Time – In 1650, the first documented dating service opened in England.
Physics – In 1954, CERN was established.
The Met – In 1829, the Metropolitan Police of London was formed.
What a Headache – In 1982, the Tylenol murders began.
SEPAW – In 1966, the Chevrolet Camero was put on the market.