8 DECEMBER 1942
INCIDENT INVOLVING A CATALINA
OVER INNISFAIL, QLD

 

On 8 December 1942, RAAF Catalina, A24-27, piloted by Clem Haydon, was on a travel flight from Cairns to slipway at Bowen for servicing and a permanent patch of some hull damage. Clem Haydon had a passion for putting on low flying demonstrations and that particular day was one that he and his crew would remember for some time. As the Catalina approached Innisfail, Clem swooped down to rooftop level and started to move the aircraft around, as though he was taking evasive action from probing searchlights.

On his last low level pass over Innisfail and loud crashing sound was heard.  Engineer Jack Riddell opened the port side engineer's window to find copper wire streaming from the thermometer pockets built into the aircraft's skin in that area under the window. Jack retrieved the copper wire and wound it up into a large hot ball.

He then proceeded to the pilot's station and found the 2nd pilot's window was smashed to pieces. He then moved to the back of the aircraft to find the port blister was virtually missing.

The Catalina had flown down the river and ripped down the power and telephone wires between the town side and the hospital side of the river. Apparently, at the time of this incident, the Commanding Officer at Cairns was talking to the Commanding Officer at Bowen on the phone, but their conversation was cut short by a low flying Catalina!!

Clem Haydon flew on to Bowen and immediately ran the aircraft up on to the slipway. Besides needing a new 2nd pilot's window, and port blister window, both the air screws need to be dismantled to cut off copper wire that had wound itself up onto the hubs. Numerous burn marks were also found all the way along the leading edge of the mainplane.

They worked through the night to rectify the damage and after a quick spray paint job, all the evidence of the accident was gone. Wing Commander Geoff Hartnell, the Commanding Officer from Cairns arrived that next day and walked around the Catalina a number of times. Apparently he reached the reported conclusion that the wires must have "disappeared with the slipstream"! He was fully aware of the feverish repair activities that must have taken place that previous night, but he elected not to ask any questions that would embarrass the crew.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Catalina Squadrons - First and Furthest"
"Recounting the Operations of RAAF Catalinas"
"May 1941 to March 1943"
By Jack Riddell

 

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This page first produced 17 August 1999

This page last updated 13 January 2017