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At 0755K hours on 30 September 1943, Northrop Delta A61-1 of 37 Squadron RAAF, on reaching a speed of 60 to 70 miles per hour, started to slowly swing to the left, whilst taking off at RAAF Station, Nowra Airfield in New South Wales. Despite all precautions taken by the pilot Squadron Leader Keith Geoffrey Caldwell (261491), the swing to the left rapidly increased. The aircraft could not be stopped or straightened up before reaching the trees at the side of the runway. Flight Sergeant A. T. Gardner was the Navigator for this flight.

Later investigation revealed that the tail strut had collapsed and the wheel was probably offset. The track left by the tail wheel was fairly clean but was outside the starboard wheel track for 70% of the distance covered by the swing to the left.


RAAF Photo:- via Brendan Cowan

Northrop Delta A61-1


Earlier in December 1942, Northrop Delta VH-ADR was impressed by the RAAF as A61-1. It retained its civil registration, and was issued initially to 35 Squadron RAAF. Six months later, it was transferred to No 34 Squadron RAAF and arrived on allotment to 37 Squadron RAAF at Laverton Airfield on 2 August 1943.

The Operations Record Book for 37 Squadron RAAF shows the following entries:-

"21 September 1943 - Northrop Delta Aircraft A61-1, Captain Squadron Leader K.G. Caldwell (1491) departed on duty to Tocumwal-Wagga-Parkes-Dubbo-Sydney."

"11 October 1943 - Northrop Delta airframe A61-1 alloted to No. 2 Aircraft Depot for conversion in terms Air Force Order 19/B/19 Para 14 (a) Auth: QO 154 dated 11/10/43.   Wright Cyclone Engine GR1820 F2 Serial Number 22365 ex Northrop Delta aircraft A61-1 alloted No. 5 Aircraft Depot for inspection and repair. Auth: QO 154 dated 11/10/43."

Squadron Leader Caldwell's file shows the following entry:-

"Proceeded on duty to Mascot, Archerfield & Nowra 21.9.43, returned 1.10.43."

The "Aircraft Accident Data" card had the following explanation:-

"On reaching a speed of 60/70 m.p.h. a/c commenced slow swing left; this rapidly increased despite all precautions - a/c could not be stopped or straightened before reaching trees at side of strip. Later investigation indicated that tail strut had collapsed and wheel was probably offset. NOTE:- Track of tail wheel fairly clean but outside the stbd. wheel track for 70% of distance covered by swing."



ADF-Serials RAAF A61 Northrop Delta 1D-5

RAAF Station Nowra ORB



I'd like to thank Gordon Birkett and Brendan Cowan for their assistance with this web page.


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 Peter Dunn 2015


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This page first produced 20 May 2017

This page last updated 30 December 2023