LOCKHEED L-14 SUPER ELECTRA DESTROYED BY FIRE
AT ROCKHAMPTON, QLD
ON 7 OCTOBER 1942

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At approximately 0900 hours on 7 October 1942, a USAAF Lockheed L-14-WF62 Super Electra VHCXK (radio call sign) of the 22nd Troop Carrier Squadron piloted by 1st Lt. James O. Cobb, crashed on landing at Rockhampton airfield in central Queensland. It was completely destroyed by fire which broke out immediately. It was a complete loss.

The crew of four and six passengers jumped through the flames to escape and all sustained burns. Two passengers were seriously burned and admitted to Rockhampton General Hospital.

The Super Electra had departed Archerfield Airfield in Brisbane at around 0610 hours that morning on a flight to Townsville.

Statement by Major James O. Cobb
[no date given - c. 1945]

1st Lt. James O. Cobb - Pilot - 22nd Troop Carrier Squadron (Cobb was previously with the 19th BG c. March 1942)

"About October 5, I made a flight to Archer Field near Brisbane, Australia to pick up American and Australian officers and an assorted load of such items as bomb detonators and machine gun ammunition. On October 7, returning to my home base at Townsville, I was to land at Rockhampton to exchange mail. Upon attempting to land, the main gear of my Lockheed transport collapsed, due to what was later determined to be sabotage damage, and as a result of the ensuing crash the airplane burned to the ground and all of the ten people aboard were severely burned and had to be taken to a hospital conveniently located in that town. When I was released, about a month later, the move of the Division was almost completed, and the first airborne invasion (so far as we know) was already underway. I was immediately assigned to help in hauling what remained of the Division into New Guinea, taking my flights on the run which departed Townsville about six o’clock in the morning and returned about 1 o’clock in the afternoon, and as further treatment for the burns I received, I took my ultraviolet treatments at night."

No. 4 Volunteer Air Observer Corps Townsville reported this crash as follows:-

7/10/42
Rockhampton Control reported at 0900 hours that VHUSK (Lockheed Lodestar) which departed Archerfield 0610 for Townsville crashed and burst into flames when landing at Rockhampton. Except for minor burns to Pilot and Co-pilot, there were no casualties.

Note:- there is a discrepancy between the above two reports on the Aircraft type and tail or radio call sign. However I believe they are both referring to teh same aircraft.

 


Photo:- SAAM John Smith Collection via Ron Cuskelly

Lockheed L-14 PK-AFQ of KNILM at Darwin, NT in about 1941

 

VHCXK was registered as PK-AFQ with KNILM in the Netherlands East Indies in July 1938. It was used for evacuation flights from the Netherlands East Indies to Australia prior to the Japanese invasion of Java. It eventually remained in Australia and was initially operated by KNILM under military charter.

It was taken over by the USAAF on 28 March 1942 and allocated ADAT radio call sign VHCXK and operated with the 21st Troop Carrier Squadron. On paper the serial number #44-83235 was allocated to the then non existent aircraft on 20 June 1944 and it was given the designation 111-LO.

Notes:-

1. The No. 4 VAOC records incorrectly stated that the aircraft that crashed and burnt at Rockhampton at about 0900 hours on 7 October 1942 was a Lockheed Lodestar VHUSK. It stated that the pilot and co-pilot received minor burns which differs from 21 OBU records which stated it was two passengers who received burns.

2. "NEI Aircraft in Australia" by Jos Heyman shows the following entry which incorrectly states that it crashed at Cooktown on 8 October 1942:-

PK-AFQ (c/n 1443), radio call sign VHCXK, received locally applied USAAF serial 41-1443. On 20 June 1944 it received the formal serial 44-83235 and was designated as C-111. Before that it had crashed near Cooktown on 8 October 1942.

3. Robert H. Kelly's book "Allied Air Transport Operations South West Pacific Area in WWII - Volume One" on page 346 incorrectly describes the aircraft as a Lockheed 12 (which is an Electra Junior), but all other information appears to be correct.

 

REFERENCES

Operations Record Book for 21 Operational Base Unit (21 OBU)

Operations Record Book for No 4 Volunteer Air Observer Corps (No. 4 VAOC)

"The Lockheed File - VHCXK" by Ron Cuskelly

"NEI Aircraft in Australia" by Jos Heyman, Riverton, Australia

"Allied Air Transport Operations South West Pacific Area in WWII - Volume One" by Robert H. Kelly

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Edward Rogers, Gordon Birkett and Ron Cuskelly for their assistance with this web page.

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

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This page first produced 2 June 2000

This page last updated 14 February 2022