CRASH OF A P-38 LIGHTNING
AT MOUNT ELLIOTT
JUST SOUTH OF TOWNSVILLE
ON 28 DECEMBER 1943

 

P-38J Lockheed Lightning, #42-67604, piloted by Captain Bobby R. Taylor (0-437282) of the Repair Squadron (possibly the 317th Depot Repair Squadron) of the 12th Air Depot Group, 5th Air Service Command, Depot No. 2, Fifth Air Force, took off from APO 922 Townsville (either Garbutt Airfield or Stock Route Airfield) at 10:05 hours on 28 December 1943 for a normal test flight.

The following is the statement made by Captain Bobby R. Taylor:-

STATEMENT OF PILOT

 

INVOLVING AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT P-38J 42-67604, 28th December, 1943.

I took off from Station APO 922 at 10:05 hours, 28 December, 1943 on a routine local test flight in P-38J airplane 42-67604.

After flying for approximately 30 minutes and being at an altitude of 22,000 feet going in a NNW direction, the cock-pit began filling with smoke and gas fumes. I then opened the side windows in an attempt to clear the cock-pit of smoke and fumes but without success, at the same time changing my altitude from approximately 22,000 feet to approximately 17,000 feet. Upon reaching approximately 17,000 feet and the smoke and gas fumes still continuing, I then released the escape hatch in a further effort to clear cock-pit. Almost immediately the airplane slowed to a speed of 125 to 135 mph, and both engines were running exceptionally rough while operating at 35" Hg. and 2550 RPM. The airplane was in a climbing attitude, although I was pushing forward on the stick, but was losing from 300 to 400 feet of altitude per minute. The airplane was shuddering and attempting to go into a spin, requiring all my effort many times to keep it from spinning and was impossible for me to return the airplane to normal flight. I noticed a large amount of gas seeping from the right wing just in advance of the filler cap near leading edge of the wing also from rear of the filler caps on both right and left wings. I then removed my oxygen mask. The smoke and gas fumes were unbearable and I was becoming sick and nauseated. I realized it would be impossible to return to Station APO 922 or to execute an emergency forced landing and I would have to immediately leave the airplane.

I feathered the left engine, climbed on the left wing and attempted to dive from the leading edge of the wing but was blown back. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to dive from the leading edge, I climbed back into the cock-pit and checked my instruments.

The altimeter indicated approximately 10,000 feet, the manifold pressure 35" Hg. and RPM 2500. At the same time I observed gas was still seeping from the right wing just in advance of the filler cap.

I then climbed out on the left wing and dived from the trailing edge. My ear-phones and parachute struck something which I presumed to be the horizontal stabilizer. I pulled the rip cord, the parachute opened and I landed at the foot of a large mountain after floating for approximately twenty minutes.

I managed to make my way to a farm house the next afternoon at approximately 1300 hours, after spending the night on the mountain, and was taken back to FAFSC Depot #2, APO 922 where I was treated for minor injuries.

Bobby R. Taylor       

Bobby R. Taylor                 
Captain, Air Corps,             

 

Another report by Investigating Officer, Major Mitchell A. Cobeaga (Chief Test Pilot, Flight Test Section and Operations), and Captain Donald M. Morse (Assistant Engineering Officer, 4th Hq. Sq.) paraphrases the above Pilot's Report and reports extra information as follows:-

..........................

Immediately after pilot left airplane it went into roll to the right and then a dive. Airplane continued in dive until it encountered the earth at the point of a cliff at which time it was completely destroyed.

Probable causes as determined by description of aircraft accident by pilot prior to bailing out are as follows:-

1. There was an internal gas leak in right and left wing center section around the reserve tank compartments and leading edge of wings. Gas leak could have been caused by:-

(a) Return flow from carburetor to tanks could have been loose or improperly connected so as to allow gas to flow into ship.

(b) Vent and overflow line from tanks cold have become disconnected or stopped up so that overflow was carried into gas tank compartment and leading edge of wing.

2. Pilot's statement concerning  the attitude of airplane as to poor elevator control after canopy release indicated canopy when released fouled balance arm of the elevators resulting in tail heavy condition.

 


 

Subject:   P-38 Crash at Mt. Elliott
Date:           Tue, 21 Dec 1999 20:31:59 +1000
From:          "GREGORY FIELD" <gjfield@mpx.com.au>

I just finished going over your web site and something came to mind that might interest you.

My name is Greg Field and I grew up at Woodstock, My grandfather whose name was William Field 1910-1992 once told me of a P-38 he saw go down up Mt. Elliot. He was cutting wood in the area of the "gouge" which is the local name for a large hole where Major Creek has it's beginning. He said that pilot bailed out but hit the tail, I think he said he broke his back I also think he said that for one reason or another they couldn't reach the wreckage but I'm not sure.

I also recall hearing an audio tape recording of an interview of an old woman made by the school principal (I think his name was Cupid) in the early 80's. She spoke of seeing an American plane crash landing, the pilot making it onto the wing only to be burnt to death before the young girls eyes. However I think that the tape was thrown out by the next headmaster (the small minded man).

Regards Greg Field

 

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Subject:    Aircraft Crashed around Townsville
Date:             Thu, 30 Dec 1999 20:02:26 +1000
From:           "GREGORY FIELD" <gjfield@mpx.com.au>

Gidday Peter

I just spoke to Robert Field my grandfather's brother and have I got news for you. It turns out he was with my grandfather when he saw the P-38 go down. He said it was very high when he jumped, so high that they didn't realize it was a chute they could see. The P-38 spiraled down and slammed into the Mountain. They watched the chute come down also up the Mountain. Upon seeing this they set off to find the pilot, they couldn't. The next day they came back to find "Hundreds of yanks sitting in the creek with their boots and shirts off. They were stuffed". So once again they set off up the Mountain. They found the chute and brought it down to the soldiers.

About 2 weeks later the pilot turns up to meet my grandfather and his brother. And gave them 1 Pound each. And told them his name was CPT. ROBERT TYLOR (sic. actually it was Taylor). And he was a test pilot. Perhaps this is why you could not find info on this crash. Also "hundreds of yanks" for one P-38? This may have been the norm. I don't know, but Robert or Blue as we call him seemed impressed by the numbers involved. (They also had a Tiger Moth searching).

Also my father told me of a conversation he had with a Dick Felk or Felt of Giru in about 1964 when they worked in the main roads together . He said an aircraft went down 3/4 of the way up a pyramid shaped hill (part of Mt. Elliott) between St. Margarets and Emmits creeks on the Bruce Hwy. He said there was only small pieces left. He didn't say what type it was.

I asked my mother about the tapes and as she has been involved with the school at Woodstock for many years. She said she would look into it. No news yet.

I told my grandmother about your site on the bombing of Townsville. She said that when the sirens went off the first night they stayed in bed, until the first bomb went off . The reason they stayed in bed ? "The 3 nights they bombed were the coldest 3 bloody nights for years"

Thanks for some great web sites. I have always been interested in those times.

I may be a bit hard to get hold of for the next few months as I am in the Army 2 R.A.R in fact. And while the unit is in Timor those of us left behind ( I cracked my shin bones in training ) have to do a lot more duties. But I WILL return all correspondence.

See you later

Greg Field

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Greg Field and Pat Kenny for their assistance with this web page.

 

Were there any other crashes on Mount Elliott?

I thought I remember being told when I was young
that a bomber had flown into Mount Elliott.

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

I need your help

Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 31 December 1999

This page last updated 31 August 2015