Photo:- Pete Johnston Photo Collection

 A CW-22B Curtiss Falcon


On 15 June 2012 Dr. Andy Lewis and Dr Richard Braley were determining GPS positions for a snorkel trail at Geoffrey Bay on Magnetic Island near the wreck of the Moltke when they located a coral encrusted aircraft engine with a single intact propeller still attached. After some enquiries with the Maritime Museum Townsville and Squadron Leader Greg Williams of the RAAF, an article appeared in the Townsville Bulletin on 31 July 2012. I was contacted by a number of people later that day to advise me of the article in the Townsville Bulletin.


Photo:- Dr Andy Lewis

The engine and propeller discovered off Geoffrey Bay, Magnetic Island


One of those who contacted me was Peter Johnston who pointed me to the following details from the Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research December 1943 web site.

Date Aircraft Type Serial Number Sqdn Group Home Base AF Action D Pilot Country
431205  CW-22B 3771 Hq  45SrG   5 DTCEF  5 Sansing, Richard A SWP

DTCEF = Ditched due to engine failure
45SrG = 45th Service Group
SWP = Southwest Pacific

Armed with this information, I searched my records and found that in May 1944, a Captain R. A. Sansing was the Operation Officer based in Igloo 104 in Base Operations (Garbutt), 45th Service Group at the American Townsville Air Depot. (Depot #2) which was located near the base of Mount Louisa. I also found that Captain Richard A. Sansing was involved in the Investigation Team investigating the crash landing of a B-25 Mitchell #41-12920 at Almaden about 100 kms west of Atherton on 28 March 1944.

CW-22B Curtiss Falcon, Serial No 3771 of the 45th Service Group ditched into the sea off Geoffrey Bay, Magnetic Island on 5 December 1943 after its engine failed. Captain Richard Alan Sansing and his passenger were rescued from the water by the fishing boat "Manlen". RAAF Crash Boat (Marine Launch) 08-12 from 41 Squadron RAAF travelled from Townsville and picked up Captain Richard Alan Sansing and his passenger from the "Manlen".


RAAF Crash Boat 08-12 moored in Ross Creek, Townsville


The propeller of the Curtiss Falcon appears to have minimal damage indicating that it was not under power at the time. With the cowl still appearing to be fairly intact, this would suggest a controlled slow entry into the water. If this is the correct incident, it is obvious that Captain Richard A. Sansing survived the crash as indicated by the information above. The propeller and cowling appear to be consistent with that of a CW-22B Curtiss Falcon.

Richard Alan Sansing remained in the United States Air Force after WWII serving in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War and reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He died on 8 September 1970 and is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California, USA, Plot OS-A, 292-B.

CW-22B Curtiss Falcon, Serial No 3771 was involved in an earlier wheels up belly landing on a beach in the Townsville area after an undetermined loss of power at 1540 hours on 29 January 1943 when it was piloted by 1st Lieutenant Donald E. Houseal (0-403901) of the 4th Repair Squadron, 4th Air Depot Group, Air Service Command based at at the American Townsville Air Depot. (Depot #2) located near the base of Mount Louisa. His passenger at the time was 2nd Lt. Norman J. Gebert, Depot Aircraft Inspector (later Assistant Engineer of the 83rd Repair Squadron). The aircraft suffered slight damage to its landing fairing and a bent propeller.

Thirty five CW-22B Curtiss Falcons had been delivered to the Netherlands East Indies Air Force (NEIAF) before the outbreak of hostilities. Another twenty one were en-route to the NEIAF with seven being on board the Sloterdijk and fourteen on board the Tjibesar. The Sloterdijk sailed into Tjilatjap but did not unload its seven aircraft and left for Fremantle on 2 March 1942. The Tjibesar with the fourteen Curtiss Falcons on board was diverted to Australia whilst en-route. On arrival in Australia only 12 CW-22s were handed over to the USAAF. CW-22B Curtiss Falcon, Serial No 3771 was believed to be one of the fourteen CW-22B's landed in Australia in March 1942 on board Tjibesar.

RAAF Crash Boat 08-12 has an amazing record during WWII. It was delivered to Lucinda on 22 November 1942 on board the SS Rona. Crash Boat 08-12 was a two screw vessel with two Chrysler Royal engines, each developing 148 horse power at 3,000 revs per minute. It was 37 feet 6 inches long with a beam of 10 feet and draught of 2 feet 9 inches.

Crash Boat 08-12 and its men saved over 500 lives during WWII. It attended 59 aircraft crashes in its operational area between Hinchinbrook Island and Bowen. It also made numerous trips to islands around Townsville mainly Magnetic Island and Palm Islands to convey people suffering from illness to the mainland. It also figured in towing and salvage work. It was finally handed over to the RAN for disposal on 29 August 1946 for disposal. 28 bodies were recovered by 08-12 from a C-47 Dakota aircraft crash in Cleveland Bay on 7 August 1943. It also rescued 6 persons and recovered 13 bodies from a Catalina crash in Cleveland Bay on 7 September 1943. In another incident 08-12 picked up 18 personnel after a C-47 Dakota #42-24396 of 56th Troop Carrier Squadron, 375th Troop Carrier Group (56TCS, 375TCG), piloted by Charles S. Kelley, which crashed into Young Bay, Magnetic Island on 8 April 1944 after running out of fuel. Crash Boat 08-12 also attended the crash of a Lockheed Hudson off Lucinda Point.

Crash Boat 08-12 made an interesting discovery on 2 October 1945 when it found a crashed Lockheed Hudson which may have crashed around the time of the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942. Does anyone know which aircraft this was?

Crash Boat 08-12 was sold in 1946 to Mr H. E. Morley of Macknade for use as a fishing boat. Does anyone know if it still exists?

The following is an entry from the Operations Record book for 103 Fighter Sector Headquarters in Townsville:-

5 December 1943
At 1937 hours, the Control Tower, Garbutt advised 103 FSHQ that Curtis (sic) Falcon on local flight over the sea had called up and reported engine trouble and would try to land on beach of bay at MAGNETIC ISLAND, nearest the Harbour. The Controller contacted 41 Squadron and ordered Crash Launch to proceed to MAGNETIC for rescue purposes, and advised A.O.R. and L.D.H. The Searchlight Batteries were notified and two aircraft with landing lights were to be sent from American Base Operations to search for aircraft. At 2026 hours the Crash Launch advised that the aircraft had crashed off the jetty at Arcadia, MAGNETIC ISLAND. There were no casualties and no medical assistance was required.



Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research December 1943

Base Section Two, APO 922, Military Telephone Directory of May 1944

Operations Record Book - No. 41 Transport Squadron RAAF

Operations Record Book - 103 Fighter Sector Headquarters RAAF

Find A Grave - Richard Alan Sansing



I'd like to thank Pete Johnston, Bob Livingstone, Sqn/Ldr Greg Williams, Daniel Leahy, Gordon Birkett and Peter Nielsen 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 31 July 2012
This page last updated 01 August 2023