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At about 19:40 hours on 23 February 1944, Douglas C-47A-65-DL (Skytrain / DC-3 / Dakota) #42-100619 (c/n 19082) of the 66th Troop Carrier Squadron, 433rd Troop Carrier Group, 54th Troop Carrier Wing, Fifth Air Force, made a wheels up forced landing at Garbutt Airfield (Field No. 231), Townsville, Queensland, Australia.

The crew of the aircraft was as follows:-

Captain Frederick E. Howard (0421880), Pilot
2nd Lieutenant James D. Ball (0888797), Co-pilot
T/Sergeant Robert E. Farley (13112154), Crew Chief
Sergeant Oliver A. Rickert (36379760), Radio Operator

First indications of hydraulic failure started to appear when the aircraft was 2 hours south of Port Moresby, New Guinea. The hydraulic panel indicated a zero pressure reading. The automatic pilot was turned off and both engine pumps were tried with no result. They were able to achieve two hundred pounds of pressure using a hand pump. Cowl flaps were in the "Off" position and the landing gear was in neutral.

When they arrived over Townsville the landing wheels were dropped and they went to a locked position due to the momentum when they dropped. By this time they were unable to pressurise the hydraulic system using the hand pump. As a result all hydraulically operated equipment was non operative.

The pilot started his landing approach on Runway 20 at an indicated airspeed of 80. The pilot had intended to use the full length of the runway to reduce speed, but due to cross winds he was forced to use higher RPM on the left engine. The left wheel of the aircraft eventually went off the left side of the runway. The pilot was unable to correct this issue by use of the left throttle. To avoid collision with a row of parked C-47's the pilot decided to retract the undercarriage and the aircraft skidded to a stop some 50 yards from a parked C-47. 

In addition to the two Colonels and a General (likely Gen Prentis, 433rd Troop Carrier Group who preferred awarding medals to the crews personally), the passengers included a number of Japanese POWs; and presumably, guards for the prisoners. None of the 19 passengers or 4 crew were injured in this emergency landing.


POW's in front of the tail of C-47A #42-100619


This aircraft was repaired, presumably at the Townville Air Depot (#2 Air Depot). When the aircraft was lifted up for inspection the hydraulic line to the cowl flap actuating cylinder was disconnected and there was no hydraulic fluid left in the system..

This aircraft was later written off after it ditched after engine failure off Auqui Island near Mndanao on 17 April 1945.



Accident Board Report on Accident No. 66-6-1 dated 5 March 1944.



I'd like to thank Larry Rickert, son of Oliver A. Rickert, for his assistance with this web page.


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This page first produced 18 December 2012

This page last updated 02 February 2020