WN457Image by Kurt Finger.  Airliners Net.

Aircraft History:

Type:  AS1
Delivered: 08/05/1956
Side Numbers: 434/B,  436/B, 433/Y,  310/Y,  313/Y,  436/Y, 816/M, 887/NW, 310Y, 
History:  Damaged in deck landing HMAS Melbourne date unknown. Ditched 25/04/63 816 Sqdn (SBLT. N Dennett RAN). Port engine failed after catapult launch from HMAS Melbourne. Aircraft unable to maintain flight on one engine and ditched close to the ship, off the coast of (what was then) Malaya.  Crew rescued unhurt by helicopter and ship’s boat. 
Disposal:  Aircraft lost in ditching.

 

816_Squadron_HMAS_Melbourne_Gannet_AS_1_WN457_Y_310.sized

GannetWN457LandingAccident

Above.  WN457 damaged in an incident aboard HMAS Melbourne.  The date and circumstances are unknown, although the “Y” marking on the tail suggests it was shortly after the ship reached Australian waters as the ship’s pennant was changed to “M” not long after.


Below.  Paragraph 12 of this entry of HMAS Melbourne’s Log cryptically sums up the ditching of WN457. 

GannetWN457ShipsLog


From Noel Dennett (pilot of WN457), Slipstream Dec 2017

“The aircraft was WN 457 side number 816.  Observers on the Gannets routinely swapped seats and on this occasion Peter Moy was in the back seat and Harry Beardsell in the centre. The position I recorded was N 02 degrees 22 minutes, E 105 degrees 53 minutes which is not far off the coast of what was then Malaya. Only Peter Moy was rescued by the chopper and Harry and I were rescued by a seaboat. The film showed that Peter ran down the wing inflating his dinghy and was away from the aircraft by the time the chopper arrived. Harry and I were still close to the aircraft. 

Undoubtedly the temperature was the reason why my Gannet couldn’t recover from the engine failure as, typically, the Mambas only used to show about eleven hundred shaft horsepower under these conditions instead of their rated thirteen fifty and we launched at pretty well max all up weight. 

Melbourne backed down into full reverse as soon as they knew we were in difficulties. One of the engineers who was eating by himself in the wardroom said his plate was bouncing off the table with the vibration. The result was that she hove to almost beside us and maybe 200 yards away. The motor cutter which was launched as a seaboat reached us very quickly which was why both Harry and myself were picked up by the boat. Had the distance been greater the Sycamore would, probably, have returned after dropping Peter Moy on board. I don’t know who was flying the chopper.”

In further correspondence on the subject with the webmaster, Noel elaborated on his ditching.

“I can assure you that no attempt was made to recover the aircraft back onto the Melbourne [as was implied in ‘ADF Serials’]. When we ditched it would appear that the bomb doors had been torn off as the contents of the bomb bay, mostly sonobuoys, marine markers, and smoke floats were floating around the scene of the ditching. The water was green with fluorescence dye. As I recorded in my narrative, I didn’t have to climb out of the cockpit as the aircraft was sinking so quickly it virtually sank underneath me. The position was recorded in my logbook and I mentioned it in my reply to Gerry’s letter. It was off the coast of Malaysia and I’ve no idea how deep the water was but it didn’t encourage recovery attempts. The other Gannet we lost on that cruise flown by Joe Smith as I remember was ditched in a lagoon on an atoll near Manus Island . It was quite accessible for salvage but I believe the only salvage attempts were to recover some instruments. There was a story that the island chief had fitted his outrigger canoe with one of the canopies

Of course there was no way of investigating the cause of the accident. Both the film and Peter Moy’s testimony confirmed that there was a long gout of flame coming from the port jetpipe. We had been having a lot of reduction gearbox problems with the Mamba’s. These had been solved by various modifications which had strengthened the gear internals. The result was that the problems had moved to the gearbox casings and it was assumed that some of the casing had broken off, gone through my engine taking some of the compressor and turbine blades with it hence the long flame. Peter assured me that it extended beyond the tail of the aircraft and he was very worried about escape from the burning A/C as we were, obviously, too low to bail out. His problem was, of course,  solved seconds later when we hit the water.

As you’re no doubt aware, all launches and recoveries on the carrier were filmed. I have no idea if these films were retained or discarded. I didn’t have the presence of mind to request a copy at the time and I’m not sure that such a request would have been well received. We were all shown the film as part of the investigation as it was prima facie evidence of the incident. There must have been many people who saw us ditch as it was fully visible to all the bridge personnel, Flyco, and anyone on the flight deck. As well the “Planeguard” helicopter crew had a very good view and were very soon at the scene. The fact that they only picked Peter up was probably due to the fact that Harry and I were still very close to the sinking aircraft and the Melbourne’s sea boats arrived very promptly.

I have a very clear memory of this very short flight. It caused me to be a bit tense for my next few launches but, with the usual young man’s confidence in their immortality, it soon passed.”

 

 

 

From Noel Dunnett, Slipstream Dec17. The aircraft was WN 457 side number 816. Jerry (O’Day) is obviously unaware the Observers on the Gannets routinely swapped seats and, on this occasion Peter Moy was in the back seat and Harry Beardsell in the centre. The position I’ve recorded was N 02 degrees 22 minutes, E 105 degrees 53 minutes which is not far off the coast of what was then Malaya. If he was the pilot of the Sycamore he’d be aware that, in the temperatures at the time, it was too gutless to lift all three of us back to the ship and, in the event, only Peter Moy was rescued by the chopper and Harry and I were rescued by a seaboat. The film showed that Peter ran down the wing inflating his dinghy and was away from the aircraft by the time the chopper arrived. Harry and I were still close to the aircraft. 

Undoubtedly the temperature was the reason why my Gannet couldn’t recover from the engine failure as, typically, the Mambas only used to show about eleven hundred shaft horsepower under these conditions instead of their rated thirteen fifty and we launched at pretty well max all up weight. 

I‘m not a member of the Association and don’t get copies of Slipstream. I was just talking to Barry Lister and he asked me to submit my article to you. I hadn’t realised that it would receive such critical scrutiny. However I can assure you that the details are still indelibly recorded in my mind as, without Harry’s intervention, I’m not sure I’d have survived the experience.

 

I realise that I should have mentioned that Melbourne backed down into full reverse as soon as they knew we were in difficulties. One of the engineers who was eating by himself in the wardroom said his plate was bouncing off the table with the vibration. The result was that she hove to almost beside us and maybe 200 yards away. The motor cutter which was launched as a seaboat reached us very quickly which was why both Harry and myself were picked up by the boat. Had the distance been greater the Sycamore would, probably, have returned after dropping Peter Moy on board. I don’t know who was flying the chopper but it, obviously, wasn’t Jerry

Regards, Noel