Twenty-four passengers and crew were killed near Winton, Queensland exactly 56 years ago today (September 22nd) after the Ansett-ANA flight crash caused the fifth-worst civil aviation history in Australia.
The domestic flight was being operated by a seven-year-old Vickers 832 Viscount with the registration VH-RMI. The 73-minute trip between Mount Isa and Longreach was supposed to be uneventful.
Caused by an Engine Fire
For the 316 nautical mile trip south to Longreach Airport, QLD, the aircraft departed Mount Isa Airport, QLD (ISA) at 12:08 local time (LRE). At 12:52, the aircraft sent an emergency radio message to Longreach’s air traffic control (ATC) indicating that it was beginning an emergency descent.
Two minutes later, the pilots made contact with Longreach once more to report a fire in the second engine that prevented them from feathering the propeller. Ansett-ANA Flight 149 was diverting to land at Winton Airport (WIN), which is 92 miles distant from Longreach, according to a communication sent to Longreach ATC at 12:59 by a Douglas DC-3 near the Viscount.
The crash was witnessed from the ground
People on the ground saw the black smoke coming out of the plane wing in the sky at 13:03, about 13.5 miles from Winton Airport. The plane hurtled towards the ground and exploded upon impact. 20 passengers, some of whom were still seated, along with 4 crew members died.
22 members of the Department of Civil Aviation started the inspection of the plane the next day after the incident. It would be difficult to ascertain the cause of the disaster as the majority of the plane had been destroyed by the fire. The leftover debris was catalogued and put in the containers within two weeks and was subsequently sent to Melbourne, where they were set out in the same order as they were discovered.
Investigators were able to pinpoint the plane’s flight route up to the moment of the disaster because the aircraft possessed an early-model flight data recorder. However, there was no cockpit voice recorder present in the aircraft.
Investigators found that the number two engine’s cabin pressurisation blower started to break down, enabling oil to escape. Hot metal from the damaged blower subsequently ignited the oil, affecting the engine control rods and preventing the propeller from feathering. The top boom in the wing spar was softened as a result of the fire spreading to a wing fuel tank.
The left wing folded forward as the aircraft reached a height of 3,500 feet, causing it to roll to the left. The first engine’s propeller then made contact with the fuselage, slicing the top of the cabin before detaching from the engine.
Investigators came to the conclusion that the last time the jet was serviced, personnel may not have fastened the nuts locking wires. Investigators also learned that two Viscounts had previously experienced engine fires when grounded in Canada and the West Indies as a result of pressurisation blower failure. The cabin pressurisation blowers were changed as a result of the accident of Ansett-ANA Flight 149.
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