DHC-4 CARIBOU A4-173
MSN 173

Radio Call-sign VM-LWB


Near Death Experience #1
1965
Crashed in Vietnam. Repaired in the field and returned to service.
Near Death Experience #2
1966
Crashed in Vietnam. Conversion to components began but the decision was reversed and the aircraft was repaired in the field and returned to service.
Near Death Experience #3
1990s
Converted to components.

 

 


    A4-173 was delivered directly to the RAAF Transport Flight Vietnam (RTFV) at Vung Tau ex the de Havilland Canada factory in Toronto, Canada (together with A4-191 and A4-193).
23JUL64
  Toronto - Fredericton (4hr 10min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
(Barrie Brown served with the Transport Flight/35 Sqn from 12MAY65 to 12JAN66)
24JUL64
  Fredericton - Toronto (4hr) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
27JUL64
  Toronto - Muskoka (1hr 10min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
27JUL64
  Muskoka - local (1hr 25min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
27JUL64
  Muskoka - Toronto (3hr 45min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
30JUL64
  Toronto - Toronto (1hr 20min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
30JUL64
  Toronto - Goose Bay (6hr 35min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
01AUG64
  Goose Bay - Narsarssuak (5hr 40min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
03AUG64
  Narsarssuak - Keflavik (4hr 45min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
05AUG64
  Keflavik - Valley (6hr 15min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
06AUG64
  Valley - Nice (6hr 30min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
08AUG64
  Nice - Nice (45min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown) Radio u/s in Nice.
16AUG64
  Nice - Luqa, Malta (4hr 15min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
16AUG64
  Luqa - El Adem (3hr 10min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
18AUG64
  El Adem - Wadi Halfa (3hr) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
18AUG64
  Wadi Halfa - Khartoum (2hr 55min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
19AUG64
  Khartoum - Aden (6hr 5min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
22AUG64
  Aden - El Masirah (6hr 25min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
23AUG64
  El Masirah - Karachi (4hr 20min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
25AUG64
  Karachi - New Delhi (6hr 20min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
26AUG64
  New Delhi - Calcutta (6hr 20min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
27AUG64
  Calcutta - Car Nicobar (6hr) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
27AUG64
  Car Nicobar - Butterworth (3hr 25min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
29AUG64
  Butterworth - Vung Tau (3hr 40min) F/L Bellamy, B. Brown (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
Total flying time Toronto to Vung Tau: 89 hr 20 min.
     
    [Most of the following notes were taken from the RTFV Operations Record Book by the AWM]
     
04SEP64
  First operation (F/O K.B. Henderson) - to Tan Son Nhut etc. NB - each operation typically includes ten or more landings
07SEP64
  Op - F/O C.A. Martin
10SEP64
  Op - P/O D.R. Lovett
11SEP64
  Op - F/O K.B. Henderson
12SEP64
  Op - F/Lt D.J. Lancaster
14SEP64
  Op - F/O D.T. Pollock
15SEP64
  Op - S/Ldr C.J. Sugden DFC (CO, RTFV)
16SEP64
  Op - F/O A. Young
18SEP64
  Op - F/O Young
19SEP64
  Op - S/Ldr Sugden
21SEP64
  Op - F/O Martin etc Other pilots include F/O J. Staal, F/Lt R.G. Raymond, F/O B.G. Hammond, F/Lt J.D. Jordan, F/O D.A. Henry. Operations included freight shuttles, paradrops, supply drops, Lolex, flare drops.
11NOV64
 

Takeoff aborted at Bien Hoa - insecure strip (F/O J. McQueen and F/O J.E. Lindner)

 

12MAR65
 
Freight Shuttle: Flg Off J. Staal, Plt Off G.I. Lumsden (plus 2 crew)
UP DOWN FROM TO FREIGHT PAX
0735 0815 Nha Trang Phu Tuc 5,000 lbs 1
0845 0910 Phu Tuc Buon Krieng nil nil
1000 1050 Buon Krieng Nha Trang nil nil
1220 1330 Nha Trang Plei Krong 5,000 lbs nil
1355 1500 Plei Krong Nha Trang nil nil
1540 1640 Nha Trang Plei Polim 5,500 lbs nil
1725 1815 Plei Polim Nha Trang nil nil

 

13MAR65
 
Freight Shuttle: Flg Off J. Staal, Plt Off G.I. Lumsden (plus 2 crew)
UP DOWN FROM TO FREIGHT PAX
0615 0730 Nha Trang Tan Son Nhut 6,000 lbs 5
0745 0810 Tan Son Nhut Vung Tau nil nil
0855 1030 Vung Tau Duong Dong nil nil
1050 1140 Duong Dong Can Tho nil nil
1215 1305 Can Tho Tay Nin nil nil
1315 1345 Tay Nin Bien Hoa nil 39
1355 1500 Bien Hoa Nha Trang nil nil

 

07MAY65
 

Ran off the runway at Hai Yen, Vietnam while delivering a load of medical supplies and construction equipment.

The incident is described in “The RAAF in Vietnam” by Chris Coulthard-Clark
(Australian War Memorial 1995) pp 54-55.

"Hai Yen was a fortified settlement on the Camau peninsula which had recently been attacked by the Viet Cong. The airstrip was very short and the Caribou clipped its nosewheel on the runway’s edge on touchdown. As one of the pilots later recalled: ‘we rediscovered the principle that an undercarriage designed to retract forward causes considerable alteration to the airframe when it is forced to retract rearwards’. Although none of the crew was injured, a wing was torn off the aircraft and the undercarriage and one engine was damaged. A detachment of RTFV ground staff were flown to the crash site to undertake a major repair job which included fitting a new propellor. When completed, the machine was flown back to Vung Tau at reduced speed with Squadron Leader Harvey at the controls. The recovery of A4-173 was a tribute to the skill and dedication of the flight’s ground staff. The team deployed to carry out the necessary repairs was required to undertake the effort in the open without workshop facilities. The place was under enemy attack each night during their four-day stay, forcing them to withdraw inside the settlement and to leave the aircraft to its chances. Not assisting the recovery effort, either, was further damage caused when an American supply plane delivering ammunition by parachute dropped one case through the Caribou’s wing. This necessitated a new wing being obtained from American sources and flown by helicopter to Hai Yen, where it was fitted. As a consequence, when A4-173 eventually took off it sported a mixture of US Army and RAAF markings. Without the courage, fortitude and technical competence of the ground personnel – and, as Harvey noted, ‘the generous support and co-operation given by the United States Army’ – the aircraft would simply have been written off."

Stewart Wilson’s book, “Dakota, Hercules and Caribou in Australian Service” (Aerospace Publications 1990) p 196 adds:

"A quarter of a century later, A4-173 still flies on that American wing, identifiable by the lack of three blue formation lights on its upper surface."

Ron Furze was part of the Hai Yen recovery team as an Electrical Fitter. He recalls the operation as follows:

" The recovery team was flown on a U.S. Army Sikorsky H-37 from Vung Tau to an intermediate stop (probably Can Tho) to refuel, and the 13-man team were then transported by U.S. Army Iroquois from Can Tho to Hai Yen. The replacement engine, propellor and right wing were transported to Hai Yen as internal loads on an H-37. The Caribou was flown out of Hai Yen under it's own power about four days after the recovery team arived at the site. To enable this, we jacked the aircraft after removing the right wing. A new right undercarriage was fitted and the aircraft towed out of the drain to the hardstand using manpower and a 3/4 ton army truck. The right engine was removed and replaced, and the second-hand U.S. Army wing (still with U.S. markings) fitted. An earlier assessment had declared the aircraft a write-off so instead of disconnecting panel switches and instruments, the looms were cut! As a result, John Rae and I had to put in quite an effort to re-wire all the cockpit instruments after it was decided to recover the aircraft".

MAY65
  The replacement engine, propellor and right wing were flown in by a U.S. Army H-37 Mojave helicopter. An RAAF recovery crew was flown from Vung Tau to an intermediate stop (probably Can Tho) on an H-37 and from there to Hai Yen on a U.S. Army Iroquois. Photos show that the H-37 which delivered the engine and wing was named "Big Ed" but its serial is unknown. (Source: Ron Furze)
15MAY65
  It is recorded that on this date A4-173 was "recovered by a US helicopter". Barry Ingate records that he was the Loadmaster on A4-173 when it was flown out of Hai Yen on this date by Squadron Leader Harvey. Possibly the ferry crew were positioned to Hai Yen by US helicopter.

Australian War Memorial image # P01059.003 shows A4-173 wearing a replacement right wing bearing U.S. Army "star & bars".
SEP65
  Repairs completed at Vung Tau.
09SEP65
  Mission 41 (4hr 45min) B. Brown, McKernan (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
11SEP65
  Mission 41 (1hr 35min) B. Brown, Nicholson (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
11SEP65
  Mission 41 (1hr 40min) B. Brown, Nicholson (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
07OCT65
  Mission 42 (4hr) B. Brown, Abbott (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
23OCT65
  Mission 41 (2hr 55min) B. Brown, Cooper (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
05NOV65
  Mission 41 (4hr 40min) B. Brown, Etheridge (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
06NOV65
  Mission 41 (3hr 35min) B. Brown, Nicholson (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
16DEC65
  VTA - DNG (2hr 50min) B. Brown, Vandersteege (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
20DEC65
  VTA - TSN - DNG (2hr 45min) B. Brown, Vandersteege (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
20DEC65
  Mission 43 (1hr 45min) B. Brown, Vandersteege (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
21DEC65
  Mission 43 (4hr 45min) B. Brown, Vandersteege (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
22DEC65
  Mission 43 (3hr 20min) B. Brown, Vandersteege (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
23DEC65
  Mission 43 (3hr 45min) B. Brown, Vandersteege (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
24DEC65
  Mission 43 (5hr 5min) B. Brown, Vandersteege (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
25DEC65
  DNG - NHA - VTA (3hr) B. Brown, Vandersteege (Source: Logbook B. Brown)
01JUN66
  The RAAF Transport Flight Vietnam changed its name to No. 35 Squadron RAAF.
24JUN66
  To Saigon for servicing by Air America
16AUG66
 

Extensively damaged in a landing accident at Ba To while delivering building supplies to a special forces camp. This accident was very similar to the Hai Yen accident which damaged the right side of the aircraft. The Ba To accident damaged the left side!

The incident is described in “The RAAF in Vietnam” by Chris Coulthard-Clark
(Australian War Memorial 1995) pp 117-119.

"A party of ground staff was immediately flown in under Wing Commander Melchert, the commanding officer, to make an attempt at recovery - an undertaking of considerable urgency since the camp was under direct threat of Viet Cong attack, including from mortar fire. To make A4-173 flyable it was necessary for the team to repair or change the wing, flaps and aileron, engine, propeller and undercarriage, as well as the nose. The essential spares for this work were not available through normal logistic channels, but Sergeant E.G. Allen (an equipment assistant back at Vung Tau) managed to ensure that the replacement parts were obtained; the resourcefulness and initiative shown by this airman were to earn him a mention in despatches.

Ten days later the aircraft was able to be flown back to base by the commanding officer, albeit with its undercarriage chained into position. The perils of this flight were to win Melchert the Distinguished Flying Cross, although - as events proved - the greater perils lay in the aircraft remaining longer at Ba To. Several clashes had taken place while the RAAF technicians were at the camp (eight enemy being killed during one night), but an attack on the airfield later in the day of A4-173's departure would have seen its certain destruction. Return to Vung Tau marked the beginning of six months of hard work by the unit's engineering staff to get the Caribou fully serviceable again. One of Melchert's last official duties before handing over command to Squadron Leader A.J. Fookes in March 1967 was to test fly A4-173 after its restoration."

Read the RAAF press release on the Ba To accident.

Australian War Memorial image # VN/66/0054/06 shows A4-173 at Vung Tau wearing a replacement left wing bearing the markings "U.S. Army".

02MAR67
  First flight since rebuild after accident; pilot W/Cdr Melchert
15NOV68
  To Manila
70
  In Combat Essential Airlift Role (ammunition, fuel, rations, mail, passengers)
04SEP70
  Propeller stuck in reverse at Luscombe
07SEP70
  "Rescue 8" mission (to recover from above?)
10FEB72
  Last op in Vietnam
19FEB72
 

The four Caribou of No 35 Sqn (A4-234, 173, 179 and 208) departed Vung Tau for Richmond at 0700 local. The crew of A4-173 were:

Flt Lt M.B. Vink GDPLT Captain
Flg Off M.T. Shanley GDPLT Co-pilot
Cpl L.J. Rappo ENGFITT Loadmaster
Sgt R.J. Brackin ELECFITT  
Sgt E.K. Fisk AFFITT  
Sgt T.H. Fuller ENGFITT  

The ferry flight was uneventful, proceeding basically in accordance with the planned itinerary. The largest deviation from itinerary occurred on the last day when a small hitch in fueling delayed departure from Longreach. Together with stronger headwinds than anticipated this caused the arrival at Richmond on 26FEB72 to be 30 minutes late. This was the first time that A4-173 had touched Australian soil!

28FEB72
  The four aircraft passed over Richmond in diamond formation and flew over Sydney before returning to Richmond.
    After two serious accidents in Vietnam, A4-173 returned to Australia on a pair of U.S. Army wings!

Australian War Memorial image # P01059.003 shows A4-173 wearing a replacement right wing bearing U.S. Army "star & bars".

Australian War Memorial image # VN/66/0054/06 shows A4-173 at Vung Tau wearing a replacement left wing bearing the markings "U.S. Army".
02-04DEC74
  Paratrooping at Williamtown (FLTLT RW Johnstone). Test drops of new parachutes. (Source: 35 Sqn Unit History)
25DEC74
  Darwin, NT was devastated by Cyclone Tracy in the early hours of Christmas Day. So severe was the destruction that authorities ordered the evacuation of the city. A detailed account of aviation in the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy can be found here.
26DEC74
  Caribou A4-173, under the command of FLTLT Ken Stone and crew comprising FLGOFF John Foley, SGT Allen Fraser and SGT Laurie Rappo, departed RAAF Richmond for Longreach and Mount Isa where the aircraft overnighted. The crew had been instructed to be completely self-sufficient in Darwin so non-perishable foodstuffs were loaded at Richmond. (Source: 1)
27DEC74
  Departed Mt Isa for Darwin where the crew pitched a tent on a concrete slab where a tin hut had been.
(Source: 1)
28DEC74
  Operated a local flight ex Darwin, probably for aerial photography, and later operated a return flight to Tindal.
(Source: 1)
29DEC74
  Operated Darwin-Tindal-Tennant Creek-Camooweal for a low level aerial survey of the road on instructions from GPCAPT Hitchins. OC RAAF Darwin. The aircraft overnighted Camooweal. (Source: 1)
30DEC74
  Recalled to Darwin via Mt Isa to refuel. On arrival Darwin, FLGOFF Foley was replaced by FLTLT John Cornish. (Source: 1)
03JAN75
  Operated a local flight ex Darwin, probably for aerial photography. (Source: 1)
04JAN75
  Operated a survey flight Darwin-Bathurst Island-Garden Point-Snake Bay-Darwin to check on the welfare of local communities. (Source: 1)
07JAN75
  Operated Darwin-Francis Creek-Darwin, probably on mining support. (Source: 1)
08JAN75
  Operated Darwin-Normanton-Townsville where the aircraft overnighted. This was the only flight on which A4-173 evacuated personnel from Darwin and they were few in number. (Source: 1)
09JAN75
  Returned to Richmond from Townsville. Ken Stone does not recall sighting any other Caribou in Darwin. His log book shows that A4-173 flew 23 sorties totalling 43.3 hours Richmond to Richmond. (Source: 1)
75
  With 35 Sqn Townsville, QLD.
28MAR79
  Wing Commander John Staal, C.O. of No 35 Squadron, flew HRH The Prince of Wales from Cairns to Lizard Island in A4-173. Prince Charles occupied the co-pilot's seat for approximately thirty minutes and flew the aeroplane while it cruised along the beaches of Far North Queensland. At the time, Prince Charles was a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force. (Source: 2)
01APR79
  Wing Commander John Staal, C.O. of No 35 Squadron, flew HRH The Prince of Wales from Lizard Island to Townsville over parts of the Great Barrier Reef in A4-173. (Source: 2)
85
  A suitably decorated A4-173 featured in celebrations to mark the 21st anniversary of RAAF Caribou operations.
90
  With 38 Sqn
    Although A4-173 had been allocated to the Australian War Memorial, the aircraft was subjected to the RATS program (Reduce Aircraft To Spares).
11OCT01
  Sold to QAM.
02FEB02
  Rear fuselage removed at Amberley and trucked to Caloundra.
30APR02
  Remainder of aircraft arrived at Caloundra.
09OCT02
  A pair of wings, a fin and a tailplane arrived at Caloundra by road from RAAF Richmond. These components were removed (by Qantas) from A4-164.
23MAR10
  The forward fuselage of A4-159 was purchased from Pacific Hunter Aviation Pty Ltd and transported from the fire dump at Brisbane Airport to QAM at Caloundra. The remainder of the airframe was scrapped by Pacific Hunter Aviation. The forward fuselage will provide cockpit parts for A4-173 and eventually it will be restored as a theatrette.
03NOV10
  The Sunshine Coast Branch of the Vietnam Veterans Association placed a plaque near the nosewheel of A4-173. The plaque is "Dedicated to all those Royal Australian Air Force personnel who lost their lives on operations and in honour of all who served in Vietnam". The dedication ceremony was conducted by Padre Arthur Fry.
27APR17
  The starboard main undercarriage leg, wheels and doors were fitted to the aircraft. This marks a significant milestone in the restoration of A4-173. Other undercarriage legs will be fitted progressively.

 

Barry Ingate was the Loadmaster on A4-173 when it crashed in Vietnam - BOTH times!
Read his story
.
Read the RAAF press release describing the second crash in Vietnam.

 

SOURCES
1
Log Book of FLTLT Ken Stone.
2
Log Book of Wing Commander John Staal, C.O. of No 35 Squadron

 

Compiled by Ron Cuskelly

 

 

 


 

ISSUE
DATE
REMARKS
25
18JUN17
Added a recent image of the aircraft's cabin and an image of the newly restored nose undercarriage.
24
11JUN17
Added an image of refurbished wheels and tyres which will be fitted to the aircraft. Thanks to David Geck for the picture and the refurbishment.
23
10MAY17
Added a recent image of the aircraft fitted with a proper undercarriage leg. Thanks to Collin Campbell for the image.
22
27NOV16
Added three images of the aircraft during a visit to Maryborough on 27OCT94. Thanks to Shaun Ryan.
Image 1 Image 2 Image 3
21
07OCT16
Added a recent image of the aircraft fitted with a full set of engine cowlings. Thanks to Paul Strike for the cowls and Colin Campbell for the image.
20
20SEP16
Added an image of the aircraft at Port Hedland, WA in March 1981. Thanks to Geoff Goodall for this superb inage.
19
04SEP16
Added a recent image of the aircraft being fitted with engine cowlings. Thanks to Paul Strike for the cowls and Colin Campbell for the image.
18
27MAY16
Added four new images thanks to Peter Murphy. Image 1 Image 2 Image 3 Image 4
17
22APR15
Added details of a flight with HRH The Prince of Wales to Lizard Island in March/April 1979. Thanks to John Staal who was the pilot and C.O. of 35 SQN at the time. Also added two images. Image 1 Image 2
16
02JAN13
Added a reference to A4-173 participating in the relief operation at Darwin after Cyclone Tracy. The period 26DEC74 to 09JAN75 refers. Thanks to Ken Stone for access to his log book.
15
11NOV10
Added reference to a plaque dedication on 03NOV10.
14
30SEP10
Added an image of the recently installed port engine.
13
23MAR10
The nose section of A4-159 has been acquired as a parts source.
12
21DEC09
Added a new image with the rudder attached.
11
12NOV09
Added three images of the restoration progress.
10
14OCT07
Added images of both replacement wings with U.S. Army markings. Images reproduced with permission from the AWM.
9
25APR07
Expanded coverage of the Ba To accident thanks to Rob Solomons.
8
03JUN06
Added more details and photos of the Hai Yen accident thanks to Ron Furze.
7
08JUN03
-