The TAA Extortion

by Robert Eddy


My involvement with the incident was limited to the first response inspection of the aircraft.

First response to the extortion attempt was conducted a considerable time before any information was released to the public.

I accompanied senior police officers from Queensland Police Operations and Police Intelligence to the Canberra Bomber (the aircraft) after they had received information regarding a 'demonstration explosion' for an extortion attempt. At the time, the aircraft was parked in a remote area within the airfield perimeter fence, on the far side of the airfield from the old Eagle Farm Domestic Terminal which was still operating. (This was prior to the domestic terminal being moved to its present location.)

The first response approach to inspect the aircraft was conducted at night and dress was civilian clothes, (no uniforms), our time at the aircraft was limited, (a quick in and out), just in case the aircraft was under surveillance by the perpetrator(s). Damage was observed to the bomb bay doors of the aircraft which were open at the time. This damage involved an elongated slit on the outside of the right hand door with the pressure of the explosion 'springing' a number of rivets securing the outer skin, (see photo). The inner skin of the right hand door was holed at the area considered to be the focal point of the explosion. A metal object, (later identified as the nose of the projectile [see photo]), was removed from the inner skin of the left hand bomb bay door.

(All images are linked to larger versions)


The gash in the right hand bomb bay door of Canberra A84-225 being examined with a mirror device.


The remnants of the projectile extracted from the inside of the left hand bomb bay door.


As a result of the explosion, the nose of the projectile had passed through the outer and inner skin of the right hand bomb bay door and embedded itself into the inner skin of the left hand bomb bay door. This was the extent of my direct involvement with this particular incident.

Over a period of time, as the extortion attempt evolved, several other visits were made to the aircraft by police and military EOD/IED technicians to conduct a more thorough search of the area. These visits recovered sufficient components to enable the Senior Ammunition Technical Officers (SATO) office in Victoria Barracks to construct two replicas of the extortion projectile.

An explosive test was conducted to establish the effect of one of the replica projectiles functioning on a portion of an aircraft. An old aircraft door, off one of the Army's Nomads, was obtained from Oakey and a controlled test explosion conducted at the Greenbank Range complex. The test explosion produced almost exactly the same result on the Nomad door as the damage to the right hand, bomb bay door. Only one replica projectile was used for explosive testing.


One of two replica projectiles that were reverse engineered from remnants found on the site. This example was not fired and is now on display with Canberra A84-225 at QAM Caloundra.

QAM thanks Robert Eddy for this contribution.


The replica projectile is on display next to the Canberra.



This is how the incident was reported in the
QAM Newsletter of January 1983.



JANUARY 1983 VOL. 11 NO. 1


One would surely have to be a hermit to be unaware of the dramatic events of recent days. It has become almost traditional for QAM to be confronted with major crises over the Christmas/New Year break and this year is certainly no exception! The TAA extortion and the QAM connection have been covered by the news media at considerable length. For the record, a brief summary of events follows.

Our President, Dick Hitchins, received a telephone call from the Regional Director, Department of Aviation, Mr. R. M. Seymour, on Wednesday 5th January requesting Dick's immediate presence at the airport storage site. Mr Seymour indicated that the matter was serious and that he couldn't discuss it further over the telephone. (Members who do not think it is lonely at the top should reflect on how they would react to such a call!) At this time there was no reason for Dick to connect the call with the events of the previous Sunday when the mowing party discovered that the Canberra A84-225 had been damaged. On reaching the airport site, Dick was met by Mr. Seymour who proceeded to explain the circumstances of the extortion and how QAM had become involved. For obvious reasons, Dick was sworn to absolute secrecy and was unable to discuss the matter with other members. In short, TAA had received a ransom demand from someone who claimed to have fired a projectile at our Canberra as a demonstration of what could be done to a TAA aircraft if his demands were not met. Notwithstanding the seriousness of the threat to TAA, the damage to our aircraft was fortunately not as serious as might be expected. It consists of a one foot gash near the rear of the starboard bomb bay door. The gash terminates in a three inch diameter hole where the projectile penetrated the outer skin. There is another hole approximately one inch in diameter on the inside skin of the door. It is believed that the remains of the projectile were recovered from inside the bomb bay.

During the work party on the previous Sunday when the damage was first noticed, member David Tointon picked up what is now believed to have been the fin assembly from the projectile. There was no reason for anyone to connect this with the damage and consequently the fin was placed on one of the Vampire wings. The fin was subsequently recovered by the police. The damage was discussed at the business meeting on the following Tuesday and attributed to vandalism. The incident was subsequently reported to airport authorities. The authorities requested permission to remove the bomb door from the aircraft for scientific examination. This was readily granted and the door was removed by an RAAF work party on the night of Wednesday 5th and taken to Amberley. This is where the matter rests at the time of writing. The damage to the aircraft should be more than offset by the considerable publicity QAM has received. Several members have been interviewed on television and on one occasion Channel 9 flew their helicopter into Archerfield to interview Dick Hitchins. As another plus our aircraft have never had better security!