FORCE LANDING OF A KITTYHAWK
NEAR BOHLE RIVER AIRFIELD, QLD
ON 16 OCTOBER 1945

 

86 Squadron RAAF converted from Kittyhawks to Mustangs. 8 Kittyhawks were left idle at Bohle River airstrip until a decision was made to ferry them to 6 Aircraft Depot at Oakey. The aircraft were test flown on 16 October 1945 after a routine 80 hour inspection.

 

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Pilot, Flight Sergeant Peter F. Howard, took off in P-40 N20 Kittyhawk, A29-481 (#42-104703) on that day. After takeoff, at about 200 feet and 160mph, the engine stopped. He flicked the fuel booster and changed fuel tanks. He was thinking about pumping down the flaps, but it was too late, as he was back on the deck within 20 seconds. He could see the Townsville - Ingham Road ahead and some telegraph lines beside the railway line adjacent to the highway. He turned sharply to starboard to force land beside the telegraph lines but in the process he lost height much quicker than anticipated. He flattened out his glide while still travelling a 110mph.

 

Suddenly a galvanised iron house loomed up in front of his glide path. The male occupant must have heard what was happening through the back window and on seeing the aircraft heading for his house ran quickly out the front door. Howard managed to clear the house but hit the radio mast on the roof of the house.

The Kittyhawk hit some trees and then the ground with a terrific impact, bursting the oil and glycol tanks and the fuselage tank behind the cockpit.  The small saplings that he had hit broke the canopy and jammed it. Peter Howard was hit across the face and head when this occurred.

 

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P-40 N20 Kittyhawk force landed by Peter F. Howard
near Bohle River airfield. The foothills of Mount Louisa
can be seen in the distance

 

The aircraft came to a halt and F/Sgt Howard could hear fuel gurgling out of the rear fuel tank. Fortunately for him, the IFF detonator adjacent to the fuel tank had been deactivated. He pulled the canopy back. Initially he was tangled in a mess of parachute straps, seat harnesses and his throat microphone wires. He pulled the wires from the junction box and clambered out of the aircraft and ran off into the long grass where he collapsed on the ground in shock.

 

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P-40 N20 Kittyhawk, A29-481 crash landed near Bohle River airfield

 

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P-40 N20 Kittyhawk, A29-481 crash landed near Bohle River airfield
NOTE:- Railway line and power lines behind the crash site

 

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Peter Howard marked in red the position of the crash. You can also see
that he has marked in yellow, the locations of Garbutt, Bohle River,
and Stock Route airfields.

 

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P-40 N20 Kittyhawk, A29-481 crash landed near Bohle River airfield

 

F/Sgt Howard then saw the house owner about 100 yards away and as he moved towards him, he ran away when he saw F/Sgt Howard's bloodied face. The Commanding Officer of 86 Squadron, Bert Hays was the first on the scene and he congratulated Howard by saying "Pete you did a splendid job".

The cause of the engine failure was moisture in the distributor which had caused a high tension short circuit and subsequent ignition failure. The aircraft was written off.

This Kittyhawk had been delivered to the RAAF in August 1943. Its USAAF Serial No. was 42-104703.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"86 Squadron 1943-45 - Men, Kittyhawks and Mustangs"
By Peter F. Howard

"The Spitfire, Mustang & Kittyhawk in Australian Service"
by Stewart Wilson

 

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This page first produced 17 September 1999

This page last updated 01 March 2017