ASN logo
ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 221822
Last updated: 11 November 2019
This information is added by users of ASN. Neither ASN nor the Flight Safety Foundation are responsible for the completeness or correctness of this information. If you feel this information is incomplete or incorrect, you can submit corrected information.

Date:06-JAN-1930
Time:day
Type:Wackett Widgeon II
Owner/operator:1 FTS RAAF
Registration: 20
C/n / msn: 2
Fatalities:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:One mile off Point Cooke, Port Philip Bay, Victoria -   Australia
Phase: En route
Nature:Test
Departure airport:RAAF Point Cook, Melbourne, Victoria
Destination airport:
Narrative:
6/1/1930: Wackett Widgeon II, 1 Flight Training School, RAAF. The aircraft never had a military serial or civil registration although it carried the number "20" on the fin. (The Widgeon I was civil registered as G-AEKB and later G-AUFO). Written off (destroyed) when crashed into the sea, Port Philip Bay, Victoria, Australia. All three on board were killed:
Flt Lt Fred A Briggs (pilot, aged 30) killed
Capt the Hon Hugh Raufe Grosvenor (aged 25) killed
LAC Don C Ewen (aged 25) killed

Captain Hugh Grosvenor, was the heir of Lord Stalbridge and had been planning a flight from Australia to England. According to a contemporary newspaper report (The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria, Tuesday 7 Jan 1930, Page 7 - see link #3):

"SHOCKING AIR DISASTER
NOTED FLYERS KILLED
CAPTAIN GROSVENOR A VICTIM
MACHINE DIVES INTO BAY
TRAGEDY OFF POINT COOKE
UNAVAILING SEARCH FOR BODIES
Within a mile of Point Cooke, Wackett's Widgeon II. nose dived from a height of 400 feet Into Port Phillip Bay yesterday afternoon. Only an overcoat and a little wreckage have been recovered. The occupants of the Widgeon were:

Captain the Hon. HUGH GROSVENOR, A.D.C. to His Excellency the Governor of South Australia.
Flight-Lieutenant FREDERICK ALBERT BRIGGS, of the Royal Australian Air Force, who was piloting the Widgeon.
Leading Aircraftsman D. C. EWEN, of the Royal Australian Air Force.

Captain Grosvenor, who is the son of Lord Stalbridge, of England, was planning to fly to England in an attempt to break the record of 13 days established by Squadron-Leader Kingsford Smith and Flight-Lieutenant Ulm. Flight-Lieutenant Briggs, one of the "star" pilots of the Royal Australian Air Force, had just been given permission to accompany him.

Captain Grosvenor visited Point Cooke to discuss plans for the flight with Flight-Lieutenant Briggs. He made the flight in the Widgeon, at Lieutenant Briggs's invitation. Only one man, a mechanic at Point Cooke, saw the Widgeon take its fatal plunge into the sea. A search by air and sea disclosed only a little wreckage and an overcoat. The coat indicates that one of the victims tried to throw himself clear of the falling machine. Apparently he did not succeed.

The accident,which occurred in the course of a routine test flight, is the first serious crash that has occurred to the flying-boat in Australia. The pilot (Flight- Lieutenant. F. A. Briggs). who is second instructor at Point Cooke, was testing equipment in preparation for the opening of the training course which will begin at the school next week. He had made several flights in the Widgeon earlier in the afternoon. Shortly before 4 o'clock Captain Grosvenor, who had arrived in Melbourne by the Adelaide Express in the morning and who had arranged to fly with Flying-Officer Briggs to England, shortly reached the station to discuss details of the projected flight.

Captain Grosvenor was not an officer of the Royal Australian Air Force, and therefore could not fly an Air Force machine, But he accepted an invitation to accompany Flying Officer Briggs as a passenger. The third member of the flying-boat's crew was Leading Aircraftsman D. C. Ewen, who had been engaged in adjustments to the machine.

The Widgeon, which had been overhauled and "tuned" in preparation for the school next week, appeared to be in excellent condition and took off without difficulty. The sea was choppy, and there was a fresh breeze. For about half an hour the machine manoeuvered in wide circles over the bay. Owing to the fact that it had already been in the air several times little attention was paid to it's movements, especially as it's staff on the station has been considerably depleted pending the resumption of training after the holidays and those who were on duty were engaged on other tasks.

One Man Sees Crash
Only one man saw the Widgeon fall. This was a mechanic at Point Cooke, who happened to be watching the ill fated machine in its progress across the bay. Suddenly he was startled to see the nose of the machine dip sharply. It fell almost straight downwards and instead of flattening out, dropped with great velocity into the water. A column of spray rose into the air, and when it had subsided, no trace of the Widgeon could be seen.

The mechanic promptly reported the accident, and orders were immediately given for every available machine on the station to fly over the spot where the Widgeon had gone down, and ascertain if possible its fate and that of it's occupants. Without loss of time six machines were in the air circling over the bay in the vicinity of the tragedy, So disturbed was the water, however, by the stiff south-westerly breeze that was blowing that the observers on these machines could only guess the locality. In the meantime a powerful launch and a rowing-boat put out from the Point Cooke jetty in order to render assistance if there should be anybody alive to assist. So rough was the water that the rowing-boat was obliged to put back before it had gone very far.

Wreckage Discovered
After a search lasting an hour one of the pilots reported having located the Widgeon lying in about 30 feet of water about a mile off Point Cooke. The discovery was confirmed by other pilots, and a launch, directed to the spot, recovered fragments of wreckage and a flying jacket, which had apparently belonged to one of the three occupants of the Widgeon. The Widgeon was constructed largely of wood, and as little wreckage was found floating above the hull, it is believed that the machine suffered comparatively slight damage.

The mechanic who saw the machine fall estimated its height when the dive into the bay began at 400 feet. The flying-boat fell almost vertically, nose down. The streamline construction of the hull which projects about 12 feet in front of the main planes, is such that it would dive into the water with a minimum of damage if falling vertically. Officers of the Air Force last night expressed the view that all the occupants of the Widgeon must have been injured by the terrific impact of the craft with the water. The discovery of the floating coat suggests that one of the crew had attempted to free himself as the machine was falling in the hope of jumping clear.

In all such accidents escape is difficult unless one is free before the crash. Even in falling on to the water the impact would be sufficient to throw the occupants forward against the instrument board or the coamings of the cockpits with enough force seriously to injure them or stun them and prevent their escape

SEARCH FOR MACHINE.
BARGES WORK UNTIL DARK.
Divers to Begin This Morning.
The Harbour Trust launch Commissioner with two hopper barges left Williamstown at full speed at 6 o'clock, in response to a message from the authorities at Point Cooke to the harbour master (Captain D. Kerr). The crews searched until dark. but found no trace of wreckage, and nothing to indicate that there had been an accident. Six aeroplanes circled over head while these operations were going on, and on their return it was reported that the wrecked machine had been seen from the air. The aeroplanes and the water-craft cruise until dark in the hope of picking up the bodies of the three aviators, but at dark they had to discontinue the search."

Sources:

1. http://www.rcawsey.co.uk/Accmisc.htm
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wackett_Widgeon#Accidents
3. The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria, Tuesday 7 Jan 1930, Page 7): https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/4060925
4. Flight magazine (January 10, 1930 page 111): https://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1930/untitled0%20-%200111.html
5. http://www.edcoatescollection.com/ac6/Wackett%20Widgeon%20II.html
6. http://www.adf-gallery.com.au/gallery/Wackett-Widgeon-II

RAAF Experimental Station Widgeon I side

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
14-Feb-2019 00:51 Dr. John Smith Added
14-Feb-2019 00:52 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]
14-Feb-2019 00:53 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]
14-Feb-2019 00:56 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]
04-Mar-2019 18:28 Nepa Updated [Operator, Operator]

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description