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  P-39D-15-BE "Erminie" Serial Number 41-6951  
USAAF
5th AF
8th FG
80th FS

Click For Enlargement
CART 1972

Click For Enlargement
Justin Taylan 2006

Pilot  Lt. Charles Faletta
Force landed  May 1, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U.S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Fighter Group, 80th Fighter Squadron. Nicknamed "Erminie" no nose art.

Mission History
On May 1, 1942 one of six P-39s that took off from Antill Plains Airfield near Townsville on a flight bound for Port Moresby. Faletta was leading the formation with his wingman P-39F 41-7215 piloted by Lt. Harvey. The formation included also included P-39F 41-7216 piloted by Lt. Yundt and P-39F piloted by Lt. Love.

Flying northward, the formation made a refueling stop at Cooktown Airfield, then encountered a storm near Horn Island, where they planned to land at Horn Island Airfield to and refuel before the final leg of the journey to Port Moresby.

Flying in bad weather and lost in thick clouds, Lt. Falletta led the other pilots who were all inexperienced with instrument flying back to the Cape York Peninsula. Low on fuel, they searched for a suitable place to land. Lt. Faletta and wingman, Lt. Harvey chose a landing spot roughly 13-16 kilometers inland from Cape Orford Ness, near the Escape River near Weipa.

Faletta managed to make a wheels down landing, unhurt. Nearby landing wheels up was P-39F 41-7215 piloted by Lt. Harvey. Landing on a nearby beach was P-39F 41-7216 piloted by Yundt and P-39 piloted by Lt. Love.

Rescue
After their landings, Falletta and Harvey located each other and made a two day trek to the nearest beach where they were rescued.

Wreckage
This aircraft remained in situ until 1961. Rediscovered during 1959 by an ANA pilot, Percy Tresize. During 1961, Ian Mullins, Elton and James were the first to walk to the wreck and found it perfectly intact, even the log book still inside the cockpit data case, which was sent to the U. S. Embassy in Canberra.

Recovery
During 1972, the wreckage was recovered by CART (Cairns Aircraft Recovery Team). Acquired by Syd Beck and restored to static display at The Beck Museum during the 1970s.

Display
Since the 1972 recovery, display at The Beck Museum in static condition.

References
"Jardine Jaunt", pages 85-145 by Ian Mullins tells the story of his discovery of the wreck in 1959.
Aircobra Advantage
also mentions this aircraft's history.
Thanks to Ian Mullins for additional information.

Contribute Information
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?

Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Tech Info
P-39
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