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  Piaggio P.166 "Mount Clarence" Registration VH-PAU  
PatAir

PIAGGIO P.166s IN AUSTRALIA (p

Pilot ¬†Captain Geoffrey Wallace (died)
Crashed  March 8, 1961


Aircraft History
Built by Piaggio Aero as P.166 Portofino. Constructors Number 366. Manufacture Number (Line Number) 15. During October 1959 ordered by Papuan Air Transport Ltd (PatAir). During 1960, constructed at Finale Ligure, Italy. In May 1960 allocated Australia registration VH-PAU for the ferry flight from Italy to Australia.

Flown on a ferry flight from Italy via Bahrein (Bahrain) on May 19, 1960 and May 28, 1960 at Singapore before arriving in Australia. This aircraft was officially added to the register on June 8, 1960. Nicknamed "Mount Clarence". Painted overall white with a red stripe at the center of the fuselage with highlights on the tail and wingtips with PatAir on the fuselage and VH-PAU in black on the tail. During 1960 until the crash in early March 1961, this aircraft operated as an airliner in Papua New Guinea.

Mission History
On March 8, 1961 took off from Girua Airport (Girua) at Popondetta on a cargo flight bound for Jackson Airport at Port Moresby. Over the Owen Stanley Range at 10:10am this aircraft made a last radio call over reporting he was flying at 13,500' over the Kokoda Gap. Bad weather was reported over the mountains. When this aircraft failed to arrive it was officially declared missing. On June 1, 1961 officially stricken off the register.

Search
A search was immediately initiated that utilized thirty aircraft and over 200 volunteers and was the largest postwar aerial search effort. During the search, several World War II aircraft wrecks were relocated including C-47 "Flying Dutchman" 41-18564 that was spotted from the air. At the time, it was unclear from records held by the Papua New Guinea administration if this aircraft had been found earlier, so cadet Patrol Officer (Kiap) J. Absolom organized an expedition to the site. Sixteen days later when no trace of the Piaggio was found, the search was abandoned.

Wreckage
This aircraft crashed in the mountains at an elevation of 9,400' / 2,865m killing the pilot on impact.

On October 1, 1970 the crash site was located during the search for a missing Piper Aztec and a search team visited the wreckage and recovered the remains of the pilot.

References

Aviation Safety Network - Piaggio P.166 VH-PAU 08-Mar-1961
Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives - Crash of a Piaggio P.166 in Mt Owen Stanley (photo)
Piaggio P.166s In Australia by Geoff Goodall (photo VH-PAU)
Forty of the Fifth profile 12 "Agony of the Flying Dutchman" mentions Piaggio P.166 VH-PAU

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Last Updated
November 8, 2018

 

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