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No. 33 Squadron
No. 24 Squadron
No. 36 Squadron
Built by Ford as 5-AT-C completed in 1931. Constructors Number 5-AT-60. Purchased by the Earl of Lovelace and registered as G-ABHO in the United Kingdom. This Trimotor was flown in East Africa. Later registered as NC401H in the United States.
On October 26, 1935 registered to Guinea Airways as VH-UBI in Australia and operated in New Guinea flying cargo and passengers until January 1942.
On July 21 1938 sustained serious damage in New Guinea. Afterwards, repaired using the airframe of Ford 5-AT-B Trimotor NC9686 that was imported from the United States. During the rebuild, most of the fuselage, undercarriage, tail fin, rudder and right wing were used. Only the left wing and center Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine were the only parts of the original aircraft used but the Trimotor retained the identity of VH-UBI.
On January 21, 1942 Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) carrier aircraft strike Lae but this Trimotor survives undamaged. Afterwards, flown south to Australia arriving in early February 1942.
On February 6, 1942 impressed into service with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Trimotor serial number A45-1 with Trimotor A45-2 (VH-UDY). Afterwards painted with a RAAF roundel and dark upper surfaces with the serial number on the rear fuselage and photographed at Parafield Field. On February 16, 1942 assigned to No. 24 Squadron.
On March 17, 1942 returned to Guinea Airways for an overhaul and conversion into an air ambulance completed by July 24, 1942.
On October 11, 1942 assigned to 1 Air Depot (1 AD). On October 31, 1942 assigned to No. 36 Squadron. On November 16, 1942 to No. 33 Squadron. This Trimotor was flown to Myola Airfield to evacuate Australian Army soldiers wounded fighting on the Kokoda Trail.
On November 24, 1942 at Myola Airfield slipped on muddy ground and flipped upside down. On November 30, 1942 assigned to 15 Repair Salvage Unit (15 RSU) and converted to components by February 17, 1943 with the center engine removed. Afterwards, written off and abandoned.
The Trimotor remained upside down in situ until 1979.
In 1979, the fuselage was recovered by the RAAF and brought to the PNG War Museum at Port Moresby. In 1980, the wings were also recovered and transported to the museum.
Bruce Hoy recalls:
"[The recovery to the US] was only an idea of Bill Chapman at the time of the AMPNG and Yesterday's Air Force collaborations in 1974. It never got past the thought stage. Almost came to a full stop in 1979 though due to misunderstanding of the local people when the RAAF dropped in to have a look at it first. The RAAF saw all these folk with shotguns, and they pissed off! I tried to re-assure them that that was normal with any village hunting party. Cost us a helicopter charter and then a flight across to Kokoda to sort things out."
In 1979, this Trimotor was was displayed in the yard of the PNG War Museum in Gordon with the wings removed and stacked nearby. No restoration work was performed on the Trimotor. During 2015, moved to the National Museum and Art Gallery (NMAG) and displayed outdoors along the driveway to the museum.
RAAF Impressment Requisition 9024
RAAF Record Card - Airframes, Aero Engines, Mechanical Transport and Marine Craft - Ford Trimotor A45-1
ADF Serials - Trimotor A45-1
Pacific Aircraft Wrecks (1979) pages 61 (lower), 69
Thanks to Bill Chapman, Bruce Hoy and Daniel Leahy for additional information
Ford 5 AT
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