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  P-39D-15-BE "Erminie" Serial Number 41-6951  
5th AF
8th PG
36th PS

Click For Enlargement
CART 1972

Click For Enlargement
Justin Taylan 2006
Pilot  Lt. Charles Faletta (survived)
Force Landed  May 1, 1942
MACR  none

Aircraft History
Built by Bell in Buffalo, New York. Delivered to the U.S. Army Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-39D-15-BE Airacobra Serial Number 41-6951. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 8th Pursuit Group (8th PG), 36th Pursuit Squadron (36th PS) "The Flying Fiends". Nicknamed "Erminie".

Mission History
On May 1, 1942 took off from Antill Plains Airfield near Townsville piloted by Lt. Charles Faletta on a flight bound for 7 Mile Drome near Port Moresby as one of six Airacobras led by Faletta 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 pilot 2nd 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.

While flying in bad weather and 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 pilot Lt. Love.

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

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.

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

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

USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-39D-BE Airacobra 41-6951
"6951 (MSN 15-290) crash-landed near Weipa, Queensland, Australia May 1, 1942. Recovered 1972 by Sid Beck. Under restoration at Beck Aviation and Military Museum, Mareeba, QLD, Australia. Displayed at Sid Beck/Beck Military Collection, Mareeba, Queensland 1987-2002 as 16951 Erminie"
"Jardine Jaunt", pages 85-145 by Ian Mullins tells the story of his discovery of the wreck in 1959.
Airacobra Advantage
also mentions this aircraft's history.
Thanks to Syd Beck and Ian Mullins for additional information

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Last Updated
April 26, 2021


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