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

Pilot ┬áCaptain 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 built at the Piaggio factory in Finale Ligure, Italy. In May 1960 allocated Australia registration VH-PAU for the ferry flight from Italy to Australia.

On May 19, 1960 departed Italy flying via Bahrein (Bahrain) and May 28, 1960 Singapore before arriving in Australia and was added to the Australian register on June 8, 1960 as VH-PAU. 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 (PNG).

Mission History
On March 8, 1961 took off from Girua Airport (Girua) near Popondetta piloted by Captain Geoffrey Wallace 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.

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 era aircraft were relocated including C-47 "Flying Dutchman" 41-18564 and B-17E 41-2505 that were both 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.

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.


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
January 18, 2020


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