VH-AGG Frank Follett


Type: L-414-56 Hudson Mk IIIA/A-29
MSN: 6486
Previous Identities: 41-36997


17APR42 Received 1 AD Laverton ex USA. (Source: 3)
19MAY42 Issued CAC ex 1 AD for erection. (Source: 3)
26JUN42 Received 1 AD ex CAC. (Source: 3)
20JUL42 Received 13 SQN ex 1 AD. (Source: 3)
08MAR43 Received 1 RSU ex 13 SQN for repairs to mainplane. (Source: 3)
01APR43 Issued 2 SQN ex 1 RSU. (Source: 3)
26APR43 Hit by anti-aircraft fire while on offensive patrol. (Source: 3)
02JUL43 Received 4 RSU ex 2 SQN. (Source: 3)
14JUL43 Received 2 SQN ex 4 RSU. (Source: 3)
19SEP43 Bogged in vicinity Millimgimbi. (Source: 3)
11FEB44 Received 1 AD ex 2 SQN. (Source: 3)
13MAR44 Received ANA Parafield ex 1 AD for conversion to air ambulance. (Source: 3)
See Hudson Hatchback
11AUG44 Received 1 AD ex ANA Parafield. (Source: 3)
17AUG44 Received 2 AAU ex 1 AD. (Source: 3)
26MAR45 Received ANA Parafield ex 2 AAU. (Source: 3)
14JUL45 Received 2 AAU ex ANA. (Source: 3)
20AUG45 Issued Survey Flight ex 2 AAU. (Source: 3)
30OCT45 Received 2 AD ex Survey Flight for rigging check. Aircraft flying left wing very low on landing. (Source: 3)
22MAR46 Stored at 2 AD Richmond. (Source: 3)
01JUL47 Sold to J.F. Price, Peakhurst NSW for £1,000. (Source: 3)
04DEC47 Re-sold to L.M. Van Praag, Bondi NSW for £400. (Source: 3)
11FEB48 Issued to purchaser. (Source: 3)
Registration application from Lionel M. Van Praag, Sydney. Initially to be operated as a freighter then changed to passenger configuration with 18 in normal seats and 26 in "side-saddle" seating. (Source: 2)
Curtis Madsen Aircrafts Pty Ltd Drawing No. VP-1 shows the aircraft in a "side-saddle" configuration nominally showing 17 seating locations plus two "on the toilet cover subject to DCA approval" or two in fixed seats in place of a toilet. (Source: 2)
14JUL48 Added to Register as VH-BLA. CofR No. 1571, CofA No. 1516 to L.M. Van Praag. Operated under charter to Guinea Air Traders with whom Van Praag was a pilot. The aeroplane was named Silver Bullet in GAT service. (Source: 2)
24AUG48 VH-BLA arrived at Lae flown by Capt R. Burt with two crew and one passenger. (Source: 4)
12SEP48 Curtis Madsen Aircrafts Pty Ltd Drawing No. CM27 shows that VH-BLA was fitted with a hinged nose.
Curtis Madsen Aircrafts Pty Ltd Drawing No. CM28-1 shows an "Alternate Seating for VH-BLA" with 13 conventional seats.
(Source: 2)
OCT49 Ferried to Mascot, Sydney for overhaul and sale. (Source: 2)
22JUN50 Change of ownership to Adastra Airways, Sydney. (Source: 2)
04SEP50 Re-registered VH-AGG. (Source: 2)
06FEB51 Test flown at Mascot by Lionel Van Praag and Tom Carpenter (30 mins). (Source: 1)

Tom Carpenter's memoirs describe the event thus:

"If I were asked which was my closest brush with a fiery death, it would have been on the northern end of the main runway at Mascot on 6th February 1951, when Lionel Van Praag conducted the test flight of Adastra's first Lockheed Hudson. My logbook reads 'Local. Test flight Hudson'. What a masterpiece of understatement!!

I was Chief Field Engineer but with only 2 days at Mascot, after a 3-month tour covering New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria - had no connection with the Hudson prior to its test flight. Crew for the test flight was Van Praag in command, Joe Linfoot and myself. At the last moment we were joined by Bunny Hammond our General Manager, which left me without a seat to sit on. On take off Van remarked that the aircraft was very tail heavy, but we forgot about it until the test was completed. During the landing approach at the end of the test flight, I noted that Lionel was working hard and later we all agreed that the tail wheel had hit the runway when the main wheels were at least 5 feet or more above the ground - things started to happen - I believe we porpoised along with port wing low until we left the runway and headed toward the T.A.A. passenger terminal area. The two most vivid things I remember would be the rapid departure of a T.A.A. DC3 from the taxiway as we raced towards him, and the look on Joe Linfoot's face with microphone half way to his mouth as the tower kept repeating 'Are you alright AGG?' We missed the parked aircraft in front of the tower, and came to a stop close to the cross-runway, where I got out and kicked the tailwheel free of its locked position. We taxied back to the hangar to find fuel pouring out of both wings and covering the undercarriage. I have never seen sweat pour from the face of any man, the way it did from Van that day - I am alive today because of the way Van Praag worked that aircraft. I believe he did a mighty job. We checked the wheel contact marks on the runway and found them up to 3 times the normal width as we staggered sideways. Perhaps the Lockheed Hudson was not the most perfect aircraft, but none would ever convince me that they had a weak undercarriage.

Why did this test flight go so wrong? Could it be that two engineers made preparations each without the knowledge of the other? My personal checking of petrol tanks showed that both the front and the rear wing tanks were full when the flight plan showed fuel in the forward tanks only. Camera gear and weight was shown on the flight plan as being in place in the nose, but the nose compartment was bare. An engineer loaded boxes of brass valve guides into the rear of the cabin, telling me they were required to trim the aircraft and remember also that Bunny Hammond, unannounced, joined the aircraft and sat in the seat towards the rear of the cabin. The Big question 'Where was the centre of gravity?' Much too close to the tail wheel for my liking."
02MAR51 Test flown by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter. Altitude and camera test at 25,000 feet (2 hrs 10 mins). (Source: 1)
30MAR51 Test flown by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter. Camera test (30 mins). (Source: 1)
  The aircraft was named "Frank Follett" in honour of the founder of Adastra.
03APR51 Test flown by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter. G3 compass (30 mins). (Source: 1)
05APR51 Test flown by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter. G3 compass (1 hr 30 mins). (Source: 1)
06APR51 Test flown by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter. G3 compass (1 hr 25mins). (Source: 1)
10APR51 Test flown by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter. G3 compass (55 mins). (Source: 1)
11APR51 Test flown by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter. G3 compass (40 mins). (Source: 1)
17APR51 Test flown by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter. Altitude test (2 hr 15 mins). (Source: 1)
19APR51 Photography of "Drome" (presumably Mascot) by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter (1 hr 5 mins). (Source: 1)
20APR51 Test flown by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter. Altitude test (1 hr 25 mins). (Source: 1)
22APR51 Photography of Mudgee by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter. (3 hr 50 mins). (Source: 1)
23APR51 Test flown by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter. Altitude test (2 hr 30 mins). (Source: 1)
26APR51 Flown Mascot to Bankstown by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter (25 mins). (Source: 1)
28APR51 Test flown by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter. Altitude test and photography (1 hr 25 mins). (Source: 1)
06DEC51 Ferried Mascot to Canberra by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter (1 hr). Subsequent photography of the Snowy River. (Source: 1)
20DEC51 Ferried Canberra to Mascot by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter (45 mins). (Source: 1)
21DEC51 Flown Mascot to Bankstown by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter (15 mins). (Source: 1)
05MAR52 Ferried Mascot to Wagga by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter. Oil leak. (1 hr 30 mins). (Source: 1)
05MAR52 Photography of railway fire damage at Wagga by Joe Linfoot and Tom Carpenter (4 hrs). (Source: 1)
08JUN58 Crashed into the Huon Gulf at Lae. (Captain Allen Motteram).
The following is extracted from "Aviation Safety Digest":

"Carrying one pilot, a navigator and a photographer, the aircraft departed Lae on a photographic survey flight over the Wewak area, but conditions proved unfavourable for photography and it was decided to return to Lae. Lae tower was called five minutes before arrival and landing instructions were passed, in which it was advised that Runway 32 was to be used, the wind velocity being 300 degrees at 15 knots with gusts to 20 knots. Just before turning on to base leg the aircraft was cleared to do a practice asymmetric landing, but was warned to expect turbulence on the final approach. This was acknowledged by the aircraft. Witnesses agree that the aircraft was very low at the time of entering the final approach from a right-hand base leg with the left-hand propeller feathered. They also agreed that, following what sounded to be a marked increase in the power setting when 300 yards from the end of the strip, the aircraft rolled to the left and dived into the water in a partly inverted attitude. All three occupants perished."
Those on board at the time of the crash were:
Allen Motteram (Captain)
Patrick Murphy (Navigator)
Gordon Murrell (Camera Operator)
See also "Sad Memories of Lae" by Graham Campbell.
See also "Hudson Hatchback"


Log book of Tom Carpenter.
NAA, DCA file on VH-BLA accessed by Geoff Goodall & Chris O'Neill.
RAAF Form E/E.88 Airframe Record Card A16-219.
Geoff Goodall The Migrant Caper

Issue Date Remarks
14 30DEC22
Added a Slideshow
13 22DEC22
Added information on seating configuration for VH-BLA in 1948. Added a table of sources.
12 05JAN21
Added two images of VH-AGG in a natural metal colour scheme from the early fifties. Image 1 Image 2
11 31JAN16
Refreshed the page and images.
10 25FEB08
Added a 1956 image thanks to John Hopton (The Collection).
9 09DEC06
Corrected the spelling of Allen Motteram's given name as confirmed by his daughter Sandra Motteram.
8 18SEP05
Added more detail drawn from the log book of Tom Carpenter. Note that not all flights recorded in the log book have been added to this chronology. Thanks to Cay Carpenter.
7 03SEP05
Added a link to Graham Campbell's moving account of the crash of VH-AGG.
6 14JUN03
Corrected the spelling of Allan Motteram's name from Alan to Allan. Refer Issue #9.
Also added a new image.