VH-ABB. Short S-23C Empire Flying Boat. c/n S.877.

 

This aircraft was the twenty-seventh Empire boat to be completed and flown by Short Bros at Rochester, Kent

The order was placed by Imperial Airways, London - June 22, 1937

Completed as a S-23 Empire Class boat having 920 h.p. Bristol Pegasus Xc engines

The standard fuel capacity was 650 gallons

It had an all-up weight of 40,500 lbs (18,380 kg) which was later increased to 53,000 lbs (24,200 kg)

The cruising speed was 164 m.p.h. with a standard range of 760 miles / 1,245 km

Entered onto the British Aircraft Register as G-AFBK (CofR 8071) - August 26, 1937

First flown as G-AFBK - December 17, 1937

The Certificate of Airworthiness (CofA) Issued - December 18, 1937

Delivered to Imperial Airways, London - December 18, 1937

This aircraft was named 'Coolangatta' (highland overlooking water)

It had been earmarked for delivery to Qantas Empire Airways from outset

Departed Southampton on delivery flight to Australia (Captain G. U. Allen) - March 18, 1938

Arrived Sydney (Rose Bay) on completion of the delivery flight - April 02, 1938

Entered onto Australian Aircraft Register as VH-ABB (CofR 699) - April 19, 1938

Registered to Qantas Empire Airways Ltd, Brisbane

Due to the wartime emergency this aircraft was impressed by the R. A. A. F. - June 26, 1940

Converted for general reconnaissance duties at Sydney (Rose Bay)

The aircraft was fitted with a temporary dorsal gun position equipped with 0.303 machine guns

Impressed by the Royal Australian Air Force as 'A18-13' - June 29, 1940

Allotted to No. 11 Squadron based at Port Morseby, New Guinea

Cancelled from the Australian Aircraft Register - July 27, 1940

Utilised for extensive general armed reconnaissance work in islands to north-east of New Guinea

Sustained a number of bullet holes in the outer skin of tailplane - November 24, 1940

These bullet holes were inflicted by aircraft's own dorsal gun

Allocated to No. 13 Squadron based at Darwin for transport work - January 25, 1942

Allocated to No. 33 Transport Squadron based at Townsville - February 12, 1942

Allocated to No. 41 Squadron based at Townsville - August 13, 1942

Returned to Rose Bay, Sydney for return to Qantas - July 13, 1943

Entered onto the Australian Aircraft Register as VH-ABB - July 27, 1943

Registered to Qantas Empire Airways Ltd, Brisbane

Returned to Qantas service - July 27, 1943

Chartered by A.D.A.T. / A.N.A. for daily Sydney - Brisbane - Townsville services - August 01, 1943

The aircraft was operated by Qantas crews

Qantas was paid approximately 600 pounds ($1,200) each way via D.C.A.

The lease was terminated - March 1944

This arcraft was destroyed in a landing accident at Sydney (Rose Bay) - October 11, 1944

It had departed Sydney (Rose Bay) for Townsville at 06:49 hours with 7 crew and 22 passengers

Shortly after takeoff the electric flap motor failed and the wing flaps were retracted by hand

Twenty minutes into the flight oil pressure on the starboard inner engine fell below normal levels

Pilot-in-command (Captain K.C. Caldwell) decided to return to Rose Bay to rectify faults

Capt L. J. Brain (Qantas General Manager - travelling as a passenger) had been invited by Capt Caldwell to fly aircraft

The landing approach flown by Captain L. Brain was made into the north and without flaps

Finding that he had excess height Captain Brain introduced a left-hand side-slip during the approach

On straighening out from the side-slip Capt Brain proceeded with the intention of making a normal landing

On checking the glide at about 40 feet he realised that the aircraft was flattening out too high

He stopped easing back on the controls expecting the boat to sink further towards the water

Without any further control movement the aircraft completely stalled some twelve feet above the water

It dropped sharply and made contact with the water in a normal attitude but with considerable force

This ipact caused a major failure of the hull which allowed extensive break-up of the fuselage

A considerable length of the rear end of the hull and tail unit separated from the rest of aircraft

Both sections sank within 15 minutes

Passengers and crew escaped the wreckage and were rescued but one passenger drowned (Mr J. Mott)

This needless accident was attributed to an error of judgement on the part of the Capt Lester Brain

The aircraft had flown a total of 2,886 hours whilst in service with Qantas

 

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery at Sydney Rose Bay, April 1938.

(R. N. Smith Collection Copyright Image 2545-227.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery at Sydney Rose Bay, April 1938.

(R. N. Smith Collection Copyright Image 2545-228.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery at Sydney Rose Bay, April 1938.

(R. N. Smith Collection Copyright Image 2545-230.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' at Sydney Rose Bay, April 1938.

A general view of the galley area on these flying boats.

(R. N. Smith Collection Copyright Image 2545-385.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' at Sydney Rose Bay, April 1938.

Passengers had plenty of room to move around on these aircraft.

(Qantas Heritage Collection Copyright Image 2545-384.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' at Sydney Rose Bay, April 1938.

A very well known publicity shot of the era depicting passengers engaged in onboard activities to pass the time.

(Qantas Heritage Collection Copyright Image 2545-395.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery at Sydney Rose Bay, date unknown.

(Qantas Heritage Collection Copyright Image 2545-229.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery at Sydney Rose Bay, circa 1939.

(Qantas Heritage Collection Copyright Image 2545-373.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery at Sydney Rose Bay, circa 1939.

(Qantas Heritage Collection Copyright Image 2545-374.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery at Sydney Rose Bay, date unknown.

(Qantas Heritage Collection Copyright Image 2545-355.)

A18-13. Royal Australian Air Force - in the standard wartime livery at an unknown location, date unknown.

(R. N. Smith Collection Copyright Image 2545-231.)