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Letter of the Month
Jungle Pioneer . . .
Sir, The recent Database article on the Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer ( January Aeroplane) reminded me of an incident in July 1960 whilst I was stationed at Changi, Singapore. Returning from fl ying one evening, I was greeted by a note on my desk briefl y stating that I was nominated as President of a Board of Inquiry into the crash of a (Single) Pioneer at Labuan airfi eld in Borneo. “Be on the RNZAF Bristol Freighter at 0630hr tomorrow for Labuan.” Of course, all admin staff at Changi had “knocked off” a few hours earlier and none of the “wheels” were available.
The duty clerk was eventually dragged out and the necessary forms, lined foolscap and the relevant publication on Boards of Inquiry ferreted out from various offi ces.
interior of Sarawak! The landing strip was waterlogged and the nearest we could get by air was a small strip at Bakalan about 30 miles away from the crash, at Bareo. There was a jungle track between the two landing strips. The next day
On the Bristol Freighter I met the other members of the Board and an NCO engine fi tter, all from the Pioneer’s base at Seletar. Arriving at Labuan, we discovered that the crash was not at Labuan, but at a small strip at a village in the interior of Sarawak! The landing strip was waterlogged and the nearest we could get by air was a small strip at Bakalan about 30 miles away from the crash, at Bareo. There was a jungle track between the two landing strips. The next day we were ferried, in relays, to Bakalan. A guide would be available to take us to Bareo tomorrow. The guide duly appeared, a Kelabit tribesman with large earlobes and bones dangling from them. We made an early start, setting off at a fast trot, but managed to persuade the guide that we could not keep this up and settled down to a sensible walking pace. The path led over steep hills, across tree roots and along a swampy path with submerged bamboo poles providing a foundation. On the second day of our trek we arrived at Bareo and found the Pioneer on its back in a tapioca tree plantation.
bones dangling from them. We made an early start, setting off at a fast trot, but managed to persuade the guide that we could not keep this up and settled down to a sensible
roots and along a swampy path with submerged bamboo
trek we arrived at Bareo and found the Pioneer on its back
The pilot had walked out of the jungle and had arrived at Labuan after being picked up by a Pioneer from Bakalan. He had reported a lack of power on the take-off run and a thrashing sound from the propeller, the aircraft turning over after hitting a fence at the end of the strip. Our investigation centred on the pitch of the propeller blades and the CSU
The pilot had walked out of the jungle and had arrived at Labuan after being picked up by a Pioneer from Bakalan. He had reported a lack of power on the take-off run and a thrashing sound from the propeller, the aircraft turning over after hitting a fence at the end of the strip. Our investigation centred on the pitch of the propeller blades and the CSU (constant-speed unit), which appeared serviceable. The propeller blades were in the fully fi ne position as would
normally be expected on take-off. However the wheel tracks were still visible in the grass and the mainwheels had obviously lifted off but the tailwheel had then ploughed a furrow almost as far as the overturned aircraft.
Our conclusion was that the pilot had dug the tailwheel in by pulling back too rapidly as the mainwheels lifted off and the drag had prevented take-off. We took witness statements, via an interpreter, and agreed compensation to the village headman for damage to his tapioca plantation. He also undertook to look after the wreck as long as he could use it as a chicken hutch! We made the wreck safe before leaving. It would be interesting to know if the aircraft is still lying in the plantation.
As a memento, I still have my two big-toenails that came off as a result of our unexpected cross-country jungle trek over rough terrain in a new pair of jungle boots! WG CDR A.J. FREEBORN RAF (Retd)
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. . . and African Pioneer Sir, The excellent Database on the Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer ( January Aeroplane) brought back memories of my service with the Kenya Police at Garissa, in Kenya’s arid Northern Frontier District (NFD), during the Somali Shifta troubles of 1963–67. Twin Pins of No 21 Sqn were often based at Garissa during the early part of this period and I was sometimes able to cadge lifts between outposts in these amazing aeroplanes or, on a really lucky day, back to Nairobi for a spot of leave. We used to enjoy watching the Twin Pins coming in on steep fi nals to
Garissa’s main airstrip and, after landing in an incredibly short distance, disappearing in a sandstorm of their own creation. The approach itself was not without excitement as, apart from the slight possibility of pot-shotting by malignant Shifta, it involved weaving over the local open-air Somali abattoir with its attendant squadrons of lazily circling marabou storks, each one a potential birdstrike. The huge marabou, with its long dangling undercarriage, large wing area and ungainly appearance, could well have inspired the Twin Pin’s designers.
The aircrews loved them but, as a passenger, the Twin Pin was seldom a
ABOVE A long walk in the jungle — see Wing Commander Freeborn’s letter above. This picture actually shows the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Dermot Boyle, on a visit (by Pioneer) to No 267 Sqn’s airstrip at Fort Shean, Malaya, in early 1956.
pleasure to fl y in. The heat and air currents of the frontier district combined to make it hop about like a cork on the ocean. Moreover, there was something about those inwardfacing canvas passenger seats that, in bobbing up and down whenever anyone shifted, contributed to a growing feeling of internal unease. That and the gentle, hypnotic movement of the tail which, once pointed out to the sufferer (as it invariably was), made him abandon all realistic hope of hanging on to his breakfast. Most of the 21 Sqn pilots I encountered were time-serving fl ight lieutenants, often with Polish and, I
AEROPLANE JUNE 2009