Sydney Morning Herald, 26th December 1979
One of Papua New Guinea’s most experienced pilots, Mr. Brian O’Sullivan (3/68), 31, from Sydney, was at the controls of the Douglas Airways Nomad aircraft which crashed in the Owen Stanly Ranges, near Port Moresby, on Sunday. He and his 14 Papua New Guinean passengers were killed in the crash.
Airline officials said that Mr. O’Sullivan had brought the Nomad down on to the tiny airstrip at Menari, about 60 kilometres north-east of Port Moresby, and taken off again to make a second approach.
A civil aviation team has gone to the Menari area to try to determine the cause of the crash. Mr. O’Sullivan, chief pilot of Douglas Airways, had about 5,000 hours flying experience in Papua New Guinea. His mother lives in Coogee.
Wes Guy writing his article Adventist Aviation in Papua New Guinea: bridging valley and mountain boundaries, 1964-1980, reported on the crash. On joining the Dept. of Civil Aviation in 1959 Wes moved to PNG where he tested all pilots flying in the Territory. Wes stated:
A couple of passengers alighted and I was ready to take-off when five young Papuans came up to me and said: “Taubada (master), we are late for a football match at Manari. It will take us all day to walk there and we know that it will take only a few minutes by plane. Please, Taubada, take us to Manari.” Incidentally, these young fellows knew I was a Seventh-day Adventist. Even though I was very tired I decided to take them. I told them to sit up the front of the aircraft and put on their belts.
The reason for the passengers to sit up front was because of the balance of the centre of gravity. The Nomad aircraft was very sensitive in it’s fore and aft areas, and loading had to be made up front first. If the load was aft of the centre of gravity the aircraft would be out of balance and would not fly properly. In fact, two weeks after this episode the Chief Pilot of Douglas Airways, Brian O’Sullivan, coming in to land at Manari, missed his approach and tried to go round again. Unfortunately, his load shifted towards the rear of the aircraft and he crashed, killing all on board, including himself.
The plane, according to witnesses, was banking to the left when it suddenly fell, crashing on to a steep bank at the side of the airstrip. There have been unconfirmed reports that villagers ran across the strip as the Nomad was landing.
Paul Rees 3/68 comments:
He was “going around” on his approach to land as some of the local kids were on the runway and if he had proceeded with the landing and injured or killed any of them pay back would have accounted for him (he was living with the daughter of one of the PNG Cabinet Ministers at the time). The Nomad was configured so that if you had full flap (the landing configuration) and applied full take off power the flaps automatically reset to take off position. The airfield he was approaching was a “one way” strip so he had no chance of going around with sudden flap configuration change and rising terrain. He stalled and impacted just off the strip in an uncontrolled condition.