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Crew escapes failing F111 By FRANK CRANSTON,
Defence and aviation correspondent
bomber was destroyed
yesterday when both of
its engines failed as it
was trying to take off
from the Royal New
Zealand Air Force base
at Ohakea, near
Palmerston North, about
160 kilometres north of
Both crew ejected safely
after they had tried but were
unable to stop the machine
because of the shortness of the
Ohakea runway.
The F111, from No 1
Squadron, Amberley,
Queensland, was one of four
due to take part in a simulated
shipping strike as part of the
current Tasmanex four-na-
tion naval and air exercises off
the New Zealand coast.
The aircraft had ac-
celerated to more than 120
knots when both engines
flamed out, leaving the pilot
with only a few hundred feet
of runway to try to stop it
Flight Lieutenant Gurr Help
Flight Lieutenant Curr
Flying Officer Kelly Help
Flying Officer Kelly
before pulling the lever to ac-
tivate the explosive charges
which eject the crew module.
The aircraft continued on
across a sealed airport-access
road, through a fence into a
low gully and ended up in a
paddock. It was described lat-
er as a "complete write off",
the nose cone having sepa-
rated from the fuselage and
both catching fire.
The pilot, Flying Officer
Mark Kelly, 22, of Armadale,
Victoria, and the navigator,
Flight Lieutenant Alan Curr,
30, of Ballandena,
Queensland, escaped serious
injury. Both were reported to
have suffered slight back in-
juries and were resting in
Palmerston North hospital last
Yesterday's crash brings to
four the number of F111s lost  
by the RAAF since it took
delivery of the machines in
1973. The first crashed after
an engine blew up near
Armidale, NSW, in April,  
1977; the second when the
pilot was disabled by birds
which shattered his wind-
screen at the Evans Head,
NSW, training range in Sep-
tember, 1977; the third in
October, 1978, north of
Auckland, NZ, after fire-
warning lights indicated the
machine was about to ex-
The two crew were killed in
the Evans Head crash.
The latest crash reduces to
20 the F111s in the RAAF
and with four of these to be
converted to reconnaissance
and intelligence gathering,
the effective strike force has
now fallen to 16, just enough
for two squadrons.
The RAAF bought 24 of
the jets for $300 million about
seven years ago.
Continued on Page 8

Continued from Page 1

Including yesterday's crash, the attri-
tion rate of RAAF F111s is nearing 2  
per cent a year which, according to
aviation experts, is well within the rate
considered tolerable for advanced mili-
tary aircraft. The US Navy accepts a
loss rate of 2.6 per cent as acceptable
and the USAF about 2 per cent.

At its current loss rate, the RAAF
could expect to be without another
F111 about February, 1982.

Much of the trouble with the F111,
both in Australia and in the US, has
been with its Pratt and Whitney TF30
engine, derivates of which have also
caused problems in other US fighters.

So far this year the RAAF has lost
five aircraft including an Iroquois heli-
copter, a Macchi jet trainer, a Mirage
fighter, a CT4 piston-engined trainer

and the F111.

The F111 was not the only loss the
Australian "Tasmanex" force sustained.

On Thursday night the radar mast of
the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne
fell into the sea after the ship was
buffeted by heavy seas and 40-knot
beam winds. Its replacement is expected
to cost more than $60,000.


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