Lockheed 10B VH-UZO Ansett Airways Ltd - 1943

These photos show Ansett Airways' Lockheed 10B UH-UZO Ansertes (c/n 1107) on its belly near Somerset Dam, Qld, following a forced landing on 7 March 1943. The aircraft was en route from Mackay to Brisbane/Archerfield, being flown by Capt Ben Boardman and F/O Allan Mogg, when part of the starboard propeller broke off, resulting in the starboard engine breaking loose from its upper, but fortunately not lower, mounts. The aircraft made a wheels-up forced landing, during which the port engine was torn from its mounts. The port engine can be seen in the lower two photographs, resting up the hill near the cars.

The figures in the upper photo are, from left to right: J J Davies, Ansett Chief Engineer; Colin McDonald, an Ansett administrator; Jim Burnett, engineer in charge at Sydney during the War; unknown. Lindsay Wise, a former Ansett engineer who was based in Sydney supporting the Lockheeds during the War, recalls that propeller failures were not uncommon during the War because of the difficulty of getting spares.

An interesting point to note is that although the aircraft still carries a civil registration, it is clearly painted in a two-tone camouflage scheme.


This aircraft was ordered with two sister-ships, which later became VH-UZN & VH-UZP, at a cost of £18,000 each, plus taxes, spares and associated infrastructure, via agents Brown & Dureau Ltd. They were very expensive, but were all metal, fast, could carry ten passengers and had retractable undercarriage: in short, they were thoroughly modern.

The aircraft was completed by Lockheed at Burbank, California, on 4 July 1937 and subsequently shipped crated to Australia with VH-UZN aboard the S.S. Mirrabooka, arriving in Port Melbourne on 9 August. It arrived at Port Melbourne, crated, with VH-UZN, on 9 August 1937, but the aircraft were held on the docks in bond for a short time until Reg Ansett could raise the money to pay for them, which he eventually did. The aircraft were then towed on their undercarriage to Essendon for assembly.

The Registration VH-UZN was applied for on 13 August and the aircraft was test-flown on 16 Aug (still unregistered) by Lockheed test-pilot Moyle Stephens. The aircraft was officially registered to Ansett Airways Ltd. on 26 August, named Ansertes. Being a Lockheed 10B, VH-UZN was fitted with two Wright R-975 Whirlwinds.

Ansett used VH-UZO, flown by Capt Vern Cerche, to make their first survey flight on the Essendon-Mildura-Broken Hill route on 30 August 1937 and it commenced scheduled services on that route from 5 September. VH-UZO was also used on Ansett's Essendon-Hamilton,
Melbourne-Narrandera-Sydney and Sydney-Adelaide services.


With the coming of war to Australia, Ansett's two remaining Electras were flown north to assist in the evacuation of Darwin, and later Broome, between March and May 1942. With the ever-increasing amount of war-work, Ansett ceased operating its scheduled services, apart from Melbourne-Hamilton, from June 1942 and the Electras were leased to the USAAF for transport work.

Initially the aircraft flew from Melbourne to Cairns, however by the end of 1942 they were based at Sydney/Mascot and operated mainly to Brisbane and Townsville. The Electras averaged 12 hours flying per day and sometimes flew up to 20 hours per day. Records indicate that during this period engine and propeller problems resulted in numerous unscheduled landings, including the one illustrated here.

Following the crash at Somerset Dam, the aircraft was transported to Brisbane, from where it was shipped to Sydney. In Sydney it was trans-shipped for Melbourne, where it arrived on 30 March 1943. Following repairs, VH-UZO returned to the Sydney-Townsville shuttle where it experienced numerous further minor accidents and unscheduled landings. It was badly damaged in another forced landing at Tumut, NSW, on 14 December 1944 and returned to Essendon by truck for repairs.

By the time VH-UZO was repaired the War was all but over and it was used to resume Ansett's scheduled services. Five years later, with the Ansett fleet having grown substantially in the interim, the sole surviving Electra, VH-UZO, was retired.

This was not the end of the line for it, however, as the aircraft was purchased in 1951 by South Coast Airways for use on services between Sydney and Cowra. In 1953 it was sold to Christey's Motors of Sydney and re-registered as VH-CMA. In the years that followed it passed through several owners, including a stint in New Guinea, and carried the identities VH-WAO, VH-CHD and VH-ASM, until being struck off the Register in October 1967.

In April 1981 the remains were obtained by Laurie Ogle for restoration, which was duly completed a decade later. In the process of restoration the original Wright Whirlwinds were replaced by Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Juniors, effectively turning the aircraft into a Lockheed 10A. On 5 September 1991 the aircraft was restored to the Register as VH-UZO, and had its first post-restoration flight the next day. This historic aircraft still exists and today (c.2004) resides with Australia's Museum of Flight at Nowra, NSW.

(Photos: Lindsay Wise collection)

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