bad that the steel springs in the seat had burnt into the body and had to be cut in order to get him out and into the body bag. In spite of the severe fire the watch on his right hand was untouched and there was even a bit of skin with hair around the watch that for some reason had not burned. The leather strap, while stiff, could be undone and the watch was still working. I wrote a letter to the parents and sent them back that

I learned a lot of lessons during my years in New Guinea that have served me well in my later years. I hope the following story will serve to illustrate how

even other people’s lessons learned the hard way can provide us guidance when we need it. The company that I was working for reported an aircraft missing, which called for all-hands on deck for the search. The missing pilot was a young Australian who had joined our company only a few weeks earlier. I had a beer with him at a get together to welcome him and he seemed to be a nice, friendly guy out to build up his hours for bigger things. It didn’t take long to hear that the natives had heard a loud noise in “the gap.” It was a short cut through the mountains you could take if the weather cooperated and you had altitude to spare in case of common downdrafts. Once you committed to fly through the gap, there was no turning around. It appeared that the new young pilot had thought he had enough altitude to fly through the gap. Unfortunately, he didn’t. He had stalled, crashed and burned right in the gap. I was chosen to go to the site to help retrieve the body

and anything left of value from the wreckage. It was about a six hour walk from the nearest landing strip The Cessna 185 wreckage was completely destroyed by an intense fire as a result of the low speed crash. Only the navigation lights were salvageable. He was carrying two drums of diesel fuel in the cabin and two 100 lb. sacks of sugar in the cargo pod. The sugar had helped fuel the fire and the drums were burnt, but still about half full of fuel with the rest having boiled off. The remains of the pilot were very badly burned and

unrecognizable except for one very strange thing. What was left of his body was in a fetal position with his hands up in front of what once was his face. He was burnt so

24 | june 2019

watch. It turned out that they had given him that watch as a going away present when he left for New Guinea only weeks before. That watch made me think for a long time, why did this all happen? Why did he bet his life to deliver two drums of fuel and sugar? Why didn’t he take a little more time to climb higher? Why didn’t he take the longer lower route around? What could have prevented this and why did that watch survive? Shortly after this accident, I read in an Australian Safety magazine about a tragic accident that had resulted in two fatalities. On reading it, the why came back to me.

An owner of a successful charter/ training school had a DH 82, WW2 Tiger Moth biplane trainer that was his pride and joy as he had trained on such an aircraft before becoming a fighter pilot in the Australian Air Force in WW2. The aircraft was kept in pristine shape and had just undergone an annual inspection. The LAME (Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer) doing the inspection had dropped a two-cent coin in the aircraft during the inspection and was unable to find it afterwards. The Australian two cent coin, in use at the time, was made of copper and over an inch in diameter. His thoughts likely were “what’s two cents” and forgot about it. The chief

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