VH-ABB. Short S-23C Empire Flying Boat. c/n S.877.

 

This aircraft was the twenty-seventh Empire boat to be completed and flown by Short Bros at Rochester, Kent

The order was placed by Imperial Airways, London - June 22, 1937

Completed as a S-23 Empire Class boat having 920 h.p. Bristol Pegasus Xc engines

The standard fuel capacity was 650 gallons

It had an all-up weight of 40,500 lbs (18,380 kg) which was later increased to 53,000 lbs (24,200 kg)

The cruising speed was 164 m.p.h. with a standard range of 760 miles / 1,245 km

Entered onto the British Aircraft Register as G-AFBK (CofR 8071) - August 26, 1937

Registered to Imperial Airways Limited, London

This aircraft was never operated with its British registration

Launched at the Short Bros Seaplane Works, Medway River, Rochester as 'VH-ABB' - December 10, 1937

First flown as 'VH-ABB' - December 17, 1937

The Certificate of Airworthiness (CofA) Issued - December 18, 1937

Delivered to Imperial Airways, London - December 18, 1937

This aircraft was named 'Coolangatta' (highland overlooking water)

It had been earmarked for delivery to Qantas Empire Airways from the outset but it was retained by

Imperial Airways to cover its Empire boat losses

This aircraft was the second Empire boat to be specifically intended to operate the Singapore - Brisbane

sector of the Empire mail route from England to Australia

Entered service with Imperial Airways Southampton - Karachi (Captain E. S. Alcock) as IE611 - December 20, 1937

Operated the return service Karachi - Southampton as IW612 - December 30, 1937

All Imperial Airways and Qantas Empire Airways aircraft operating on the Eastern Route were initially

given service numbers prefixed with '2 letters' as follows:

'IE' - India Eastbound; 'IW' - India Westbound

'CE' - Calcutta Eastbound; 'CW' - Calcutta Westbound

'SE' - Sydney Eastbound; 'SW' - Sydney Westbound

It operated the Southampton - Karachi service as IE617 - January 09 - 14, 1938

It operated the Karachi - Marseilles service as IW618 - January 20 - 23, 1938

It operated the Alexandria - Karachi service as IE623 - February 02 - 04, 1938

It operated the Karachi - Southampton service as IW624 - February 10 - 14, 1938

In conjunction with G-ADVE 'Centurion' under the command of Captain F. C. Allen,

'Coolangatta' under the command of Captain M. J. R. Alderson operated the first mail service under the

2nd stage of the Empire Air Mail Service from the United Kingdom to Singapore, carrying 4 tons of mail

It operated the Southampton - Singapore service as CE1 - February 23 - March 02, 1938

It operated the Singapore - Southampton service as IW623 - March 07 - 13, 1938

This aircraft was officially sold to Qantas Empire Airways - March 1938

The British Aircraft Registered was ammended to show the change of ownership but a registration

cancellation date was not recorded

Departed Southampton on the delivery flight to Australia (Captain G. U. Allen) as CE8 - March 18, 1938

The aircraft arrived at Karachi - March 22, 1938

It operated the Karachi - Singapore sector as IE637 - March 25 - 27, 1938

The aircraft finally arrived Sydney (Rose Bay) on completion of the delivery flight - April 02, 1938

It was officially entered onto Australian Aircraft Register as VH-ABB (CofR 699) - April 19, 1938

Registered to Qantas Empire Airways Ltd, Brisbane

This aircraft was part of the aircraft pool operated by Imperial Airways and Qantas Empire Airways

on services between Southampton, England and Sydney, Australia

Qantas Empire Airways crews flew the aircraft on the Sydney - Singapore - Sydney sector of this route

between July 1938 and October 1941

It operated the Sydney - Rangoon service as IW670 - July 12 - 16, 1938

It operated the Rangoon - Southampton service as IW672 - July 24 - 28, 1938

No records could be found - July 28 - August 09, 1938

It operated the Karachi - Sydney service as SE5 - August 09 - 15, 1938

It operated the Sydney - Singapore service as SW6 - August 20 - 23, 1938

It operated the Singapore - Southampton service as SW7 - August 26 - September 02, 1938

It operated the Southampton - Karachi service as CE57 - September 07 - 09, 1938

It operated the Karachi - Southampton service as CW59 - September 14 - 17, 1938

It operated the Southampton - Karachi service as CE61 - September 21 - 24, 1938

It operated the Karachi - Sydney service as SE26 - September 27 - October 04, 1938

It operated the Sydney - Singapore service as SW27 - October 08 - 11, 1938

It operated the Singapore - Southampton service as SW28 - October 15 - 20, 1938

It operated the Southampton - Alexandria service as CE75 - November 09 - 11, 1938

It operated the Alexandria - Karachi service as SE47 - November 14 - 16, 1938

It operated the Karachi - Sydney service as SE48 - November 17 - 22, 1938

It operated the Sydney - Singapore service as SW49 - November 29 - December 02, 1938

It operated the Singapore - Alexandria service as SW50 - December 04 - 08, 1938

It operated the Southampton - Karachi service as CE85 - December 14 - 18, 1938

It operated the Karachi - Sydney service as SE61 - December 20 - 25, 1938

It operated the Sydney - Singapore service as SW61 - December 27 - 30, 1938

It operated the Singapore - Southampton service as SW62 - January 01 - 08, 1939

It operated the Southampton - Alexandria service as CE93 - January 11 - 13, 1939

It operated the Alexandria - Southampton service as CW91 - January 14 - 15, 1939

It operated the Southampton - Karachi service as SE76 - January 19 - 22, 1939

It operated the Karachi - Sydney service as SE78 - January 26 - February 01, 1939

It operated the Sydney - Singapore service as SW79 - Fenruary 07 - 11, 1939

It operated the Singapore - Southampton service as SW80 - February 12 - 19, 1939

It operated the Southampton - Alexandria service as CE105 - February 22 - 24, 1939

It operated the Alexandria - Southampton service as CW103 - February 25 - 26, 1939

It operated the Southampton - Alexandria service as CE107 - March 01 - 02, 1939

It operated the Alexandria - Southampton service as CW105 - March 05 - 06, 1939

It operated the Southampton - Sydney service as SE97 - March 10 - 19, 1939

It operated the Sydney - Southampton service as SW98 - March 23 - April 01, 1939

It operated the Southampton - Alexandria service as CE117 - April 06 - 08, 1939

It operated the Alexandria - Karachi service as SE110 - April 10 - 12, 1939

It operated the Karachi - Sydney service as SE111 - April 13 - 18, 1939

It operated the Sydney - Southampton service as SW112 - April 25 - May 04, 1939

It operated the Southampton - Karachi service as SE123 - May 07 - 11, 1939

It operated the Karachi - Sydney service as SE124 - May 14 - 18, 1939

It operated the Sydney - Southampton service as SW125 - May 25 - June 03, 1939

It operated the Southampton - Alexandria service as CE136 - June 08 - 09, 1939

It operated the Alexandria - Southampton service as CW134 - June 15 - 16, 1939

It operated the Southampton - Alexandria service as CE146 - June 29 - 30, 1939

It operated the Alexandria - Southampton service as SW137 - June 30 - July 01, 1939

It operated the Southampton - Sydney service as SE149 - July 08 - 17, 1939

It operated the Sydney - Southampton service as SW150 - July 22 - 31, 1939

It operated the Southampton - Sydney service as SE163 - August 09 - 18, 1939

It operated the Sydney - Basra service as SW164 - August 24 - 31, 1939

From September 01, 1939 the movements of the Empire Flying Boats were no longer published

in 'The Times' newspaper due to the imminent outbreak of World War II

Qantas Empire Airways crews then took over the Singapore - Karachi - Singapore sector of the route

from October 1941 to February 1942 when operations ceased due to Japanese war activities in South-East Asia

Due to the wartime emergency this aircraft was impressed by the R. A. A. F. - June 26, 1940

It was converted for general reconnaissance duties at Sydney (Rose Bay)

The aircraft was fitted with a temporary dorsal gun position equipped with 0.303 machine guns

Allocated the Royal Australian Air Force registration 'A18-13' - June 29, 1940

Allotted to No. 11 Squadron based at Port Moresby, New Guinea

Cancelled from the Australian Aircraft Register - August 08, 1940

Utilised for extensive general armed reconnaissance work in islands to north-east of New Guinea

It sustained a number of bullet holes in the outer skin of the tailplane - November 24, 1940

These bullet holes were inflicted by aircraft's own dorsal gun

Allocated to No. 13 Squadron based at Darwin for transport work - January 25, 1942

Allocated to No. 33 Transport Squadron based at Townsville - February 12, 1942

Allocated to No. 41 Squadron based at Townsville - August 13, 1942

Returned to Sydney (Rose Bay) for return to Qantas Empire Airways - July 13, 1943

Entered onto the Australian Aircraft Register as VH-ABB - July 29, 1943

Registered to Qantas Empire Airways Ltd, Sydney

It was eeturned to Qantas service - July 29, 1943

The aircraft was chartered by the Australian Directorate of Air Transport / A.N.A. for daily

Sydney - Brisbane - Townsville services - August 01, 1943

For these services the aircraft was operated by Qantas Empire Airways crews

Qantas was paid approximately 600 pounds ($1,200) each way via the Department of Civil Aviation

The lease was terminated - March 1944

This aircraft was destroyed in a landing accident at Sydney (Rose Bay) - October 11, 1944

It had departed Sydney (Rose Bay) for Townsville at 06:49 hours with 7 crew and 22 passengers

Shortly after take-off the electric flap motor failed and the wing flaps were retracted using the manual hand crank

Twenty minutes into the flight oil pressure on the starboard inner engine fell below normal levels

Pilot-in-command (Captain K.C. Caldwell) decided to return to Rose Bay to rectify faults

Captain Lester. J. Brain (Qantas General Manager - travelling as a passenger) had been invited

by Captain Caldwell (the P.I.C.) to fly the aircraft

The landing approach flown by Captain L. Brain was made into the north and without flaps

Finding that he had excess height Captain Brain introduced a left-hand side-slip during the approach

On straightening out from the side-slip Capt Brain proceeded with the intention of making a normal landing

On checking the glide at about 40 feet he realised that the aircraft was flattening out too high

He stopped easing back on the controls expecting the boat to sink further towards the water

Without any further control movement the aircraft completely stalled some twelve feet above the water

It dropped sharply and made contact with the water in a normal attitude but with considerable force

This impact caused a major failure of the hull which allowed extensive break-up of the fuselage

A considerable length of the rear end of the hull and tail unit separated from the rest of aircraft

Both sections sank within 15 minutes

Passengers and crew escaped the wreckage and were rescued but one passenger drowned (Mr J. Mott)

This needless accident was attributed to an error of judgement on the part of the Capt Lester Brain

The aircraft had flown a total of 2,886 hours whilst in service with Qantas Empire Airways

 

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery on The Medway, Rochester, date unknown.

(P. Sheehan Collection Copyright Image 2545-851.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery at Sydney Rose Bay, April 1938.

(R. N. Smith Collection Copyright Image 2545-227.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery at Sydney Rose Bay, April 1938.

(R. N. Smith Collection Copyright Image 2545-228.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery at Sydney Rose Bay, April 1938.

(R. N. Smith Collection Copyright Image 2545-230.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' at Sydney Rose Bay, April 1938.

A general view of the galley area on these flying boats.

(R. N. Smith Collection Copyright Image 2545-385.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' at Sydney Rose Bay, April 1938.

Passengers had plenty of room to move around on these aircraft.

(Qantas Heritage Collection Copyright Image 2545-384.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' at Sydney Rose Bay, April 1938.

A very well known publicity shot of the era depicting passengers engaged in onboard activities to pass the time.

(Qantas Heritage Collection Copyright Image 2545-395.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery at Sydney Rose Bay, date unknown.

(Qantas Heritage Collection Copyright Image 2545-229.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery at Sydney Rose Bay, circa 1939.

(Qantas Heritage Collection Copyright Image 2545-373.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery at Sydney Rose Bay, circa 1939.

(Qantas Heritage Collection Copyright Image 2545-374.)

VH-ABB. Qantas Empire Airways - 'Coolangatta' in the standard livery at Sydney Rose Bay, date unknown.

(Qantas Heritage Collection Copyright Image 2545-355.)

A18-13. Royal Australian Air Force - in the standard wartime livery at an unknown location, date unknown.

(R. N. Smith Collection Copyright Image 2545-231.)