Connellan air disaster

The Connellan air disaster was a suicide attack at Alice Springs Airport, Northern Territory, Australia, on 5 January 1977.

Connellan air disaster
Beechcraft Baron 58
A Beechcraft Baron 58 similar to that used in the attack
LocationAlice Springs Airport
Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
Coordinates23°48′13″S 133°54′12″E / 23.80361°S 133.90333°E / -23.80361; 133.90333
Date5 January 1977
approx. 10.30am local (UTC+9:30)
TargetConnellan Airways building
Attack type
Suicide attack, deliberate crash
WeaponsBeechcraft Baron Fixed-wing aircraft
Deaths5 (including perpetrator)
PerpetratorColin Richard Forman

The attack was carried out by a disgruntled former employee of Connellan Airways (also known as Connair), who flew a Beechcraft Baron into the Connair complex at the airport. The attack killed the pilot and four other people and injured four more, two of them seriously.[1][2]

The disaster is one of only two aircraft suicide attacks in Australia's history, the other being in 1982 at Bankstown Airport.[3][4]

Background edit

The perpetrator, Colin Richard Forman, was 23 years old at the time of the attack.[1] Forman, born in the United Kingdom, had migrated by himself to Australia as a young adult. In 1974, he had attempted to forge an airline ticket to England. The forgery was detected and Forman had a conviction recorded against him.[1]

In November 1975, Forman qualified as a commercial pilot; he started flying for Connair in January 1976.[1] His conviction for forgery became known to his employers, and, after seven weeks with Connair, Forman was dismissed. He found work as a pilot at Ord Air Charter in the northern Western Australian town of Wyndham, but was soon terminated there as well. Forman apparently believed that the proprietor of Connair, Roger Connellan, had informed Ord Air about Forman's conviction.[5]

In late 1976, Forman was living in the Queensland city of Mount Isa, eking out a living flying occasional charter flights in a single-engine Cessna for freight and tourists, and becoming a member of the Mount Isa Aero Club. In about October 1976, he told a fellow member and local North West Star journalist, "If I don't get a job by Christmas then you will get to know, and through you most of the world will know". He attended the club's 1977 New Year's Eve party.

Attack edit

Early on the morning of 3 January 1977, Forman trashed his one-bedroom flat in Mount Isa in a fit of rage, piled up the remnants in a corner of his lounge room and created what was later described as an altar. On the top was a trophy for topping his course (Blue Flight) at the former Cessnock Nationwide Aviation Space Academy, and in front of the trophy was his pilot's log book, laid open.

On the date of Forman's sacking from Connair, an entry read: "Sentenced to death this date", and the final page of his log book contained the date, aircraft type, call sign, destination and "Suicide Mission". The final words were "THE END" on the left and right pages respectively.[6][7]

Forman drove about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) to Wyndham, stopping overnight in the Northern Territory town of Katherine. On 5 January he stole a Beechcraft 58 Baron (Aircraft registration VH-ENA) from Wyndham Airport after discovering the larger aircraft he had wanted to use was being used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service that day. Alice Springs is four hours flying time from Wyndham in a Beechcraft Baron: Forman had planned to strike at 10 am during Connair's morning break, but he did not account for the one-and-a-half-hour time difference between Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and arrived at 11 am.[1]

As he reached Alice Springs Airport, Forman broadcast a final message by radio: "It is better to die with honour than live without it – Echo – November – Alpha."[1] Forman then set full power on both engines and aimed at the Connellan complex before plunging the aircraft into the centre of the building.[1] Forman and three other people were killed on impact, including his former manager.[8] A secretary was badly burned and died of her injuries in hospital five days later. Four other Connair employees were injured.[9]

Aftermath edit

During the investigation, letters addressed to the Department of Transport were found which explained Forman's motivations. In them he related his court appearance, described his seven weeks working at Connair as the happiest in his life, and his employment issues following dismissal. He also detailed his plan and his aim to "cause Connair the maximum amount of loss and hardship" and "to kill and maim as many employees of Connair Pty Ltd as possible".[10] This latter comment was erroneously attributed to the final entry in his log book by some media outlets.

Connellan Airways was sold to East-West Airlines in 1980.[11]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kramer, Tarla. "The Silent Grief of Alice Springs". BushMag. Retrieved 20 November 2010.[dead link]
  2. ^ "Connellan Air Disaster Survivor Commemorates Anniversary". ABC News. 5 January 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  3. ^ "ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 33040 - Socata TB10 Tobago VH-BXC 16-SEP-1982". Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  4. ^ "VH-AEU Douglas DC-3". Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  5. ^ "Flinders Island plane crash kills one". Pirep – A Discussion & News Forum for Pilots. Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  6. ^ "Suicide pilot berserk before crash: police The Canberra Age, 08 January 1977, pg3". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  7. ^ Personal account PC SMITH Mount Isa journalist who was first to enter Foreman's flat and found and photographed the scene
  8. ^ "Roger Connellan | Monument Australia".
  9. ^ "E. J. Connellan's Story". Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport. Northern Territories Government. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  10. ^ "Suicide pilot wanted to kill and maim, pg2, The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 January 1977". Retrieved 11 July 2016.
  11. ^ "History of the Connellan Airways Trust". Connellan Airways Trust. Archived from the original on 21 August 2006. Retrieved 18 July 2006.