Connellan air disaster

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Connellan air disaster
Beechcraft Baron 58
A Beechcraft Baron 58 similar to that used in the attack
Location Alice Springs Airport
Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
Coordinates 23°48.4′S 133°54.1′E / 23.8067°S 133.9017°E / -23.8067; 133.9017
Date 5 January 1977
approx. 10 am local (UTC+9:30)
Target Connellan Airways building
Attack type
Suicide attack
Weapons Fixed-wing aircraft
Deaths 5
Non-fatal injuries
4
Perpetrator Colin Richard Forman

The Connellan air disaster was a suicide attack at Alice Springs Airport, Northern Territory, Australia on 5 January 1977. Carried out by a disgruntled former employee of Connellan Airways (Connair), who flew a Beechcraft Baron into the Connair complex at the airport, the attack killed four other people and injured four more, two of them seriously.[1] The disaster is one of only two aircraft suicide attacks in Australia's history, the other being in 1982 at Bankstown Airport.[2][3]

Background[edit]

The perpetrator, Colin Richard Forman, was 23 years old at the time of the attack.[1] He had migrated from the United Kingdom to Australia alone in the early 1970s, but had trouble adjusting and, in 1974, tried to forge a Qantas ticket back to England. The forged ticket was detected and Forman had a conviction recorded against him.[1]

In November 1975, Forman obtained a commercial pilot's license, and he started flying for Connair in January 1976.[1] However, the ticket forgery soon came to light and Forman was dismissed after seven weeks. He then found another job at Ord Air Charter in Wyndham, but was soon fired from there as well. Forman apparently believed that Roger Connellan, his boss at Connair, had informed Ord Air about his forgery conviction.[4]

Attack[edit]

In late 1976, Foreman was living in Mount Isa eking out a living flying occasional single engine (Cessna) charter flights for freight and tourists and where he was 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 aero club's 76/77 New Years Eve party and was never seen alive again. Early on the morning of 5 January 1977, Foreman drove to Wyndham, Western Australia, and stole a Beechcraft 58 Baron twin-engine piston plane (registration number VH-ENA) from the airfield. Before leaving, he trashed his one-bedroom flat in Mount Isa, piled up the remnants in a corner of his lounge room and created what was later described as an alter. On that alter was a trophy for topping his course (Blue Flight) at the former Cessnock (NSW) Nationwide Aviation Space Academy. In front of the trophy laid out like an open bible was his pilot's log book in which he had been diarizing his personal agonies and demons. On the date of his sacking from Connair for example, an entry read: "Sentenced to death this date". The final page of his log book contained the date, aircraft type, call sign, destination and "Suicide Mission". The chilling final words were THE END on the left and right pages respectively. Despite claims to the contrary, there was no entry stating that his aim was “to kill and maim as many employees of Connair Pty Ltd as possible”.[1][5]

Alice Springs is four hours flying time from Wyndham in a Beechcraft Baron, and Forman had planned to strike at 10 am during the company's morning break. However, he did not account for the time difference between Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and arrived at 11 am.[1] He broadcast a final message by radio, stating “It is better to die with honor than live without it – Echo – November – Alpha.”[1] Forman then set full power on both engines and aimed at the Connellan complex before plunging into the building.[1]

The plane hit the center of the Connair building. Roger Connellan (32 years old), son of founder Eddie Connellan, was killed instantly, along with engineers Markus Chittoni (31) and Ron Dymock (48). Secretary Liana Nappi (19) was badly burned and died of her wounds five days later.[6]

Aftermath[edit]

Connellan Airways was sold to East-West Airlines in 1980.[7]

The attack remains a sore topic in Alice Springs and is intentionally not covered by the Central Australian Aviation Museum.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Kramer, Tarla. "The Silent Grief of Alice Springs". BushMag. Archived from the original on July 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
  2. ^ "Connellan Air Disaster Survivor Commemorates Anniversary". ABC News. 5 January 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
  3. ^ VH-AEU. Douglas C-47-DL. c/n 6108
  4. ^ "Flinders Island plane crash kills one". Pirep - A Discussion & News Forum for Pilots. Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Personal account PC SMITH Mount Isa journalist who was first to enter Foreman's flat and found and photographed the scene
  6. ^ "E. J. Connellan's Story". Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport. Northern Territories Government. Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
  7. ^ "History of the Connellan Airways Trust". Connellan Airways Trust. Retrieved 18 July 2006. 
  8. ^ Dolan, David (2000). Sins of Omission (Report). Open Museum Journal Volume 2: Unsavoury Histories. http://hosting.collectionsaustralia.net/omj/vol2/pdfs/dolan.pdf. Retrieved 20 November 2010.