Connellan air disaster
|Connellan air disaster|
A Beechcraft Baron 58 similar to that used in the attack
|Location||Alice Springs Airport
Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
|Date||5 January 1977
approx. 10.30am local (UTC+9:30)
|Target||Connellan Airways building|
|Suicide attack, Deliberate crash: Suicide by co-pilot|
|Deaths||5 (including perpetrator)|
|Perpetrator||Colin Richard Forman|
The Connellan air disaster was a suicide attack at Alice Springs Airport, Northern Territory, Australia, on 5 January 1977. The attack was carried out by a disgruntled former employee of Connellan Airways (Connair), who flew a Beechcraft Baron (a twin-engine, piston-powered plane) into the Connair complex at the airport. The attack killed the pilot and four other people and injured four more, two of them seriously. The disaster is one of only two aircraft suicide attacks in Australia's history, the other being in 1982 at Bankstown Airport.
The perpetrator, Colin Richard Forman, was 23 years old at the time of the attack. 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.
In November 1975, Forman obtained a commercial pilot's licence, and he started flying for Connair in January 1976. 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.
In late 1976, Forman was living in Mount Isa, Queensland, 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 Year's Eve party.
Early on the morning of 3 January 1977, Foreman drove to Wyndham and stole the Beechcraft 58 Baron (Aircraft registration 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 altar. On that altar was a trophy for topping his course (Blue Flight) at the former Cessnock, New South Wales Nationwide Aviation Space Academy. In front of the trophy laid out like an open bible was his pilot's log book. On the date of his sacking from Connair, 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 final words were THE END on the left and right pages respectively.
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. He did not account for the time difference between Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and arrived at 11 am. He broadcast a final message by radio, stating "It is better to die with honour than live without it – Echo – November – Alpha." Forman then set full power on both engines and aimed at the Connellan complex before plunging into the building.
The plane hit the centre of the Connair building. Roger Connellan (32 years old), son of founder Edward Connellan, was killed instantly, along with engineers Markus Chittoni (31) and Ron Dymock (50). Secretary Liana Nappi (19) was badly burned and died of her wounds five days later. Four others were injured.
During the investigation, letters addressed to the Department of Transport were found which explained his 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". This latter comment was erroneously attributed to the final entry in his log book by some media outlets.
Forman was buried in an unmarked grave at Alice Springs, controversially within sight of Roger Connellan's gravesite, after his family declined to have his body returned to the UK.
- Kramer, Tarla. "The Silent Grief of Alice Springs". BushMag. Retrieved 20 November 2010.[dead link]
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