A Brief History
On September 29, 1940, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) experienced the most astounding incident of airplanes colliding in mid-air, becoming locked together, and then safely landing. Incredibly, no crew member of either plane was killed!
At the RAAF No. 2 Service Flying Training School at Station Forest Hill, New South Wales, Australia (near Wagga Wagga if that helps), pilots and navigators learned to fly CAC Wirraway (single engine) and Avro Anson (twin engine) airplanes.
The Anson was a derivation of the Avro 652 airliner, that served as a general purpose airplane before and during World War II. Usually employed as a reconnaissance plane, the Anson was also used as a light cargo and transport plane (only capable of carrying 4 passengers), as well as training pilots on multi-engine aircraft and navigators, and could even be used as a bombardier trainer, with a payload of only 360 pounds of bombs, a platform for training aerial gunners, and the training of radio operators. In military form, it could be armed with a single .303 caliber machine gun up front and another .303 caliber machine gun in the rear. Despite only 2 of the civilian 652’s being produced, the military derivative was mass produced, with over 11,000 of these reliable planes being made between 1935 and 1952.
On September 29, 1940, 2 of these sturdy planes were flying training missions when they inadvertently collided in mid-air, becoming stuck to each other, one plane atop the other. The pilot and navigator of the lower airplane bailed out successfully, as did the navigator of the upper airplane. The pilot of the upper plane discovered to his amazement that he could actually fly the 2 planes stuck together in a controlled manner, and safely landed the tandem aircraft! The lower aircraft was ruined for further use in the air, and served as a ground training display, while the upper plane was repaired and returned to flight duty.
Question for students (and subscribers): If you can think of a more amazing tale of airplanes colliding and surviving, please share the story with us. We suspect this tale will be hard to top! Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
ODGERS, GEORGE. The Royal Australian Air Force: An Illustrated History. Ure Smith, 1965.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of the Avro Ansons after landing safely, having collided in mid-air and locked together, 29 September 1940, is of Australian origin and is now in the public domain, because its term of copyright has expired. According to the Australian Copyright Council (ACC), ACC Information Sheet G023v17 (Duration of copyright) (). This image is available from the Collection Database of the Australian War Memorial under the ID Number: P00150.021.