De Havilland DH50 (mod) VH-UAB

De Havilland DH50 G-AUAB (later VH-UAB) was the third aircraft owned by the Civil Aviation Branch in its own right. Following CAB use, it was sold in turn to a variety of private owners, including at one time Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, culminating
with F.T. "Tommy" O’Dea of Port Moresby, New Guinea.

When war broke out in the Pacific, VH-UAB was chartered by the then DCA about 5 Nov 1942 on behalf of the Department of Air for use as an air ambulance in New Guinea. The aircraft was modified by DCA and flown from Essendon to New Guinea by DCA pilot Arthur H. Affleck and engineer Harry Moss.

Aviation Antiquarian John Hopton has this to say about VH-UAB/A10-1 - O’Dea’s Aircraft:

"The DH-50A was taken over from O’Dea, and underwent an extensive modification in the D.C.A. hangar at Essendon aerodrome to ready it for work in New Guinea. The Puma engine was removed and in its place was fitted a Pratt & Whitney Wasp C of 450 h.p., and in this configuration VH-UAB was test-flown by Arthur Affleck on 19 November 1942. To allow longer stretches to be flown, a long-range fuel tank was installed in the cabin, and the aircraft was ready to depart from Essendon on November 23rd.

"That evening Wagga was reached, piloted by Arthur Affleck with D.C.A. engineer Harry Moss as passenger. The journey continued north along the eastern coast until arrival at Horn Island. The machine was then flown across Torres Strait to a landing at the Kerema base of Sqn.Ldr. A.A.N.D. 'Jerry' Pentland. The modified aircraft landed on the beach, but when turning to clear the area, tipped on its nose in the soft sand and damaged the propellor. This was soon fixed by some rough-and-ready bush engineering, and the aircraft flown on to Port Moresby.

"By this time the intended role of evacuation work had been superseded, and the DH-50 was further modified, this time to be used as a fuel tanker. Max Minahan, the Guinea Airways senior engineer, fitted a Kittyhawk belly-tank under the fuselage and this, combined with the long-rang tank in the cabin, allowed the aircraft to carry a ton of fuel as cargo."

The rare but extremely interesting photo above shows a rather tatty VH-UAB at Wau, New Guinea complete with Wasp C and belly tank. Clearly the aircraft was also camouflaged as part of its war service.

VH-UAB was impressed by the RAAF on 23 November 1942 as A10-1 after O’Dea’s crash and injury at Myola in the Ford Tri-Motor A45-1 (also on charter to DCA). It was finally struck off the civil Register on 26 May 1943.

(Photo: F F Smith/John Hopton collection P1234-0230)

Click here to read about the earlier history of G-AUAB

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