Piaggio P.166 VH-CAC

The photo above of DCA's Piaggio P.166 VH-CAC was taken at Port Moresby, New Guinea, on 9 August 1968. The aircraft (c/n 375) was registered new to DCA on 14 April 1961, Certificate of Registration 3724, the third aircraft to carry this registration. The previous two were a Lockheed Lodestar and an Avro Anson. The Piaggio was powered by two Lycoming GSO-480-B1C6 horizontally-opposed, supercharged, six cylinder engines in an unusual pusher configuration.

The photo below, from the aircraft's Italian Export Certificate of Airworthiness (CofA), shows VH-CAC before delivery in Italy, in 1961. Interestingly, the aircraft carries Australian DCA Flying Unit logos on the nose and fin.


VH-CAC spent almost its entire DCA career in Papua New Guinea, being obtained because spares and maintenance would be more readily available since the same type was operated by local operators Mandated Airlines (MAL - later Ansett/MAL) and Patair. It was used by DCA examiners and surveyors for surveillance and liaison visits to operators and to provide transport for management and specialist personnel to visit the many outstations which ranged in altitude from sea level to high altitude inland stations. A secondary task was Search and Rescue (SAR), for which its high-wing configuration provided a good visual platform. It could also home aurally on Emergency Locator Beacons (ELBs), the carriage of which became mandatory during this period.

All P/NG Departmental pilots were endorsed on VH-CAC, plus other aircraft, and several appropriately licenced non-aircrew supervisors were also endorsed on the aircraft to free up Departmental examiners from purely administrative transport flying. The aircraft provided generally reliable and comfortable service and, being little used in the highlands where a large proportion of engine hours were at high power settings, did not suffer the same degree of engine problems that gave its airlines sisters something of a reputation amongst line pilots.

P/NG flying eminently suited the Beech 200 Super King Air which ultimately replaced the Piaggio in government service there.

click to download VH-CAC's Export CofA

< Click on the image at left to download VH-CAC's Italian Export CofA (1.1 MB .pdf file) The function of an Export CofA is for the competent airworthiness authority to certify that an aircraft meets a specific airworthiness standard before being exported to a foreign country.

The photo below shows VH-CAC on 5 September 1972 at DCA's base at Melbourne/Essendon, probably while awaiting disposal. VH-CAC was sold to Executive Air Services, Essendon, and re-registered on 19 March 1973. It had various subsequent owners and was finally destroyed on 16 September 1982 at Bankstown, NSW, when a student pilot deliberately crashed stolen Tobago VH-BXC on the aerodrome. Douglas DC-3 VH-SBO parked alongside the Piaggio was also wrecked.

The registration VH-CAC then passed to a CAC Wirraway owner who had been waiting for it to become free.




(Photos: 1-Roger McDonald / 2-CAHS collection / 3-CAHS/Ben Dannecker collection)

Note: Much of the information about the service of VH-CAC in New Guinea was provided by Doug Macdonald, ex ATC Lae 1967-69, OIC/SATC Madang 1969-71.

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