Corsair, G-ADVB, became infamous for crashing not once, but twice, in Equatorial Africa. Geoffrey was in Juba, in the middle of things, when the accident happened. Then after the flying boat was salvaged from its watery berth on the edge of the river in what became the Congo, it was repaired enough to fly out, then promptly crashed again.
Various tales surround it, and there are several in different books. Some stick to the official report, in which the manager of West Africa region behaved promptly and directly in saving the passengers and sending them on their way.
Several technical details emerged during the inquiry, and the blame seemed to be laid on some new direction finding equipment, a claim that was strongly defended by the manufacturers.
I have no doubt that there was a combination of technical and human error, all hushed up. My version is almost entirely based on the description of events by my father. I think I’ll write it as fiction one day, just to be safe.
The Corsair tapes
Here’s my father’s version, divided into four sections.
First, the realisation that Corsair was in trouble. Juba (Rejaf) was at the heart of the radio search area, although the alert was sent to them via the Khartoum station, as Geoffrey says. After describing the radio search, Geoffrey discusses the official and the ‘understood’ version of how much the plane was carrying. If you are not a technical person with detailed knowledge of flying, remember the discussion of trim in the Centaurus acceptance tests, and think about the implications for a plane that is carrying more than it officially should.
Secondly, Geoffrey describes the preparation and the journey across Central Africa to find the plane near Faradje and the passengers at the town of Aba. He references two books here who have used his account Penrose calls “Pett to the rescue”, namely Penrose (Wings Across the World; p115) and Sims (Adventurous Empires, p120).
Third, the return journey, with a memorable account of the woman who wouldn’t stop talking, and the night-time encounter with buffaloes, who Geoffrey reckoned were the most dangerous animals in the bush.
The account finishes with what to me is the clincher for Geoffrey’s tale being the true one, namely the ‘ladies knickers incident’! Time enables stories to be embroidered and bystanders to become heroes, but I don’t believe my father would ever have made up the ladies knickers incident, and therefore, the ladies had to have been brought back to Juba, and not to wherever Vernon Crudge said he looked after the passengers. Geoffrey doesn’t have much to say about Vernon Crudge, but then Vernon Crudge said nothing about Geoffrey!