Magnetic Island North Queensland
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August 3rd 2012
Downed aircraft mystery appears solved

A CW-22 Curtiss Falcon - courtesy Pete Johnston Collection It seems the mystery of the plane engine block with its propeller still attached, photographed by Dr Andy Lewis near the soon-to-be-opened snorkel trail at Geoffrey Bay, has been solved by World War II history expert Mr Peter Dunn.

Magnetic Times first published the story on July 22 (click here) when Dr Lewis and Dr Rick Braley, whilst mapping out the trail, discovered the coral-encrusted relic with its bent and at one end prop still attached.

Some speculated that the engine had simply been tossed overboard by a local boatie as a mooring anchor but Mr Dunn joined some dots and dates to claim that the engine belonged to a particular aircraft with a history that didn’t greatly inspire confidence back in the desperate days of Townsville during WWII.

Mr Dunn provides the details of his historical sleuthing at his excellent Australia @ War website (
click here). The plane, he believes, was a CW-22B Curtiss Falcon. It was piloted by an American, Captain R. A. Sansing, who survived the crash on December 5, 1943 - the second for this particular old bird.

The engine and prop as seen at Geoffrey Bay recently (Photo courtesy Dr Andy Lewis)

Mr Dunn, writes that the same plane “...was involved in an earlier wheels up belly landing on a beach in the Townsville area after an undetermined loss of power at 1540 hours on 29 January 1943 when it was piloted by 1st Lieutenant Donald E. Housea.”

He adds, in regard to the Geoffrey Bay downing, “The propeller appears to have minimal damage indicating that it was not under power at the time. With the cowl still appearing to be fairly intact, this would suggest a controlled slow entry into the water.

Mr Dunn believes the propeller and cowling, or protective covering surrounding the engine, photographed by Dr Lewis, “appear to be consistent with that of a CW-22B Curtiss Falcon,” and one was noted to have been, “ditched due to engine failure”.

Dr Rick Braley, from Tourism Operators Business Magnetic Island (TOBMI), who is the driving force behind the snorkel trail, told Magnetic Times that he wasn’t surprised that the engine block (the propeller was approximately 8 feet across) doesn’t have a fuselage attached as they were often of light weight materials which could easily have been broken up by cyclones in the years since.

Dr Braley was very happy however that, while not exactly on the new snorkel trail, the WWII find makes a nice addition to the experience and would be included on the swim cards users will be able to take on the trail with them.

Story: George Hirst

Downed aircraft mystery appears solved
Rob Isaacs
August 9th 2012
Great detective work by all concerned and good luck with the snorkel trail guys :)

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