Tragedy struck in Katherine this week, when the Darwin to Adelaide mail plane crashed after takeoff straight into the Katherine River. The 12-seater plane, a Lockheed Super Electra, failed to clear trees near the Katherine aerodrome and plummeted into the Katherine River. It was just two years after New Guinea Airways had started the mail run, three times each week. The crew of four experienced aviators, Captain Jukes, Captain Clarke, Peter Donegan and Alexander McDonald were killed instantly. Their bodies were retrieved by the flying doctor, Dr Fenton, and nursing staff from the Katherine Hospital. It was reported in the Northern Standard that "it is doubtful if Australian aviation could have lost four finer and more likeable men". With them was 800 pounds of mail in 23 bags bound for Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Tasmania stored in the nose of the plane, which was salvaged from rising floodwaters.
Image: Ivan R. Hodder Collection, Northern Territory Library
Published: 27 January 2019