ⓘ Connellan air disaster. The Connellan air disaster was a suicide attack at Alice Springs Airport, Northern Territory, Australia, on 5 January 1977. The attack w ..

                                     

ⓘ Connellan air disaster

The Connellan air disaster was a suicide attack at Alice Springs Airport, Northern Territory, Australia, on 5 January 1977.

The attack was carried out by a disgruntled former employee of Connellan Airways also known as Connair, who flew a Beechcraft Baron into the Connair complex at the airport. The attack killed the pilot and four other people and injured four more, two of them seriously.

The disaster is one of only two aircraft suicide attacks in Australias history, the other being in 1982 at Bankstown Airport.

                                     

1. Background

The perpetrator, Colin Richard Forman, was 23 years old at the time of the attack. He had migrated from the United Kingdom to Australia alone in the mid 1960s, but had trouble adjusting and, in 1974, tried to forge a Qantas ticket back to England. The forged ticket was detected and Forman had a conviction recorded against him.

In November 1975, Forman obtained a commercial pilots licence, and he started flying for Connair in January 1976. The ticket forgery soon came to light and Forman was dismissed after seven weeks. He then found another job at Ord Air Charter in Wyndham, but was soon fired from there as well. Forman apparently believed that Roger Connellan, his boss at Connair, had informed Ord Air about his forgery conviction.

In late 1976, Forman was living in Mount Isa, Queensland, eking out a living flying occasional single-engine Cessna charter flights for freight and tourists and where he was a member of the Mount Isa Aero Club. In about October 1976, he told a fellow member and local North West Star journalist "If I dont get a job by Christmas then you will get to know and through you most of the world will know". He attended the aero clubs 76/77 New Years Eve party.

                                     

2. Attack

Early on the morning of 3 January 1977, Forman trashed his one-bedroom flat in Mount Isa, piled up the remnants in a corner of his lounge room and created what was later described as an altar. On the top was a trophy for topping his course Blue Flight at the former Cessnock, New South Wales Nationwide Aviation Space Academy, and in front of the trophy was his pilots log book, laid open.

On the date of his sacking from Connair, an entry read: "Sentenced to death this date", and the final page of his log book contained the date, aircraft type, call sign, destination and "Suicide Mission". The final words were THE END on the left and right pages respectively.

Foreman then drove 2.000 km to Wyndham, stopping overnight at Katherine. On 5 January he stole a Beechcraft 58 Baron Aircraft registration VH-ENA from Wyndham Airport after discovering the larger aircraft he had wanted to use was being used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service that day. Alice Springs is four hours flying time from Wyndham in a Beechcraft Baron: Forman had planned to strike at 10 am during the companys morning break, but he did not account for the time difference between Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and arrived at 11 am.

As he reached the airfield at Alice Springs, he broadcast a final message by radio: "It is better to die with honour than live without it – Echo – November – Alpha." Forman then set full power on both engines and aimed at the Connellan complex before plunging the aircraft into the centre of the building.

Four people were killed on impact. A secretary, was badly burned and died of her injuries in hospital five days later. Four other Connair employees were injured.

                                     

3. Aftermath

During the investigation, letters addressed to the Department of Transport were found which explained his motivations.

In them he related his court appearance, described his seven weeks working at Connair as the happiest in his life, and his employment issues following dismissal. He also detailed his plan and his aim to "cause Connair the maximum amount of loss and hardship" and "to kill and maim as many employees of Connair Pty Ltd as possible". This latter comment was erroneously attributed to the final entry in his log book by some media outlets.

Connellan Airways was sold to East-West Airlines in 1980.

                                     
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