We're indebted to RAAF Squadron Leader Gordon Browne AM, and the late Corporal Bill Crouch for the details of this fascinating story - the only time an RAAF aircraft has been hijacked.
The story was suppressed by successive Australian governments and it's only fairly recently that first hand accounts from those who were there have come to light.
You can read Gordon and Bill's account in detail here - summary below.
📷 A4-140 on the tarmac at Dili. Note the Red Cross markings painted on the fuselage and tail.
On the 4th of September 1975, RAAF Caribou A4-140 was hijacked by East Timorese soldiers, who forced the pilot to fly 42 refugees to Darwin. It is the only RAAF aircraft to have ever been hijacked.
A4-140 was delivering Red Cross aid into East Timor during the civil war prior to the Indonesian Occupation which occurred in December that year. The crew, Flying Officer Kierman French, Pilot Officer Gordon Browne, and Corporal Bill Crouch, had been tasked to evacuate a number of civilian women and children due to fighting near Dili airport.
Whilst conducting the evacuation, a soldier panicked and demanded the crew load the plane with women, children and other civilians and take them to Darwin. After loading 42 evacuees, the plane – 3,500 pounds above the maximum takeoff weight – took off and proceeded to fly to Darwin where all passengers were offloaded.
The details of the hijack were never released to the public, and it was only through personal recount of the crew on board many years later that the event became widely known.
Whether the soldier was charged with hijacking and deported or allowed to remain in Australia remains unknown…
Lest We Forget.