Extracted from the log book of FEO Norman King. Flight was commanded by Capt John Brooks with an all volunteer crew most of whom were on leave and who had contacted Crew Scheduling as soon as the news broke on Boxing Day. Norman King recalls: "To Qantas' great credit, it was all put together in only a few hours and away we went. The runway, so we discovered after we walked part of it after arrival, was strewn with a million roofing screws. How we avoided a puncture is still a source of great wonder. When we arrived, I distributed the two vital requests from the DRW engineers - 50 cans of WD40 and about 500 Benson and Hedges, with dry matches, please - and I've never seen so many people smoking all at once. My enduring memory of that day was the one structure standing tall among the flattened landscape we were all looking at on approach. The one thing you'd expect to fold first was still intact, and the engineer who designed it should have been awarded a gold medal. There, having defied Tracy's power, large as life, was the drive-in movie screen".
Extracted from the Qantas Maintenance and Flying Record Log by Eric Favelle.
Source: Journal of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia. (Vol XV No 6 Jan-Feb 1975). This publication also mentions the use of RAAF C-130, HS748, Caribou, BAC1-11, RAN HS748, Ansett B727-200, TAA B727-200, F.27 and MMA F.28.
The Brisbane Courier-Mail of 31DEC74 carries a photo of C-141 Starlifter tail number 50251 "loading communications equipment and a big portable kitchen at RAAF Base Amberley yesterday" (30DEC74). It also states that the aircraft will carry evacuess on its return flight from Darwin.
All Qantas flights were listed in "Qantas News" of January 1975.
"Western Airletter" December 1974 compiled by Geoff Goodall et al.
Contemporary notes by the compiler.
Log book of Tony Ryan who was the Flight Engineer on these flights. Captain was FLTLT O'Toole.
Log book of John Laming. F.27 VH-TFE of the Department of Civil Aviation Flying Unit was crewed by Val Trevethan, Pete De Rouffignac & John Laming (all ex-RAAF). TCA = Tennant Creek.
C-130H NZ7003 from 40 Sqn RNZAF positioned Whenuapai-Richmond-Townsville on 27DEC. On 28DEC the aircraft positioned TSV-DRW to operate its first relief flight. The aircraft operated at least two flights DRW-SYD-YSRI as shown above. NZ7003 was based with two crews at RAAF Base Richmond. The aircraft operated Richmond-Amberley-Laverton-Richmond on 01JAN75. The aircraft returned to NZ on 04JAN75 when it positioned Richmond-Sydney-Whenuapai. Sourced from the log book of Michael Sommerville who was Captain of one of the crews.
A telex sent on 09JAN75 from C.N. Kleinig (GM of MMA) to the National Disasters Organisation in Canberra states: "Flights operated by MMA five F28 aircraft identified FKA, FKB, FKC, FKD and FKE. Total thirteen flights operated between Darwin and Perth over period December 26 to December 29 Total passengers carried 1004".
Log book of Capt Ray Vuillermin PIC of VH-TQT. "We took 32 maternity cases and 27 new born babes to Brisbane via Mt Isa, at the direction of General Stretton".
"Connellan Airways Outbank Airline" (pp. 40-41) by Peter Donovan published by Chris Connellan 1989. The other two DC-3s are most likely VH-MIN and VH-PWM although VH-UPQ cannot be positively eliminated. See Note 7.
Capt David Baker. "I was on leave on the north coast of NSW when the cyclone hit and had to drive to Brisbane in response to TAA's urgent appeal for crews as most of the line pilots were already flying their bids over the busy Christmas period. Myself (PIC) and another TAA Skipper landed in DRW at 1100 hrs on the 26th Dec in VH-TFF with the sole purpose of picking up the ladies about to give birth from the DRW Hospital. This was traumatic for all concerned as many of the pregnant patients did not know if their husbands/partners were still alive, or indeed their other children. We left at 1324 with 40 last stage pregnant ladies, 2 cabin crew, 2 Nursing Sisters, 1 doctor and 2 cats in cages (they belonged to the hospital). Two ladies were in labour, so we went straight to Mount Isa (where we refuelled), no joy there, their hospital was already packed with those who had been driven down from Darwin. So, running out of hours and ideas, I called up Mackay, and pleaded (no, threatened) that we needed help, and finally got in there vastly relieved, as the noises up the back were becoming terrifying to say the least. We overnighted Mackay and after refuelling flew back to Brisbane on 27th December and resumed our leave. Of course I somehow ended up with the cats, who both lived to a great age and cost a fortune in vet bills. I never did find the owner".
Log book of Capt Don Pitts. 311 passengers plus 3 staff plus 7 crew. Total POB 321. Other tech crew were F/O Bill Robertson and F/E Allan Meyers. The Captain's family travelled on the flight deck.
"The Furious Days" by Major-General Alan Bishop Stretton AO CBE (30 September 1922 - 26 October 2012) published by William Collins 1976.
Log book of Lieutenant Commander Peter Adams RAN.
Log book of Peter Grimmer RAAF.
Log book of F/O Barry McKay. Capt was Ron Black. Pax were disembarked at the SYD International Terminal.
"Flypast - A Record of Aviation in Australia" by Parnell & Boughton, AGPS 1988.
The principal source is a typed memo from the TAA OCM dated 31DEC74 with an addendum dated 06JAN75.
Log book of Bill Mattes. "Lost an engine due to nacelle overheat going into Darwin. An engine change was required; but I was ordered off the airfield by Gpt Capt Hitchins (an old 36 Sqn CO) and took off on three engines declaring a PAN on taxy. Got an overtemp on one of the other engines on take off but elected to keep it going. Went to Tindal after 40 hours awake. After double engine change at Tindal returned to Darwin for fuel and flew to Adelaide via Tindal to pick up an orphanage and a hippie colony plus a rabbit and two puppies. Total pax and crew 186 with 19 on the flight deck."
Log book of Steve Phillips (Navigator): "All my flights were commanded by John Pickett. The 29DEC flight in A97-210 departed DRW around midnight. Just after take-off a lady suffered a heart attack but was revived using portable oxygen. The aircraft lost its radar and ran into a major thunderstorm losing altitude and becoming inverted briefly. The aircraft turned back to DRW after 2.1 hours in the air. The effect on the passengers was such that we had to task the Firies to hose out the cargo compartment! After resting briefly we departed in daylight for Adelaide."
Tracey Turner (nee Collins) who was a passenger on the flight. The flight diverted to Charleville with a prop problem and overnighted.
"Failure of Triumph - the Story of Connellan Airways" by E.J. Connellan 1992.
Log book of Barry Rose who was Loadmaster on these flights. After the arrival on 29DEC, RAAF operations were halted for 24 hours to provide rest for the ground staff who had been working continuously since the cyclone.
Log book of Flight Engineer, Keith Kershaw. Read his recollections here
Log book of Lieutenant Commander Jim Campbell, RAN, Commanding Officer VC851 Squadron.
Log book of E.J.H. (Ted) Wittup, Loadmaster, 37 Sqn RAAF. Captain on all of these flights was FLGOFF Jack Fanderlinden.
Log book of FLTLT 'Doc' Casey, 37 Sqn RAAF. Co-Pilot on all these flights was FLTLT Howell.
Log book of Bill Moore, Flight Engineer, 37 Sqn RAAF. "The flight Brisbane - Rockhampton - Darwin on the 30 December was of particular note due to the following. Our aircraft A97-171, had suffered a GTC failure earlier on in this operation. This meant a ground support air supply was required to start an engine if all engines were shut down on arrival. We had been informed full ground support was available at Rockhampton before departure from Brisbane, however on arrival Rockhampton, just to be on the safe side, confirmation was sought from the ground support agents at Rocky who confirmed no ground air for start was available. No problem, we were able to keep one engine running to supply electrics and air but due to no fuel being available in Darwin, we had to refuel with one engine running. Still no problem, however when we requested the local airport fire authority to attend the aircraft and standby just incase during the refuel operation, they were reluctant to take part in our refuelling, so took their fire truck back to their station and left us to our own resources. From memory, all this took part around 3:00 am to 5:00am on the morning of the 30 Dec."
Log book of Captain Stuart Spenceley, TAA. See Note: 8.
RAAF News:
Log book of Denis Pendergast, 37 Sqn RAAF, Flight Engineer.
Log book of Ross Petrie who was the F/O.
Log book of FLTLT Allan Edwards, 37 Sqn RAAF. "My Co-Pilot on all these flights was PLTOFF Tony Bird. The flight in A97-190 on 27 December carried a load of six generators, each said to be weighing 5,000 pounds. Although we had planned to depart at max all up weight (155,000 pounds), it emerged immediately after we were committed to the take-off that the weight of the generators was not as advertised and we just managed to get airborne off Richmond's 7,000 foot runway. Read the full story here. After arrival in Darwin we spent many hours on the ground, periodically moving the aircraft before getting away to Townsville. We flew back to Darwin the next day (again with no crew rest and again moving the aircraft up the queue as others took-off). We departed Darwin in the early morning of 29 December for Sydney and Richmond for some rest before heading off to Darwin again the next day in A97-177. Again after much time on the ground in Darwin, we departed for Sydney but had to divert to Tindal to pick up a road accident patient. After quite a few hours on the ground in Tindal it was discovered that the aircraft battery was depleted to such an extent that we had to summon the local Auto Club Road Service! We eventually departed Tindal after midnight. The short Sydney-Richmond sector on 31 December was flown with the gear down and 50% flap as we were so tired that I didn’t want to forget something for the landing. These were very long duty periods as there was no facility at Darwin for crews to rest and, in fact, we had been directed that no aircraft/crew was to remain on the ground in Darwin unnecessarily. As a consequence, crew duty limitations went out the window and it was not unusual for crews (C-130 crews at any rate) to be working for as long as 48 hours, as my first duty period was. The only rest we managed was in our crew seats while airborne (the bunks were not available as we had evacuated passengers or medical staff etc sitting on them)."
George Odgers et al The Defence Force in the Relief of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy, Department of Defence, Historical Monograph No. 15, September 1979. Copy from the personal papers of Air Commodore David Hitchins, with thanks to his family.
Cyclone Tracy - Report by O.C. R.A.A.F. Darwin. Copy from the personal papers of Air Commodore David Hitchins, with thanks to his family.
Tropical Cyclone Tracy - Report by Officer Temporarily Commanding RAAF Darwin (WGCDR W.D.J. Monaghan). Copy from the personal papers of Air Commodore David Hitchins, with thanks to his family.
Interview with Air Commodore David Hitchins (June 9 and August 12, 1987) Northern Territory Archives Service, Northern Territory Oral History Project, by Ronda Jamieson. Copy from the personal papers of Air Commodore David Hitchins, with thanks to his family.
Journal of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia Vol XV No 6 Jan-Feb 1975
Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service by Warwick Henry, Aviation Heritage the journal of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia Vol 26 No 3
Fokker F.27 Friendship by Air-Britain Historians
Northern Territory Archives Service
Commissioner of Police
NTRS 3002
Administration files relating to Cyclone Tracy
Reports on Cyclone duty

NT Archives Service, Guide to Cyclone Tracy Resources.
Office of Air Force History with thanks to Martin James. (See Note: 10)
Capt. Reg Adkins, author of "I Flew for MMA".
The usual Perth-Darwin flight was 492 which departed at 0600W. Because of the cyclone, the service departed late as Flight 1492 (the prefix 1 indicating a schedule change). The route was Perth-Port Hedland-Broome-Derby-Kununurra-Darwin. The service was operated by F.28 VH-FKB which was crewed by Captain Rodney Kralert, F/O Lindsay Allen and Captain S.J. (Syd) Goddard. Captain Goddard, MMA's Flight Manager, joined them because a flight with three pilots was permitted a duty period of 14 hours instead of 11 hours with only two crew. Also, as Flight Manager, he was able to oversee the whole operation and plan further flights. At Kununurra they were ordered to offload all Darwin destined passengers as only emergency personnel were permitted to enter the city. Offloading the Darwin pax and waiting for the Darwin runway to be cleared delayed them by about two hours. Capt Kralert remembers that they were the first MMA flight into Darwin after the cyclone. Kralert and Allen travelled as passengers on the return Flight 1493 to Kununurra on 26 December. For this sector VH-FKB was crewed by Captain Ray Brindley and F/O Alex Henry. Syd Goddard stayed on the aircraft all the way back to Perth to report the situation to MMA Operations and co-ordinate the future rescue missions. Kralert and Allen had a free day in Kununurra after which they returned to Darwin on VH-FKB as Flight 492 on 28 December. The return Flight 493 by VH-FKB operated Darwin-Kununurra-Newman-Perth. The diversion to Newman was for fuel, given the heavy load ex Darwin. At Newman all the mothers with babies got off the aeroplane and washed their babies bums on the lawn in front of the terminal. With so many babies on one aeroplane, the one small on-board toilet was severely taxed! The Newman women were very helpful to the evacuees and brought out tea, coffee and sandwiches for the mothers and nappies for their babies. MMA's F.28s kept up a continuous shuttle to Kununurra, and Captain Graham Hewitt with his F/O, Rob McMillan, went in on the 27th. He recalls that as all the Darwin Navaids were inoperative, they had to fly across from Kununurra to Katherine and then backtrack into Darwin on the Katherine navaids, also identifying the Darwin coastal area on the aircraft's radar. They had to let down through the continuing murk left over from the cyclone and broke visual at 800ft.
Log Book of Capt. Geoff Kendall.
Bushies - A History of Bush Pilots - Air Queensland written and published by Ron Entsch 2001, Appendix 1, page XX.
"Dec 74. Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin. Connair had earlier evacuated aircraft. Stan Watkins chairman of T.J. Watkins builders, chartered DC-3 VH-PWN, with Captain Bill Kelman, from Cairns to deliver emergency supplies, and to evacuate his Darwin staff and families. On arrival, aircraft was commandeered, and then flew twenty-five hours over next two days evacuating residents to Alice Springs."

Log Book of Captain Bill Kelman. Read his recollections here


Arthur Osborne, at the time a Corporal Engine Fitter with RAF Support Unit, Tengah, Singapore. Read his recollections here

Robert M Trowern, at the time a Squadron Leader in command of Nimrod Mk1, XV255. Read his recollections here
Jock Manson, at the time a Flt Lt co-pilot on RAF Belfasts. Read his recollections here
Robert Zweck who was a pilot with SAATAS at the time.
Log Book of FLTLT Ken Stone. Other crew: FLGOFF John Foley, SGT Allen Fraser and SGT Laurie Rappo. Departed RAAF Richmond for Mt Isa on Boxing Day loaded with non-perishable foodstuffs and instructions to be completely self-sufficient in Darwin. On arrival DRW on 27DEC the crew pitched a tent on a concrete slab where a tin shed had been. FLGOFF John Foley replaced by FLTLT John Cornish at DRW on 30DEC. Additional flying outside the scope of the main table above:
03JAN75 Darwin-Darwin. Local flight probably for photography.
04JAN75 Darwin-Bathurst Island-Garden Point-Snake Bay-Darwin. Survey flight to check on local communities.
07JAN75 Darwin-Francis Creek-Darwin. Probably mining support.
08JAN75 Darwin-Normanton-Townsville. Overnight. This was the only flight to carry evacuees and they were few in number.
09JAN75 Townsville-Richmond.
Ken Stone does not recall sighting any other Caribou in Darwin. His log book shows that A4-173 flew 23 sorties totalling 43.3 hours Richmond to Richmond.
Appropriately, Caribou A4-173 is now preserved in the Queensland Air Museum.
Robert Calaby, Darwin.
Unit History Sheets for 34, 35, 36 and 37 Squadrons, Office of Air Force History, Canberra with thanks to Steve Allan. The Unit History Sheet for 36 Sqn states that there is one USAF exchange officer on strength so this is presumed to be CAPT M Dennard who operated several flights in the main table.
Log Book of David Williams,  a DCA flight surveyor who was on the aircraft. VH-CAV was flown by Bill Fitter and Bob Dannatt. It is not known how many evacuees were uplifted or where they disembarked. In its normal navaid calibration configuration, VH-CAV could seat approximately 12.
Anonymous contribution via PPRuNe.
From the log book of Jim Jones: On 27th December 1974, I flew a Union Air Beech 65-8200 Queen Air VH-FWG from Toowoomba to Brisbane to pick up passengers and equipment from Woolworths. They were intending to get the Woolworths store in Darwin cleaned and operational. It was a new store that had its own generator and could operate independently of outside power. I was met in Brisbane by about six Woolworths staff and a heap of equipment including a washing machine! We had a discussion on what was really needed and what I could carry, loaded the aircraft and flew to Mt Isa via Longreach. FT was 6:10. We had to wait in Mt Isa for "Visas" and approval for the aircraft. The "Visas"were granted and we left Mt Isa on 2nd January 1975. However someone forgot that we were flying into Darwin and had not granted approval for the aircraft. We landed in Tindal and remained on the ground for several hours until approval for the aircraft was passed to us. We arrived in Darwin on the afternoon of 2nd January. FT was 5:10 I was surprised to find only one other aircraft, a Cessna 172 (I believe) in the Darwin CTR. We were met by Woolworths staff who took us to the Woolworths store in the centre of Darwin. I remember the utter devastation - planes of all makes littered around the aerodrome, steel power poles bent horizontal, a car in a motel swimming pool. After we unloaded our equipment and the Woolworths staff had started the generator, one of the Woolworths staff drove us out to check on the houses in which the Woolworths staff lived. Even though they knew where the houses once were, they could not recognise the street in which the houses were located. It was only by counting streets back from the shoreline we we able to find the houses. There was not much left. The intention was to sleep that night on stretchers in a marquee in the Woolworths car park. With the heat and humidity repressive, I took my stretcher into the store and slept in front of the open dairy display cabinets which were running in preparation to being filled the next day. I left Darwin on 3rd January with several local Woolworths staff on board who were being evacuated to Brisbane. We flew Darwin - Mt Isa - Longreach. FT was 7:30. On 4th January I flew Longreach to Brisbane to drop of the Woolworths staff then on to Toowoomba. FT 4:10. (FT = Flying Time)

Anonymous contribution via PPRuNe.

"I was an F/O on AN7760 VH-RMV, which operated BNE-DRW on 28th Dec 1974. Captain John Zucal was PIC. DRW airport had been cleared and approved for operations although all NAV aids were U/S. A special VFR clearance was approved for our approach. John was friendly with Ozzie Ozgood who owned Arnham Air Charters. Their offices were destroyed in the cyclone and sadly a female staff member was killed by flying debris. John and I and the F/E helped Ozzie salvage what we could. We passengered out of DRW on 29th. John Raby was the PIC. There were at least 285 pax on the flight sitting sometimes 7 abreast in a row of three seats. Extension seat belts were used where possible. This was an Emergency Evacuation and special Emergency Procedures were authorised. On arrival at DRW airport I counted 31 buses waiting in line to offload their passengers, (only women and children at this stage). At check in, all passengers were issued with a baggage tag around their wrist which determined their destination. Either ADL or BNE were the two options."


Contributed via PPRuNe by Bob Bowne:

" I was a first officer with Bob Forman the Captain on a Connair Heron VH-CLX that departed Alice Springs late on Christmas day dropped into Tennant Creek for Police Uniforms and equipment and arrived in Darwin just after dawn on the 26th of December. We spent a few days evacuating indigenous people to Bathurst Island and my log book says I flew VH-CLT with Bob Bennett back to Alice Springs There was a second Heron that departed Alice about the same time, VH-CLV and it went via Katherine, they arrived in Darwin before us I believe, this was crewed by Captain Bob Bennett and FO Mark Rindfleish (later Ansett DFO and Jetstar Chief Pilot). The RAAF tower was back in operation by the time we arrived, and most GA aircraft had already been bulldozed into a drainage ditch to clear the apron."


NAA: A9186, 28. RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] Number 10 Squadron Jan 62 - Dec 76. Page 451. The ORB makes no specific mention of Cyclone Tracy. The road survey on 30DEC74 is the only operation recorded since 19DEC74.


NAA: A9186. RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU)

"27DEC74: Dakota aircraft A65-114 crewed by Flt Lt W.S. Shoobridge, Flt Lt P.W. Drury, Flt Lt D. Wickam, Flt Lt J.E. Shaw and LACW R.L. Timmins conveyed two women and two children to Wynyard and three women to Hobart. All the passengers, dependents of Army or Air Force personnel, were evacuated from Darwin to Laverton by C130 after Cyclone Tracy. The aircraft and crew returned the same day."

"13JAN75: Dakota aircraft A65-114 crewed by Grp Capt R.N. Law, Flt Lt W.S. Shoobridge, Flt Lt D. Wickam, Flt Lt A.W. Matthew and a NAVAID Survey Team departed (Laverton) to carry out a commissioning check of Tacan and GCA installations at Darwin returning on 18 Jan 1975."


Squadron Leader Nev Duus, 34 Squadron.


NAA: RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] Number 11 Squadron Jul 67 - Jan 88, Series number A9186, Control symbol 32. The ORB records only two flights associated with Cyclone Tracy.


Graham Ham who was a Senior Traffic Officer with Connair in Darwin at the time of Cyclone Tracy.


Log book of Capt Ron Hickey via Greg Weir.


Log book of FLTLT NJ Fitzpatrick.


Log book of F/O Bruce Clentsmith.


RAAF News February 1975.


When Will The Birds Return? Film Australia 1975.

Ian Pearson, Cold War Warriors, Big Sky Publishing, 2021 (pp.139-140)