Never Say Die - The Story of a Remarkably Resourceful Pilot.
|This is the story of Kurt Johannsen and his DeHavilland
On 25th October 1950, Kurt and his partner, Jimmy Prince, were conducting an aerial mineral survey around remote Mount Butterfield in Western Australia. Running low on fuel, Kurt put the Moth down on Lake Hopkins, a dry salt lake, to refuel from jerry cans. As he taxied after landing, one wheel sank through the surface and bogged, causing the Moth to tip onto its nose and snap about fifteen inches off each propeller blade.
“So there we were,” said Kurt, “Nose in the mud, tail in the air, up the creek without a paddle - or even any Minties for a moment like this.”
Their most immediate requirement being to obtain water, they needed a spade. Kurt removed the broken propeller from the Moth and used it to dig a hole in the salt. About a metre down he found brine. Using two jerry cans he made a condenser which yielded about six litres of fresh water a day.
Their next priority was to find a way back to civilisation. Kurt examined the propeller stump. If he could just balance it, might it possibly develop sufficient thrust to pull the Moth into the air? There was nothing to lose by trying. Balancing the wooden propeller on the blade of a screwdriver, Kurt set about trimming it with a hatchet. Eventually, having achieved a good balance, he refitted the propeller to the Moth. His next task was to lighten the aircraft as much as possible. Finally he was ready to attempt a take-off.
Leaving Jimmy with the still and most of their food, Kurt climbed aboard, started the engine, lined the aircraft up and opened the throttle. Slowly the Moth accelerated. When it had almost achieved flying speed the wheels hit a wash-out which bounced the Moth into the air. With the engine dangerously over-revving, the Moth remained airborne . . . but only just.
Unable to climb, Kurt spotted a wedge tailed eagle in a thermal and headed towards it. Turning in the thermal, Kurt slowly climbed until he had sufficient height to risk reducing his engine revs. Finding the minimum throttle setting which enabled him to maintain altitude, he nursed the Moth back to his Ehrenberg base camp where he landed safely. Then, taking a second Moth, Kurt returned for Jimmy Prince.
After fitting a new propeller, the expedition returned to Alice Springs.
Kurt Johannsen - resourceful or what?