8 Jan 24.  Warren O’Grady (Gradz).  Fantacan Engine Failure

One of my secondary duties at 2OCU, Williamtown was Macchi Maintenance Test Pilot. 

On a night Navy fleet support mission out of NAS Nowra, the pilot aborted the sortie and 
RTB to Nowra due to sever engine vibrations. I positioned to Nowra the next day to test fly 
the suspect A/C and, if acceptable, return it to Williamtown for further investigation.
Having debriefed the pilot, I got airborne and flew the same profile that was flown the 
previous night whilst remaining overhead Nowra airfield. I could not replicate the engine 
issue, so decided to transit back to Williamtown. An impending cold front (Southerly Buster) 
was moving northward up the Coast and threatening the southern outskirts of Sydney, so I 
was keen to depart for Williamtown ASAP. 
Having climbed through pre-frontal cirrus cloud, I levelled at 15,000ft and left the throttle at 
100%RPM to accelerate to max speed for transit. The A/C stabilised at just above climb 
speed at 210kts instead of accelerating to approximately 300kts. Engine parameters were all 
stable and normal. This was not good.
I initiated a left turn to return to Nowra and slowly reduced the throttle to set 98%RPM (max continuous from memory). This was accompanied by a loud “whump”, the A/C bucked violently and all engine parameters decayed rapidly. The engine had flamed out.
Because I was above a solid under-cast of cloud, I requested a vector 
from Sydney Control to Wollongong airfield, as the cold front was closing in on Nowra.
They say God looks after dunks and little children, but in this case, he was looking after me! 
Sydney vectored me to the over-head, where a hole opened and directly below me, was 
Wollongong airport (now called Shellharbour Airport). By this time I had managed to relight 
the engine, but the ferocity of the flameout had me worried that the engine had been badly 
damaged, so I set up for a steep spiral, engine-out forced landing, down through this 
miraculously appearing hole in the cloud. As I descended, a light twin A/C appeared on 
downwind under me, so I asked Sydney to alert him to my presence. He subsequently broke 
off his approach and was not seen again!
Once down through the magic tube in the cloud, I managed to decelerate to approach speed and successfully landed without further incident. I had lost communications with Sydney as I descended, so I found a telephone (ahem, this was pre-mobile phones) and cancelled SAR (Search and Rescue) by landline.
Sydney had alerted the Emergency Services and I was met by police, ambulance and fire 
brigade. All were extremely helpful and the police offered to give me a lift back to Nowra 
after I had “buttoned up” the jet for the night. By this time, the heavens had opened and it 
was bucketing down. I have got to say, the “hairiest” part of my day that day was a ride in the 
patrol car in the pouring rain on a dark and stormy night!