Go Flying Australia Podcast 022 – Ditching a DC-3 on Botany Bay with Rod Lovell

Summary: Interview with Rod Lovell who is an ex Royal Australian Air Force pilot who was the captain of a DC-3 charter flight that had an engine failure at 200 feet after taking off from Sydney Airport.  Despite only have seconds to deal with the situation Rod was able to successfully ditch the aircraft in Botany Bay with all passengers and crew safely able to exit the aircraft.  Also in the interview we talk about other aircraft he has flown including the Macchi, Mirage, Lear 35 and the Beech 18.

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Rod’s Flying Career

08/04/68 – Joined the RAAF, at Edinburgh, SA – No 925 Recruit Course.
06/01/71 – Posted to No 1 Flying Training School (FTS) at Point Cook, Vic. No 80 Pilots Course.
17/03/71 – First Solo flight.
03/03/72 – RAAF Wings Test – passed.  Awarded the National Mutual Trophy “for the student who has shown the most improvement on No 80 Pilots Course.”


Rod catching up with one of his old aircraft years later

05/09/72 – Conducted a Mach 2 run in a Mirage, and at the end had a “flameout”, engine relit.


RAAF Dassault Mirages in formation

13/12/72 – Posted to No 11 Sqn, Edinburgh to fly P3B Orion aircraft.


Rod with one of his P-3 crews

15/05/73 – Gained Commercial Pilots Licence Aeroplanes
May 74 – Became an en-route F/E on P3B’s.  11Sqn was short of them.


Rod’s P3 flying pas Coolangatta – Oct 1976 (Photo from the Brisbane Courier Mail)

Nov 74 – Co-pilot on P3B that represented Australia in the Fincastle Competition, held in NZ this year.  This competition is between countries of the Commonwealth, in Anti-Submarine Warfare.
27/05/75 – Attained P3B Non-Maritime Captain.
05/07/76 – Gained Senior Commercial Pilots Licence Aeroplanes
Mar 77 – Flew the P3B air display at airshows at Laverton, Canberra, Edinburgh, Pearce
31/03/77 – Test flew Tiger Moth VH-DDA at Northam, WA.

July 77 – Purchased DH82a VH-DDA.
24,25/09/77 – Participated in “The World’s First Tiger-Moth Air Race” at Rutherford NSW.
28/11/77 – Employed by IPEC Aviation, a freight airline based at Essendon Airport, Vic, flying Argosy aircraft.
May 79 – Commenced flying DC-3 aircraft with IPEC.
12/12/79 –  Employed by Stillwell Aviation, Essendon Airport, flying Learjet 35 aircraft.


The Lear 35

18/12/79 – Gained Airline Transport Pilot Licence Aeroplanes
18/01/83 – Commenced DC-9 Training with TAA.
Oct 83 – Purchased Beechcraft D18S VH-FIE serial number A-808.
20/02/85 – Appointed Line Training Captain DC-9 aircraft.

1988 – Successfully completed the Bicentennial Around Australia Air Race in the Beech18.
02/10/89 – Joined Qantas Airways as a Pilot Instructor Simulator (Under Training) Boeing 747
24/04/94 – Captain on DC-3 VH-EDC which ditched into Botany Bay.


VH-EDC after the ditching – note the boats assisting

Total of 25 Persons onboard.  The only injury sustained, was a broken wrist by the Flight Attendant.
24/06/94 – CAA suspended my ATPL and DC-3 endorsement. 9 weeks after the accident
07/08/94 – Flew a DC-3 out of Cloverfield – Santa Monica airfield (California), which is the same airfield that the first DC-1 lifted off on.


IPEC’s VH-EWE painted yellow for the dil “Pacific Banana”

09/08/94 – Gained FAA (USA) Airline Transport Certificate.

Rod has logged over 10,000 hours flying time. He has been approved (by the various Civil Aviation Authority’s) on numerous occasions for the positions of Chief Pilot, Training Captain and Checking Captain.


Article from July 1996 edition of Australian Aviation – Rod’s first hand account of the ditching

The BASI (now ATSB) report – Rod disputes the findings in the report


  • Scott Crew

    Great podcast thanks Adam. What an aviation career. And the emergency, I would definitely was him as the captain in any emergency.

    • Adam

      Thanks Scott. Rod sure was the right man for the job in this case.