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Piper Comanche Plane Wreck

Home > Brisbane > Adventure | National Parks | Outdoor | Walks
by Roz Glazebrook (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published August 15th 2019
I'd heard lots of stories about the bushwalk to the Piper Comanche plane wreck in D'Aguilar National Park. I'd heard the track was difficult to find, leech infested, and very steep and muddy.

Piper Comanche Plane Wreck
Piper Comanche Plane Wreck


I recently had the opportunity to do the walk with some experienced people who had been there before. It is a really interesting, beautiful walk with lots of sad history.

Climbing under logs
Climbing under logs


On the recent Brisbane show holiday, twelve of us met at Samford for the ride to the start of the walk at Tennison Woods, Mt Glorious. We set off on the Lepidozamia Track, 5.5km north of the Maiala picnic ground.

Start of walk
Start of walk


The 7.2 kilometre track starts on the right side of the dirt Lepidozamia Track only about 40-50 metres from the gate. We followed an old logging road for approximately 3 kilometres and then descended quite steeply for about 500 metres to the crash site. The track was fairly overgrown and we had to climb over and under lots of trees, trying to avoid the Wait a While and watching out for Gympie Stinging trees.

Into the forest
Into the forest


We stopped briefly at a large log across the track and then headed off to the right from the log.

The big log
The big log


On the way, we passed some relics from logging days, including an old log winch. We also walked past a bowerbird nest beside the track.

Bower bird nest
Bower Bird Nest


Log Winch
Log Winch


Eventually, we came to a small pile of rocks and markings on a tree, which is the area where we had to turn left and climb down to the wreck. We had some discussion about the tree markings and whether they depicted angel wings or plane wings.

Turn left at this pile of stones
Turn left at this pile of stones


Angel or plane wings
Angel or plane wings


There were pink ribbons on the trees showing the way down to the plane, although you cannot rely on these always being there, so it is good to have navigation skills. I have heard some people remove them.

Pink ribbons on track down to plane
Pink ribbons on track down to plane


We were lucky because it was very dry when we did the walk. Some others in the group had done it previously in wet weather and said the steep rocky track was very slippery and muddy after rain. They also found leeches in awkward places after they got home.

Plane wreck
Plane wreck


I had seen many photos of the plane wreck, but seeing it in real life was a bit sad. Realising a pilot had died there in the middle of the forest and wasn't found for four days after his plane went missing. It was sobering reading the accident report. The crash occurred on 2nd March, 1977. The 57-year-old pilot had colour blindness and was limited to flying during daylight. He left Archerfield airport to fly to Bundaberg. After he left to return, there were heavy showers and low cloud. He landed at Maroochydore about 3pm to go to Redcliffe where he was going to review the situation.

Climbing through logs
Climbing through trees


At 18.15 hours, he telephoned the Archerfield Briefing Office and once more asked concerning a Special Visual Flight Rules (VFR) clearance. The cloud base at Archerfield Airport was then 1000 feet, the rain had eased and the visibility was such that Mount Cootha, south of the mid-point along the Lane of Entry, was visible. The pilot was advised that a Special VFR clearance would be granted for flight in the Archerfield Control Zone if entered via the Lane of Entry.

The aircraft took-off into the north and turned westward, possibly to avoid a rain shower to the southwest: the northern entrance to the Lane of Entry is to the southwest of Harrison's Pocket and the Lane is aligned 153 degrees (M). The pilot transmitted the departure time as 1822 hours; the route was stated as the Lane of Entry, and the estimated time of arrival as 1835 hours. Official last light was 1843 hours.

Lovely rainforest
Lovely rainforest


The pilot was advised that a Special VFR clearance for flight in the Archerfield Control Zone would be available on reaching Mount Cootha; the acknowledgement was the last communication received. The aircraft was observed flying in drizzle proceeding in a direction of about 210 degrees (M) at a low level beneath low cloud along South Kobble valley some 9 km west of the Lane of Entry. It was then observed to climb and disappear into the clouds.

Plane with report attached
Plane with report attached


The wreckage of VH-GAS was located on 6 March some 400 feet below the summit of
 Mount D'Aguilar at the head of South Kobble valley. The aircraft had struck a tree in line with the last observed track of the aircraft, then crashed inverted.

The cause of the accident, according to the report was that the pilot persisted with the flight at low level towards rising terrain and conditions of weather and light, which inhibited visual navigation.


There were two ex pilots on our walk. They explained to us how difficult it was to fly using instruments.

Down in the forest
Down in the forest


After having lunch, we headed back up the steep track and back to the cars. There were lots of low hanging tree branches and one tall man knocked his head on one and had a large lump on the top of his head.

Heading down to the wreck
Heading down to the wreck


As far as I know, no body on the walk got any leeches, but I did hear one person got a tick in their groin. They discovered it later that night at home.

Steep track down
Steep track down


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Why? To find a plane wreck in the rainforest
When: Anytime
Where: Mt Glorious, D'Aguilar National Park
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Great article, Roz. I’m surprised that the wreck is still there after all this time. I would have expected members of the public to walk off with bits and pieces of it, or parts to get moved and destroyed by the elements.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12457) 35 days ago
What an interesting walk, Roz - love it when there's fascinating historical data as well!
by Elaine (score: 3|6566) 36 days ago
Sounds like it was quite a challenge Roz but well worth it to view this sad piece of history first hand.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|7000) 29 days ago
Very interesting article Roz. As a 14 year old many years ago I was in a light aircraft that ran into a storm. Torrential rain, no visibility and water pouring in around a ill fitting door. We survived but the same aircraft and pilot crashed three months later killing all aboard after flying into a cloud covered hill. Neil.
by Neil Follett (score: 2|244) 35 days ago
great adventure Roz
by Gillian Ching (score: 2|421) 34 days ago
great adventure Roz
by Gillian Ching (score: 2|421) 34 days ago
I thought it was 1977. Thanks for clearing that up. I went there 5 years after the crash and found the wreckage. Took all day and lots of slashing through undergrowth. I have taken about 8 groups there since, and we usually proceed on to the summit of Mt D'Aguilar. Getting to the wreck now is pretty clear, but Mt D'Aguilar is a testing experience.
by motch (score: 1|95) 36 days ago
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