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Fascinating True Stories from the Flip Side of History

Tag Archives: australia

The Ghost Plane


On August 30, 1955, a pilotless airplane circled Sydney, Australia and its suburbs for nearly three hours. Today, we live in a time of remote-control planes, but that was not why this airplane was flying around without a pilot.

Thirty-year-old trainee-pilot Anthony Thrower was practicing his takeoff and landings at the Bankstown Aerodrome when suddenly “The motor went dead when I was 10 feet [3 m] over the runway. I got down safely and applied the brakes. I decided to start the Auster by myself.”

That’s when he swung the propeller around to start the engine. As soon the engine turned over, the brakes on the airplane failed and it took to the sky without him aboard.

“I tried to hold it by a strut but I couldn’t make it.” And, “Away she went…”

He began to run toward the control tower in an effort to alert them as the plane flew in the opposite direction. And then, “I looked over my shoulder and got a terrific fright. The plane had turned right around and was chasing me.”

Thrower was unharmed and eventually, the plane climbed to an altitude of 10,000 feet (3 km) before leveling out. Royal Australian Air Force jets were called in to pursue the runaway plane but were unable to bring it down.  Eventually, the wind pushed the plane out toward the sea where two Australian Navy Sea Furies shot it down.

Lieutenants John Bluett, RN, and Peter McNay, RN, reliving their successful action against Anthony Thrower’s pilotless Auster in 1955. Image appears on the Australian Navy website.

Wrong Man Identified


On September 22, 1931, a 35-year-old painter in Chippendale, Australia named Charles Edmund Kneale slipped off of a ladder that he was working on and fell 30 feet (a little over 9 meters) to the pavement below.

A radio message was broadcast requesting that his wife report to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital because her husband was dying.

Mrs. Winifred Kneale did just that.  Although she was unable to see his face, she was able to identify her husband and he soon slipped away.

Shortly after that, another woman named Mrs. Dorothy Kneale also identified the dead man as her husband, which he really was.

It was an honest mistake.  Both wives had the same last name and were married to unemployed painters, both of whom were living at Hammond’s Hotel, where the accident took place.  And, on top of that, both wives were living in Mosman with different women named Mrs. Brown.