On 13 July 1973 an Australian Army Sioux helicopter, A1-726, was recovered from a swamp ‘well west’ of Cooktown near the west coast of the Cape York peninsula – probably somewhere between Edward River, Pormpuraaw, and Kowanyama.
The recovery aircraft was RAAF UH-1H ‘Huey’ helicopter from 9SQN RAAF Amberley QLD, serial # A2-455. The crew was Rod ‘Rodus’ Adam (aircraft captain), Howard McGilvray (copilot), Monty Jesinowski (crewman), and Dennis Freeman (flight fitter).
In January 1973 Bob Redman had been posted from 9SQN Amberley to Air Movement Training and Development Unit (AMTDU) at Richmond NSW. AMTDU was a joint Army/RAAF unit primarily involved in aircraft internal load rigging, delivery from aircraft of loads by parachute, and training of aircrew and load despatch riggers. Bob was the first helicopter person posted to AMTDU to help develop helicopter external load rigging procedures and training courses.
The recovery of the Army Sioux was Bob’s first recovery job. He joined the 9SQN crew in QLD and felt at home with old 9SQN mates.
After hooking the load Bob climbed into the Huey via the skid. After trying to takeoff for 5 minutes, Bob climbed out to lighten the load. The Huey departed and Bob waited in a tree for several hours before the Huey retrieved him – no communications, no signalling gear, no fresh water, just a two piece Nomex flying suit and a Swiss army penknife. Bob was very happy that the crew found him before the local wildlife showed signs of hunger.
After several unsuccessful attempts, the Army Sioux pilot (Kevin Shoppee) helping the recovery (seen in background just forward of the skids) held the tail of the Sioux parallel to the take-off path and let go as the Huey gained translational lift from its forward motion and flew to the next fuel cache on its path east to Cooktown. Kevin followed in his serviceable Sioux, and we repeated the process for the following refuel stops.
The weather for the transit was overcast with headwinds. The forecast for Cooktown was rain and limited visibility. The transit was slow and used a lot of fuel, so the last cache of AVTUR (aviation turbine fuel for the Hueys jet engine) was short one 44 Gal (400 Litre) drum. The station hands (both in hats) had a 44 Gal drum of AVGAS (piston engine fuel) which was an alternative fuel (with conditions) for the Huey. We stayed at the station overnight and continued next morning to Cooktown with no additional challenges from weather etc. The engine performance seemed the same despite the mixture of Avgas with AVTUR. Shown on the right is the co-pilot Howard McGilvray:
Note: The very helpful Army pilot, Kevin Shoppee, died a few months later on 29 Nov 73 in a crash on Mt Wilhelm at over 14000ft, about 28nm north west of Goroka, PNG, during a difficult high altitude mission. We were sad to hear of his death. Kevin was not the pilot of the Sioux recovered from Cape York in Jul 73.