Date: July 23,1954
Type: Douglas DC-4
Aircraft: Avro Anson 1 "Silver Wings"
Registry: VR-HEU S/N: 10310
Operator:Cathay Pacific Airlines
Where:Eighty to ninety miles south of Hainan Island,South China Sea,in the international air corridor regularly used by all civilian aircraft on
Flight origination: Singapore 16 aboard.Seven disembarked at Bangkok,Thailand.Nine more came aboard. Final destination Hong Kong
Survivors: 10 survived the shoot down. One died 10 minutes before arriving at Kai Tak airport, Hong Kong.Her name was Rita Cheong.
Account by passenger: Valerie Parish
There was no radio challenge; no warning shots. Cream-colored, propeller-driven Chinese fighter planes, each with a full red star on the side of
the fuselage and a red nose, having come from the military airbase located on Hainan Island, moved in on "Silver Wings" at 9,000 feet and
began firing from both sides with cannon and machine guns at about 150 yards. The co-pilot, Cedric Carlton, was the first to see the fighter plane
on the starboard side. Captain Philip Blown, a RAA fighter pilot during WW11, glimpsed the second fighter immediately afterwards, just before
the #1 engine burst into flames.
After that that Silver Wings was full of flying 50 calibre bullets, and the Radio Officer, Stephen Wong, began to
yell into his mike-"Mayday! Mayday! Losing altitude, engine on fire!" Then the #4 engine and the #4 main fuel tanks were ablaze. A flight
stewardess open the lavatory door, a gapping hole was all that remained of the lavatory. She slammed the door saying "This is not good!"
Captain Blown's immediate concern was how to ditch the DC-4 from 9,000 feet with two engines and a wing in flames while all around him the
explosive heads of 50 calibre shells blew holes a foot and a half wide the length and breadth of the aircraft with a deafening noise,shaking the
plane violently with each blast.
Captain Blown took evasive action, swinging the plane from side to side. The fighter planes had us in a cross
fire. Each time he did so the fighter on the side opposite to the way he was heading fired burst of heavy machine gun fire into the plane, which
was going down at about 350 mph. Hand luggage was toppling from the shelves above the seats. The cabin was filled with smoke from the
burning cordite, it was hard to breath. The noise, the people, the smoke, the fear, at any minute the plane was expected to blow apart. She held
together. A tribute to the aircraft company who designed and built her. Engineer George Cattanach struggled up the steep incline of the
plane, pulling himself up the isle using the back of the seats. He bravely tried to put life vests on the passengers. At 5,000 feet the rudder control
was shoot off: at 2,000 feet the right aileron was gone. At 1,000 feet the fighter planes quit shooting. The corkscrew from 9,000 feet took about 2
minutes. The angle was pretty steep.
There was no panic among the passengers. Some were dead. Some injured by shrapnel. Some injured by
flying debris. Steve Wong was still shouting his message to the world, he did not know the radio aerial was shot away within a few seconds of
the first shoots fired. Silver Wings came to the water at about 260 knots and it was hard for Captain Blown to wash out-reduce that speed. He
had no flaps, the plane barely under control. Skillfully, he turned all the engines off, what was left of them, except the #3 engine. He gunned the #3
engine which lifted the nose enough to allow the plane to bounce and lift three times, skimming across the rough water. He landed his burning,
shot up plane. The starboard wing caught the water, ripped off, then a huge wave formed and the nose hit at about 160 mph somewhere near the
top of it. The tail section broke off and the plane ripped apart, water pouring in. Captain Blown and Cedric Carlton were thrown violently
forward, hitting the rubber crash guards above the instrument panel, the safety harness snapped, water poured in from the broken cockpit
windows and they scrambled out the front window as the nose of Silver Wings vanished below the water. When the tail section came off ,life
jackets and the dingy still encased in it's dark blue canvas bag floated free.
Some of the passengers were able to escape the sinking
plane, grabbing the floating wreckage as they came up from the sinking plane. White-capped waves washed the survivors away from the plane.
It took about a minute for the plane to sink out of sight. In the meantime, Captain Blown and Co-pilot Carlton located, the survivors, the dingy,
and life vests. These two heroes gathered us together and when it was safe, inflated the bright yellow dingy and got us all aboard. The two
pilots of the Russian-built planes, believed to be Parkikarpov 1-16, did their best to sink us without a trace. When they did their fly over at
about 750 feet, their engines emitting a shrill waspish sound, they had every reason to believe their mission had been accomplished French
privateer in his fully armed plane, who heard the distress call, took off from Tourane(DaNang) arrived at the scene. He protected us from further
harm. We were 10 dazed ,injured people ,our clothes in shreds, huddled under canvas on a raft tossed about by 10 foot waves. He guided the
rescue plane to our position by dropping a flare. Captain Blown shouted "The Yanks are coming! The Yanks are coming!" I thought "Oh! No!"I
didn't know if I had the strength for another go around. I didn't know what a Yank was, I had been brought up overseas.
Captain Jack T.
Woodyard and his crew were dispatched from Clark Air Force Base, Philippines. In one of the most outstanding sea rescues in U.S. Air Force
history, he piloted his SA16 Albatross, an amphibian aircraft, towards the survivors. The Chinese had warned any aircraft to stay away from the
scene or they would be shoot down. Captain Woodyard and his crew set the pot bellied plane down near a small island about two and a half
miles from the raft at about 1:05.Then it taxied through the churning seas. When they got away from the protection of the island, there were
10-foot swells. The wing tips were dipping into the water. When the final approach was made, life lines were thrown and caught by people in the
The seas were heavy and it was difficult to bring the raft along side. Captain Blown helped lift his passenger into the rescue plane. He was
the last one to leave the raft. We were all dazed, we couldn't comprehend what was happening. We were in a state of shock .Our wounds
throbbed, aggravated by the shark repellent that had gotten into them. The Grumman Goose taxied to the leeward side of Tai Chou Island, where
the ocean was calmer, he had to take off into the wind. Our plane was overloaded by app. 2,000 pounds. We were spaced out to even the
load. Captain Arnold was being assisted by airman Rodrigues in an effort to hang the jato-jet assisted take-off-units.
After a great deal of
effort, they managed to hang the port bottle in position but couldn't mange the bulky starboard one. About this time the cover aircraft reported
a formation of unidentified aeroplanes approaching, this seemed to stimulate Captain Arnold, the co-pilot, and with an "oath" he swung that
bottle into place unassisted. Then the plane turned towards the open sea. The Grumman Goose hit three large swells, the water let go of the
plane with reluctance, but now we were airborne. We made a wide turn towards Hong Kong,the French privateer on our wing. When he was
satisfied we were safe and he could do no more, he tipped his wings three times and flew away. The cover aircraft flew along side the rest of the
way. We landed at Kai Tak airport at about 5:30.We were taken to a hospital in Kowloon and treated for our injuries.
News of the vicious attack spread to Westminster to Washington D.C. The United States denounced the "brutal" attack and almost at once on
July 26,1954,two American Skyraiders and a Corsair from the Aircraft carriers Philippine Sea and Hornet,part of task force 70 shot down two
Chinese fighters off the China coast ,Admiral Stump, the Commander-in Chief of the US Pacific Fleet having warned everybody that the crews
of his ships and aircraft had orders to be "quick on the trigger" if rescue efforts were hampered in anyway. In London,Mr Anthony Eden told
the House of Commons, of the "brutal" and "savage" attack. Opposition Leader, Mr Clement Attlee, who was embarrassingly was to visit China
the following month, repeated that it was "absolutely inexcusable". However ,the heat was taken off the situation somewhat by prompt
expressions of regret from Peking's Chang Han-fun,vice minister of foreign affairs, to the British Charge d'Affaires Humphery Trevelyan after
Trevelyan had sent a strong letter of protest.
Many thanks to Valerie Parish for compiling the above report. She was the youngest survivor of the incident.