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“Highest Mountain”

A Tribute to Flying Officer Lloyd Manning SMITH

(Flying accident, Malaysia - 4th May 1972.)

Gunung Tahan, reaching 2187 metres, is the highest mountain on the Malaysian peninsula.  Today, one of the landmarks for the regular procession of hikers slogging their way up the trail to the summit is “the plane crash site” where the eerie twisted metal of a 3SQN Mirage, A3-85, can still be seen.


Lloyd Smith climbing in to the cockpit of a Mirage

On the night of 4th of May 1972, Flying Officer Lloyd Smith crashed while conducting an individual radar-navigation exercise out of Butterworth airbase.


The crater and debris that still remains at the impact site, along the trail ascending Gunung Tahan.

The exact cause of his crash is still unknown, but since this was a typically challenging 3SQN exercise (which tested the capabilities of both pilot and aircraft, under cover of darkness and squeezing past rugged terrain) any one of a number of small things may have gone wrong at the critical moment.  The Squadron Records (ORB) in the National Archives show that Lloyd’s mates searched intensively for two days until the crash site was located on the side of a sub-peak of the massif (called Gunung Gedong, 2066m).  Mirage A3-85 had been in service with the RAAF for just over four years.


Now a mystery for passing hikers.

Although 3 Squadron was based in Malaysia at that time, it had not been directly involved in the nearby Vietnam War.  In this situation, Lloyd’s accident exposed serious flaws in the RAAF’s overseas service compensation arrangements.  The Australian Federal Treasurer eventually resolved this problem by offering compensation to Lloyd’s young wife that was equivalent to that applying in the nearby war zone.  


Mirage A3-85 at Butterworth, showing the Squadron's "Frill-Necked Lizard" symbol of the time.
(Inspired by the so-called "Lizard" camouflage scheme adopted by 3SQN for ground attack duties.  Picture: ADF Serials.)

Lloyd’s RAAF personnel records show him to have been a very promising young pilot, well-liked, pleasant and self-confident.  From Lindfield, NSW, Lloyd had enlisted in the Air Force at the age of 16 as an Apprentice Radio Technician, and had been commissioned as a Pilot Officer in 1968.  Lloyd had been promoted to Flying Officer in 1970 and posted to 3 Squadron at Butterworth in April 1971.  Lloyd was only 25 when he died, leaving behind his pregnant wife Christine.  They had only just celebrated their first wedding anniversary.  

(Lloyd was also survived by a young son from a previous relationship.)


Lloyd's Air Force funeral back in Sydney.

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