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Forman was described by some as a shy young man, who was hard to get along with and ‘slightly overweight’. He was English by birth, and had travelled to Australia in the early 1970s; the exact date is unknown, but those familiar with the case estimate sometime between 1971-73. He first arrived in Melbourne, where he made a living as a tram driver.
However, he reportedly had trouble to adapting to life in Australia, and went so far as trying to forge a plane ticket back to England to return to his home country. The attempt failed after the authorities discovered the forgery, and Forman received a conviction for the crime. This conviction would have grim consequences for Forman’s life in future, but in the meantime he appeared resigned to the fact he was stuck in Australia and looked for alternative employment.
Moving up from driving trams, Forman travelled to New South Wales where he began training for a commercial pilot’s licence, which he would receive in November 1975. With his sights set on a career as a pilot, Forman made the journey to Alice Springs in the centre of the country to apply for a position at Connair, at that time a moderately-sized airline offering passenger and cargo services in northern Australia. While he was offered a job, it was little more than a glorified cabin attendant role and didn’t involve much actual flying.
A mere seven weeks after he started at the airline, they discovered that he’d been previously convicted of the ticket forgery, which was enough for management to terminate his contract. Forman didn’t take the news well, although he did move on to another airline – Ord Air Charter – where he was given a role with actual flying duties.
However, he fared no better at this company after receiving numerous complaints for his cavalier flying style. Within a few months he found himself also being terminated from this position. Depressed, Forman made the move from Kununurra in Western Australia to Mount Isa in Queensland, hoping to find some flying work in a new town where his past indiscretions were unknown.
An image of an aircraft operated by Connair
Not much is recorded of Forman’s time in Mt Isa, although he was reportedly a member of the local aero club. It is believed that Forman began plotting his revenge on Connair while living here, although why he singled out this past employer amongst the others that had fired him remains unclear to this day. Ultimately, in January of 1977, Forman decided upon an action that would leave four of his former colleagues dead. Investigators who raided Forman’s flat in Mt Isa in the aftermath of the crash would discover grim evidence linked to the crime. Forman had trashed the contents of his rented property, and built what was described by some sources as an ‘altar’.
Atop this altar lay a few mementos of his time as a pilot, including a trophy he’d won for topping his class at an aviation academy. Far more disturbing was his pilot’s log book, which lay open with the details of the suicide mission he planned to fly into Connair’s offices, and the words: “The End”. Forman would leave Mt Isa and make the long journey by road to Wyndham in Western Australia, a 22 hour drive.
It was here that Forman knew he’d be able to steal a much larger plane than those available at Mt Isa – and much better for his evil plan. Arriving in the early hours of January 5, 1977, Forman first tried to steal a large plane belonging to the Royal Flying Doctor’s Service; however, he failed to get both engines running and abandoned it on the tarmac. The next largest plane at the field was a Beechcraft Baron; a far smaller craft, but still suitable for his purposes. Once in the air, there was little that could be done to foil Forman’s plan. He covered the distance from Wyndham to Alice Springs in four hours, but then spent an hour flying pointless circles to waste time. His reasoning, investigators believe, was to strike at 10:00AM – the usual morning break time – and thus maximize the potential casualties.
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