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At 09:37:00 Mike announced that they were picking up icing again. This could only mean they were back in damp air again (cloud) and as they had remained above freezing level since he first complained of ice, this would mean that they were collecting more ice – probably now over the windscreen and hence why he had noticed.

Seven seconds later he gave his altitude as seven and a half. FIS 5 then asked what his endurance was, and from the first time I read this, I've always thought his reply back, “We’re having strife up here, um, we’ve got plenty of end...” was like he was meaning “I'm under a lot of pressure here. Give me a break and stop asking stupid questions!” The mere fact that he cut the message short shows that he had better things to do.

From here the flight all seems to ‘turn to custard’. The impression you first get is that MDX was falling out of the sky, but I'm not sure this was the case. To demonstrate this, I've worked out a novel method to hopefully show what I think happened over the period of 7500 ft down to the last call of 5000:

The red line is the track to Forster. The yellow line is the line made necessary to show the ground profile along the bottom, in other words the profile shows the ground heights along this line. I have zoomed Google Earth accordingly to keep the yellow line on par with the profile to make it easier to understand and of course the yellow pins and labels are the calculated positions of MDX at the times shown (a timeline) and a comment of the transmission to help you recognise the spot.

If you now ignore the Google Earth image and just treat it as a background on a scaled chart, the blue line is a rough scaled depiction of the height above the terrain shown in the profile box and I've tried to depict how MDX was actually flying with the updraughts and downdraughts. Of course, like the media, you normally only hear the bad news, and in this case Mike was only reporting the times he was freaking... going down rapidly. It would have been stupid to call up saying he was in an updraught!  The only time he reported anything to indicate an updraught was with the hint of it being like a yo-yo, but of course it was not possible for us to know that was what he meant until we understood what the terrain was like that he was flying over.  

I have shown the last descent to 5000 ft on the above depiction, but of course this may not be the case and not as steep as he may not have gone back up as high before this descent – especially if he was getting heavier with more ice build up. The point I am trying to demonstrate is that there should have been quite a strong updraught in that area just before the descent to 5000.

At the point that Mike screamed “5000” he was actually still above the highest surrounding terrain on his track by at least 2000 ft and so although he was at that point going down fast, so long as he was able to remain above 3000 ft and remain on track he would have been safe. He had just been rightly told by the Controllers that the safest altitude in the Barrington Tops was 6000 ft and he was now at 5000 ft! At that point the tone of his voice was that he was in complete terror expecting to die any second.... and who could blame him. The problem from then on was that he would not have been thinking logically...

Fear has a strange effect on people. Some go into a survival mode, others just freeze up and refuse to accept it. Yet again, others just panic and start doing totally irrational things.

In actual fact, not that it matters all that much, when he thought he was at 5000 ft it is quite possible he was actually at 5100 ft as the air pressure had changed 3 millibar since Coolangatta which equates to almost 100 ft difference in height. I could find no record of him being told by a Controller the area QNH which would have corrected the situation. At 5000 ft, he was somewhere in the region of 1500 ft below freezing level and the ice would have been very quickly disappearing. When I was in the C172 with a thick coating of ice completely over the whole windscreen, - to the point that we were nearly on full elevator to maintain height! - we asked for a clearance to descend lower and within 1000 ft all the ice was gone off the windscreen with just a little left on the struts. With the huge volumes of warm air flowing over the airframe, the ice melts very quickly. Hence it is very possible that MDX recovered from this descent and flew further, and if so, where is it now, and why did it obviously crash?

 

 

 

 

MDX pg 22

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