This Site is dedicated to all those families of the people that have tragically disappeared on flights in and around New Zealand. I  only hope that from all the effort in building this site and from all the effort of those taking part in this venture, that it will bear fruit in bringing ‘closure’ to their memories!
Gavin Grimmer
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On the basis that Barstow’s radio was totally U/S (unserviceable. not working), and if we give Barstow full credit of being able to manage a Corsair in cloud on instruments, then here is what I think would most likely have happened:

I’m told by very experienced formation flying pilots, that when you are flying in formation whether in or out of cloud, you do not have a horizon to fly to... the leading plane is your horizon... you could be upside down for all you know. I’m also told that if the formation gently turned in cloud without you being told by radio that you were turning, you would not even know.!

Barstow would have noticed Sheppard falling back in the formation (as reported by Reeve) and then see him disappear into the cloud to the left (port). Then a couple of minutes later was taken by surprise when Reynolds and Reeve unexpectedly skidded off to the left leaving him totally in white-out conditions. He would have obviously tried to stay with them but fell behind before he could get the power on. The turn being a gentle one (as Reeve stated), he wouldn’t even realise that they were turning! Once he lost sight of Reynolds, the last thing he would do is to apply power to increase speed in case he crashed into him! Remember that his logbook showed that on a previous occasion, he had actually had a collision with another aircraft in the formation - obviously not bad enough to cause them to crash (at least not Barstow), but enough to make him very wary. I’ve personally been in clean, clear air and tried to formate on other planes and been really surprised as one minute they seem to be a long way away, you apply plenty of power to catch up, and before you know it you have gone right past them! He probably then leveled off to give separation knowing that they were still climbing, concentrated on his instruments, continuing on the compass heading to keep a constant heading of which direction it was showing when he lost sight of them. The only problem was that he would then have thought that the compass heading he was presently on, was what he had to do a reciprocal on to get back to the coast, not realising that they had turned! Flying straight and level would give him time to think (i.e. remaining briefly on that course). If you take the difference between Reynolds’ account and Reeve’s account, the ‘halfway round the turn” would have placed Barstow on a heading of anywhere between 040°M to 085°M (roughly 1/4 to 1/2 way round the turn and allowing for skidding).  Knowing that there was at least one other Corsair somewhere in the cloud off to the left of him as per Sheppard falling back and then turning away, he would have come to the conclusion that Sheppard was having some sort of difficulty. So what was he to do? Continue on to Christchurch only to find that the others had returned to Westport also, or return to Westport and then find they had sorted the problem out and showed up in Christchurch without him?... What a dilemma!  What if Sheppard had gone down in the bush covered mountains below them and needed to be found in a hurry? If he was in Christchurch, he would have been stuck there and not in a position to help. No... better off to return to Westport - it being only a few minutes flying time away - and see if he could meet up with the others there, be it if they were still airborne (and in clean air and visible) or on the ground. As they were somewhere off to the left, the last thing he’d want to do was ‘bump’ into them, so safer to turn right.... gently does it.  The most likely place a person is likely to lose control of a plane flying on instruments is in a turn as the bodily senses are trying to deal with the change in direction... hence you are taught ‘no sudden control movements!’ Hence Barstow’s turn may well have covered quite a wide arc, or was able to handle a rate one turn - seeing as he was not a very experienced instrument flyer - only had 30 hrs.... and none in the Corsair! Turn to the reciprocal heading and that would take him back out to the coast where they had left from.... or so he thought!  With no functioning radio, he wouldn’t have heard Reynolds give the reciprocal direction of 300°M, in fact he had no reason to even look at the compass heading they were on before he got left behind, (he had no need to... simply follow the leader!) So he would have taken the only option of flying a reciprocal heading to the one he noticed just after he was left on his own.  Actually, there were other options, such as keep climbing to get out on top of the cloud and then sort things out, or simply turn onto a heading of 270°M (West) as eventually you would end up on the coast, but due to the stress of the moment, I’m sure he would have got tunnel vision (as spoken in more detail about elsewhere in this website) and he simply focused entirely on a reciprocal which was a westerly direction anyway.

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