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Knowing that the cloud base was somewhere in the 3000’ range just before the coast, if you put the plane in a gentle descent, you would eventually come out in the clear.  In those days, for navigation they mainly used direction (compass) and timing (stop watch). Barstow would have known that they had climbed into cloud about 5 to 6 minutes prior and so if he allowed roughly the same time from the middle of the turn, or even simply descended at the same, or less, than their climb rate in (2000’/min) , technically he would end up somewhere near the coast. So long as he remained above 3000’ for that period, then he should be safe. The only problem with that is that he was not heading back the way he thought he was! As we don’t know for sure whereabouts he  lost sight of the others in the turn, I have calculated the extremities of the likelihood of the tracks shown in the image below in white and orange. The distance he travelled in a northerly direction after the turn is immaterial as it cancels out with the time spent returning, so doesn’t alter the outcome of the equation.

The light blue line shown above is about the distance that he thought he would be safe to be at 3000’ and expected to pop out of the cloud at any moment. Note the position of where Leo Bell was in relation to all this in regards to his observation. The white line crosses the Lower Inangahura Valley, where he heard the plane travelling in the westerly direction. The other two later observations had to be other planes in the area - possibly even on a different day and his memory was ‘over-lapping.”


The thick blue line is of equal distance for the time spent heading into the cloud to the time where Barstow would have been ‘heading back out’. This is the point that he would have expected to pop back out of the cloud base at 3000’. The white shaded area shows a level of 3000’ further out on that track and graphically depicts all land that is above the 3000’ level. This view is from the east looking west and you can tell that by the Google Earth compass up in the right hand corner. The red line crossing the shaded area is a plotted area that is very unlikely that he flew north of, as if he had, he would have had enough clearance below the cloud to enable him to get back to Westport. South of that line, you’ll notice is high ground not that far in front of him.

The yellow line is of particular interest as it is the first course I plotted as in the first attempt of trying to explain it graphically in this article as shown below as a white line.

I spend an enormous amount of time trying to work out methods to portray what I’m trying to say that is easy to understand, so I hope you enjoy my efforts? I just wish there was easier methods!....

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