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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Another pilot friend of mine, after perusing the files, wrote this about this disappearance (edited , paraphrased, and abridged):

 

Hello Gavin,

 

First of all, a few details about the Cherokee Six..
This aircraft is a very robust light aircraft with some very sound design features. The Cherokee is rugged. Accidents show it doesn’t burn easily. There is good reason for that. Beyond the Cherokee 6 firewall is a luggage locker which puts the engine and a fire well away from the cockpit. The wing carries 4 fuel tanks which makes for a very robust and ridged wing. The Cherokee sheds its wheels well in a crash which is also useful.

The most important point about a crash in any low wing aircraft is that the doors can jam locked due to fuselage compression. The procedure in an emergency landing is to un-lock the door with the upper and lower lock and place a piece of clothing in the door frame to keep it ajar. In real conditions this has proven to work well. Then what are the chances of survival in a situation in a controlled crash as illustrated above? I believe 7 out of 10. In studying the Moeraki River and its small sand bar, I surely would take this on in an emergency in a Cherokee 6.

If this was a Cherokee 6 in the Moeraki area, it was seen exiting the river area and then a short time after turning back and re-entering the river area, and never seen again. The question is where did it go?  If the story that a little girl and her family were in the river area, and the little girl went looking for her dogs and discovered an aircraft wreck is true, then one must consider how the aircraft got there.

1/ It could have flown into the ground in the very bad weather.

2/ The aircraft could have stalled in a turn low to the ground.

3/ The aircraft could have suffered a mechanical problem and had no option but to land straight ahead into the bush.

I would like to relate another option:  A plane was lost on a flight from Sydney to central western New South Wales (Australia).  The country and terrain on the flight route is extremely rugged and dangerous, not to mention wild animals and poisons snakes. The pilot was found 5 days later walking out of a creek area.

What’s important about this is, the pilot stated that he was very familiar with the area and had flown across this rugged mountain area many times in marginal weather and got through, but this time the weather turned so quickly he was caught and couldn’t go forward. He turned the aircraft towards a narrow river and planned a controlled crash landing where he flew as low as possible on the water and then with flap on and power, turned left at the last minute and flared into the bush. The aircraft did not roll over or burn. The pilot, uninjured, was able to walk out.

I also saw a crashed Cherokee near Levin where the aircraft had flown into the bush trying to land in a difficult bush strip. The aircraft was damaged but the 4 people survived with minor injuries. There was no fire.

Another factor to consider is possibly one (or more) of the 6 passengers getting a little queasy and sick.  The chances of 6 passengers in an aircraft like a Cherokee 6 with poor visibility, turbulence and poor circulating air is not good. Experienced pilots have commented (and I have learnt about) during the reign of the Cherokee 6 spell out this very problem. 1 hour 30 minutes is considered more than enough for the average full cabin passenger scenario under good smooth flying conditions. The day being not exactly blue skies, but long descents, turbulence and low flying with limited visibility could well have pushed the limits of especially the 2 women. What probably could have happened is one or more would have expressed their concern to Mr. Morrison of being nauseated and squeamish. To oblige he would have had little option but to land somewhere to relieve the situation. Pilots flying Cherokee 6’s are well aware of this problem. Mr. Morrison could well have used the Nickelspoon mining strip. However tension could have occurred if he explained that he didn't have the com's to alert someone they were there. On that basis he would have had to convince them they should get in and have another go at reaching a safe destination. Haast would be the most likely place.
I would say he tried Haast but couldn’t get in due to poor visibility from the low cloud. He then realises he has bought himself a trap he never wanted to get into in the first place.  He’s managed to somehow get under the low lying cloud in the Moeraki area, fly out to the coast, found the cloud virtually down to the deck so flew back into the river.
 Further in from the Moeraki River mouth, he positions the aeroplane for a rough terrain forced landing and makes the best of the river bed and bush. As per the Australian crash mentioned above, usually the technique is to fly down the river at 30 to 50ft, then turn into the bush and keep the power on full to cut a path into the bush that will take the impact. Part of the cockpit drill is to unlock the door and put a piece of clothing in the door frame so as it can't jam shut on impact. We learnt this scenario at the CPL school at Wanganui.  I went through the same CPL school at Wanganui 2 years before Mr. Morrison.

  We then have to talk about how does a 7 year old girl identify an aeroplane?  It is always the tail - the fin and rudder. With early child-hood learning, 7 year olds talk of birds with tails, and aeroplanes have tails. They learn that at school. So when she went to look for the dogs, she saw a tailplane that confirms what has been described above in the emergency bush landing.

The fact that ZK-EBU was seen flying into the Moeraki River and not returning and the little girls sighting of an aircraft wreck point to the fact that a new search is well worth while in this area.

 

 

ZK-EBU Pg 11

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