see the dark hills ahead of him. This plane fits in with what I always thought... that if you knew there was a couple of planes in the cloud to the left of you at about the same height, the last thing I would do is to continue that way. I would turn right and descend. If I was in Barstow’s position, heard Reynolds say that they were returning to Westport and then lost sight of them in cloud, I would turn the opposite way, descend at least a 1000’ and turn on a heading that was less than the reciprical 300°M that you knew Reynolds was using.
Another possibility of the plane that Leo Bell heard heading west across the Lower Inangahura Valley could have been Reynolds if he had broken away from Reeves in the area of Denniston and flown back under the cloud to the Inangahura Crossing area to see if he could spot wreckage, if he had suspected that what had happened to Barstow was as I have proposed? He had just enough time to do a circuit of the Inangahura Valley and get back to Westport within the time frame of about 10 minutes... actually a few more minutes, but Reeves only guessed at 10 minutes. It was claimed that they had landed by 11.10 am, but in another statement claimed, that when Reynolds got on the ground he immediately called up Air Radio to contact Flying Control, Harewood, Christchurch. The records for Christchurch show that they were contacted at 11.30 am, although in that record it says that three Corsairs had landed at 11.10.
Therefore, if they were all on the ground by 11.10 am then Reynolds circled for 6 x minutes - not the 10 as thought, and if this is so, then it couldn’t have been Reynolds heard flying west in the Lower Inanahura Valley. There is reference to there being an active Aero Club in Westport at the time, although it would be doubtful if they had any planes, as any planes had to be forfeited to the Air Force for the War effort.
If Leo Bell did in fact hear Barstow and NZ5517 fly across the Lower Inangahura Valley, then the supposed sightings of it in the Berlins Bluff / Mount Galileo Area would be highly likely, although I don’t think it would have crashed on the eastern side of the range in the Inangahura Valley, as surely someone would have heard the crash?
There is a faint possibility that the supposed sighting of it being in the New Creek / Slate Creek area, but that would be if Barstow didn’t recover from a spiral dive...not from flying into the area while below cloud, and certainly not survivable as some reports have suggested.... according to the information I have at present. If he was able to fly into that area, then it was very likely he was able to fly out again given that the weather got better the further north you were. That particular area was covered in a couple of aerial searches not long after the disappearance, and I’m sure their attention would have been attracted toward the devastation to the bush if it had plowed through it - given the weight of it - in excess of 4 tons!
If it had gone in vertically?, then that would be a different matter - if in the unlikely (but not unknown) event of it not exploding on impact. If it did explode, then a resulting fire would have made it very visible. It still would have made a huge hole in the tree canopy though.
According to my calculations, Sheppard would have landed at 11.02 am
And Reeve 2 x minutes later: 11.04 am