Tekapo is around 2500’ asl (above sea level), and CSS was seen above Round Hill Ski-fields at a height of 6000’ to 7000’. Round Hill is 15 nm NE of Tekapo.
ZK-CSS was seen by several people at Round Hill, where it was recorded that he had flown past in a northerly direction and then returned back diving over the Ski-field before heading off in the direction of Mt Cook.
He had friends at the Ski-field as he had just spent several days there skiing, so it is reasonable to say he probably was ‘saying” goodbye by this action.
“Heading in the direction of Mt Cook” initially confused me as, according to eye witnesses, the weather was deteriorating around the mountain so why head that way! Other evidence seemed to indicate that he had headed north, but when you place this track on GE, it makes sense.
Observers at the top of the chair lift at Round Hill gave the weather in the area as clear, but the Alps themselves were covered in cloud. “The cloud would have been at about 8000 to 9000 feet as the higher peaks were clearly visible above the cloud from their position.” “ If the Divide was to have been crossed on that day, it could only have been crossed by going high, above the cloud, as there was continuous cloud about the tops at about 8000 to 9000 ft.” “ I could see that the Godley Valley was impenetrable VFR.”
I can’t say for sure, but in the initial searches, the Godley Valley route was ruled out due to this, but I believe this was the course Roy Turner took and you’ll understand as I continue...
Roy was already at something around 6000 ft (according to the observer) and he would have been able to see clear skies above the cloud.... Just as the observers at Round Hill could, especially so, as he was at a higher altitude.
By memory, flying above solid cloud was not legal in those days in a non IFR rated aeroplane, even if the pilot had an IFR rating. But this doesn’t mean to say that a VFR pilot wouldn’t attempt it!
Now-a-days it is legal, and in my observation this law change has probably saved many lives. I’ve had occasions where if I had attempted to cross the ranges under the cloud, that I would not be here now, but I am because I came over the top, and I know of other pilots that would say the same. When they first changed the law to allow this, many pilots were horrified, but when you think about it, what is the basic difference between a single engined IFR rated plane to a non IFR rated plane? None! They both are in dire straights if the motor quits, and that is a very rare occasion these days.
The only problem is if there is no holes in the cloud to get back down at your destination, but with the advent of cellphones where you can ring ahead for the weather conditions, this really isn’t a problem.
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