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Gavin Grimmer
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the Sound to be at 3500 ft at first contact. It would also mean that to enable him to get under the cloud base, he would have had to do that 20 miles north at about Big Bay, or fly out to sea to the edge of the cloud and then come back in under it. Hence the only reasonable explanation would be that he meant the tops of the cloud were at 500 ft. This is backed up by the report from the crayfisherman saying that it flew inland at Transit Beach in poor visibility conditions as it would appear that way looking upwards through a thin layer of cloud at an aeroplane above. For Ned to have needed to enter Milford Sound Inlet from the Transit Bay direction must have meant that the cloud tops also extended upwards in the form of Towering Cumulus (TCu) and he had to skirt around one to get visible access into the Sound.... (remember that he was at 3500 ft!)  There is another possible explanation for the entrance via Transit Beach, but I will get into this later in this article.

On Ned’s first radio contact with Milford, when asked what his next reporting point and estimate of the time he would be there, Ned replied, “Preservation Inlet in approximately one hour. Will call Invercargill Tower 118.5 at 1225”, and then proceeded  SW down the Arthur Valley. I believe his intention at that point was to show his passengers the view of the well known tourist attraction - Lake Quill and the Sutherland Falls, and then cross over into the Sutherland Sound and continue on down towards Preservation Inlet. This course would have seen them at Preservation Inlet in the one hour time frame, but not if they returned back the way they did. The fact that they did return back over Milford and out to the coast from there, indicates that the cloud base was obviously too low to cross over into the Sutherland Sound, however it does make it possible to get a fairly accurate estimation of the speed he was cruising at.  The distance from his first contact with Milford (entrance of the Sound) to the second contact (overhead Milford -1138) is approx. 26 n.miles and this was covered in 13 minutes = 120 knots. (On their flight from Tairei to overhead Queenstown, they only averaged 110 knots). According to sites on the Internet, the Cherokee Six has a cruise of 135 knots,  but this is in ideal conditions. Ned may have kept the speed down due to the marginal weather.

My belief is that after leaving the Sound, Ned proceeded down the coast until he found that the weather was too bad to continue, and that would have been somewhere in the vicinity just north of where the fishing boat “Ranginui”, (¼ mile out from the mouth of the George Sound) reported that there had been continuous heavy rain, visibility down to 200 metres, and a cloud base down to an estimated 100 ft... No pilot would even consider pushing ahead in conditions like that, especially with fare paying passengers aboard! Somewhere north of this position, Ned would have turned around and headed back up the coast. The distance from “overhead Milford” to just north of George Sound is in the region of 35 n.miles.

Once he had resigned to the fact that they were best to return home, I believe that he would have flown past the entrance to Milford Sound and attempted to get back across the Divide via the Hollyford Valley. For those that have read my book, one theory I had at that time was that he mistook the Kaipo Valley entrance for the entrance into Martins Bay/Lake McKerrow/ Hollyford Valley as in poor weather conditions it is very deceptive trying to determine distances, and the coastline of the Kaipo shown on the map is similar to Martins Bay.... Trust me, I’ve made that very mistake!

However, as with the Milford Sound entrance (mentioned earlier) there is another explanation.


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