If Ryan had flown on a direct course to Glenthorne Station, then from Jackie Gurdan’s position he would have been over mountainous terrain for 13 ½ n.miles (7 mins flying time) before he reached the lower lying flats of the Wilberforce River that flows down toward Lake Coleridge, - definitely the best direction to fly due to being the least time over dangerous terrain - but as we know by the observers at Lake Coleridge, the whole valley was covered in cloud.
We also suspect that his fuel reserves were by then probably getting low. If his motor cut out somewhere close to Glenthorne, then he may have considered it safe to descend down through the cloud so long as he stayed on that heading, as it would take him further down the valley towards lower lying ground. - Not really a good option but probably the best available in the circumstances. So long as the cloud didn’t go right to the ground, he could hopefully carry out a successful forced landing below it.
If he had done this, the observers may not have heard him passing overhead as by then he may well have been gliding with no motor running, but I’m sure someone would have seen him,or at least heard the splash if he ditched into Lake Coleridge. If he had made it further down the valley, to the lower lying ground, then he wouldn’t still be missing.
The fact that the only aeroplane motor heard was to the NW of Lake Coleridge tends to rule this possibility out anyway.
Frank Prouting said that he tried to pass on to Ryan all the safe Mountain Flying techniques that he had been taught by his old time pilot/instructor Paul Beauchamp Legg, a person who would probably know more about mountain flying than anyone left alive.
Frank said that he advised Ryan that if he was in a situation above cloud, only continue if there is a visible mountain range that you could land on and then if the motor quit, always try to land on a ridge - never attempt to go down through the cloud. Good advise, as you have a better chance of survival landing on something you can see and can flare the aeroplane to lessen the angle of impact.
The top GE image above is from above Browning Pass looking east at an ‘eye’ level of 10,200 ft, with the top of the simulated ‘clouds’ at 7100 ft. And the second image is the same shot but without the cloud simulation. The Wilberforce River is shown on the lower right.
I know if I was in this situation above cloud, I would head for the area where the most “stepping stones” are, (I’ve done this in the past) and I’m sure this would be the same place Ryan would have headed for if he found the eastern side of the Browning Pass was not accessible.
I’m unable to make the top of the cloud in this simulation to appear “lumpy”, but in reality, as you fly over it, sometimes you come across large holes that can’t be seen further back.
I’m sure Ryan would have been hoping for one of these.
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