Update 15th October 2013
I have heard from a couple of reliable sources that the belief at the time was that Paul had flown out to sea and that was why he was never found (sound familiar?... the usual conclusion when a plane can’t be found!). I eventually found out that the theory originated from a sighting of a plane heading out to sea at Port Waikato. I initially thought that maybe what was seen was a Tomahawk that belonged to one of the Aero Clubs such as New Plymouth, Hawera, or Wanganui, and after a bit of help from Aviation Historian Peter Layne I found that the only Club down there that owned Tomahawks at the time was Wanganui: ZK-EIK & EIT. Interestingly, ZK-EIT tragically crashed into the sea out from Wanganui killing the student pilot exactly 6 months after the disappearance of ZK-WAC (7 Jan 1982 - 7 June 1982). The accident report concluded:
" 3.8 Probable cause. The probable cause of this accident was a loss of control of the aircraft following the in-flight separation of the left flange from the elevator torque tube."
After a while of mulling all this over, the thought occurred to me that included in the original search files, there was an Aircraft Movement Report at Auckland Airport NZAA (Mangere) on the 7th Jan 1982, and after perusing it, I found there was an aircraft that came in from New Plymouth landing at 1804 and took off again on a return trip to New Plymouth 16 minutes later at 1820. This aircraft was a PA32 Piper Cherokee Six ZK-DQY owned and operated by Nationwide Aviation based at New Plymouth.
With Port Waikato being around 11 minutes flying time away from NZAA this would mean that it was overhead Port Waikato at 1753 heading north, and 1831 heading south.
You’ll note that the direct course to New Plymouth shown in the Google Earth image below, places this flight directly over Port Waikato.
With this information in mind, take note of these reports (all from Port Waikato):
1/ Saw small engined plane, erratic engine noise, coming from Port Waikato, heading Manakau Harbour.
2/ Heard single engine, low level, guess as 1000’, didn’t see, gusty at times.
3/ Very low, no ID, Very stormy, flew over Port Waikato, then very low inland over river.
4/ Definitely Tomahawk (son flies one), going south under low cloud, (-nil abnormal mentioned), - very heavy
storm cloud - flew into it.
The first three reports were all obviously of ZK-DQY heading north i.e.:
Report 1 by the content, but time was way off - 1905.
Report 2 by the time given: - sometime between 1645 to 1800
Report 3 by the content and time given: - 1730
Report 4 was obviously of ZK-DQY heading south:
By the content and time given: - sometime between 1830 to 1900
I've found from many experiences in the course of my years of research, that people who try to
remember something that they had no reason to remember at the time it happened, that they can
be a long way out with their times - even sometimes recall things that happened on a different day,
and yet are quite sure it was that occasion! The memories very quickly get muddled up.
If they have something to remind them of what time they saw it - such as while they were having tea
and they always have tea at such and such a time, then that is how they relate to it.
If they happen to have tea at a slightly different time on the particular day - they probably won't
remember that... so timings can normally only be taken as an estimate (generalisation), and cannot
therefore be counted on for accuracy.
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