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The green line gives an indication of the profile of the ridge at right angles to the track and the wind was blowing from the bottom towards the top of the image (tailwind). Note the height of this peak being at 3756 ft which is closing the gap towards the height MDX was at – meaning more turbulence effect for them. I’ve flown in conditions like this at about the same height above the terrain and the plane was all over the place. One minute you would be going upwards with the tail yawing around, then downwards with the tail going the other way, wings rolling left and right, tail dropping causing a nose high position, then dropping pointing towards the ground... all over the place! Frightening at first, but quite fun after an hour or so.

It needs to be remembered that MDX had a wing leveler (early model Autopilot [A/P]) so every time a wing would drop the A/P would pick the wing up using the ailerons in an attempt to keep the wings level. Every time the aileron would deflect, the aircraft would yaw in the direction of the downwards angling aileron and with no automatic compensating rudder, this would cause even more yawing of the aircraft, hence it would be very easy to understand the compass swinging all over the place. As this was Mike's last instrument he felt he could rely on to give a direction, you could understand his concern. He did however have the VOR and he could have beamed in on West Maitland or Williamtown as there were VOR Nav-aids at both those places, but it appears he had lost faith in both his ADF and VOR due to what was happening with his ADF... Remember also my belief earlier that he had no intention of going to West Maitland? I once lost faith in a magnetic compass as I was in a plane that everything seemed ‘stuffed’, only to find out later that the compass was right and I was wrong! We were caught up in Mountain Valleys that we didn’t have enough power to climb out of (exhaust baffle had collapsed partially blocking the exhaust outlet... no power), but eventually found a way out... Lesson learnt - even if everything else is stuffed... Trust your compass!

After having a chat with our local Avionics engineer, he said that if they were in severe turbulence,  the Autopilot has a slight delay built into the system which is designed to give it a chance to work out if the sensed wing drop is genuine or not, so he said it was possible that the A/P could have got into a situation where it couldn't keep up. If this was the case, then he said it could very possibly be why the plane was “all over the place”.

S1 – WLM:      Well, he's on a heading of 150 mate, he's all over the place.

There was a lot of belief that this “all over the place” was actually MDX in a spiral dive, but if the A/P was still engaged, this is very unlikely to have happened. You need a wing down to be in a spiral... Something a wingleveler would not allow to happen.

As to the heading of 150°M in the above tranmission between S1 and WLM,  Sector One would have only said it as it was the last heading instruction that was given to MDX and he would have presumed that Mike was still on that heading (even though he was puzzled by why MDX had appeared to turn towards the east). It is also worthy of note that the comment of, “he's all over the place” was said around 26 seconds (3 x radar paints) after Mike complained of his “compass swinging like blazes” - and there was maybe a couple of extra paints before Mike commented on it. This compass swinging may have only gone on for a short time until they were well clear of the turbulence coming off the mountain top, but we will never know. The point is, it's easy to think it did continue, but we need to keep an open-mind!


MDX pg 21

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