You’ll note that this hill blends in the ridge behind it. It also needs to be remembered that this was all observed in the dark and the only way of knowing what was hill and what was sky was from the stars that would have been visible above the ridgeline.
From this position, what may have appeared to have gone over this ridge may not have actually been the case. Hence the need to determine as best as possible the direction MDX had to have come from to enable any possibility of pinpointing where it may have crashed.
As per my previous article, the best scenario going by the available eye-witness accounts was the “Father and Son” account, plus the “Nebo” one, and then as plotted in the previous article, the drift across to this area.
There are still a couple of factors that are needed to accurately determine the outcome, but unfortunately I don’t think we will ever know for sure until such time as MDX is found.
Obviously the first is the height that it entered this valley, and the second is whether the engine was still going and producing any sort of power or not.
Let me explain...
As we know, Mike had verbally displayed his terror on his last 5000 ft call..,. and who could blame him after being told that the lowest safe altitude was 6000 ft.
I’m not in anyway blaming the Controller for this, as it was his job to point this out to the pilot.... so what he did was the correct thing to do.
The point I’m making is that passengers confidence is determined by the calmness of the pilot. If the pilot has lost it, you can be damn sure the passengers are going to totally lose it also.
I also must point out here that this was not something I had thought of at the time, but something that was inadvertently pointed out in Richard’s VH-MDX blogsite... such is the importance of collective input.... the more minds working on the subject - the better!
The stress level when they popped out of the cloud would have been enormous and obviously one of the major contributing factors in the apparent change of heart to discontinue the Flight Plan and get on the ground as quickly as possible... to the nearest lit runway (WLM.)... I know I would have felt exactly the same if I was in the same situation.
Maybe this out-of-control (freaking out) passenger situation continued and was the cause of the eventual crash?
The easiest way to distract a pilot and take his mind off flying the aeroplane is to have stressed out and maybe sick passengers... believe me, I’ve been there... at least to the point of an extremely emotional passenger....
If this was the case, the cause of the crash could have simply been due to Mike not noticing that they were descending until it was too late.
Then from the F&S and Nebo sightings – if you continue a constant drift from that position, it will give you the direction it entered the valley.
This overlay shown in the image below has been determined by the width of the entrance to that valley.
In this next image on the next page, although I have not attempted to calculate the accuracy, I have depicted what could have happened had the engine been giving problems and had completely failed at about the point where the course changes. The reason for the change in course is with the engine running and delivering power, it would have tended to hold off the amount of drift somewhat, but the minute it would have lost power, it would have then been totally at the mercy of the wind, and so if the nose was still pointed towards Newcastle, or the WLM NDB, then it would have tended to have come into this valley at a much different angle, and so could alter the search area quite a bit.
MDX pg 43