To understand what was actually happening that day, we need to combine all the written transcripts collating the conversation times into a timeline and also collate that with the audio tape times. I have two audio digital copies of the tapes... 1 x supposedly of the last 14 minutes before the last transmission from MDX, and the other of the last 40 minutes. Unfortunately both of these ‘tapes’ have been tampered with, making things more difficult, but I think you will find that I have made a pretty good job of deciphering them using pretty sophisticated audio software that I have. I have managed to decipher virtually everything including much that had been missed or deciphered incorrectly in the original transcripts, and timed the transmissions into their correct time-slots so that it now ‘reads’ correctly. You will find it fascinating to see that you can now observe the complete ‘picture’ of what was happening at the time.
Although I think I have made a pretty good job of it, I’m not saying I have it completely correct, so if you find anything that is not right - please contact me to let me know. You will note that towards the end of the timeline, I have adjusted the times in the left column as the original transcript times simply do not add up to the timing of the audio. The audio tape times are listed on the right hand side in seconds, even though the software allows the timings to be determined in thousands of a second... but that would be just a fruitless exercise (to time to .00/sec)! The two digital tape times are shown as one being three seconds longer than the other, but I would say that is just due to +/- of the seconds timing over the length of each segment. The problem facing the correction of the official times on the left has been - which time to you base the time it to? ...The time he said, “5000”, or the time of the first radar identification... or when? I have elected to just time it from the latter, and so you will notice the times differ to the existing versions at the final transmission of MDX when Mike Hutchins says, “5000”.
This is based on the timing between when he says, “6500” to the time of “5000”. These two audio times simply do not match up with the officially accepted times, so at least one of the errors (I haven’t as yet looked for more) must be within this timeframe. As previously said, I have spent many hundreds of hours to date with this timeline... I have to get on with my life sometime!!!
You’ll note that I have tried my best to reproduce as faithful a timeline as possible... even noting the spoken times of someone attempting to calculate the times - obviously recording the original tape being played in the background - with another tape recorder to enable their voice to be heard at set intervals giving the time. I have even noted the suspicious noises that could be someone stopping and starting the tape again. Fortunately, the critical sections towards the end of the tape, needed to accurately time the final minutes appears clean of tampering.
I have also colour coded the various pilots calls to make it easier to skip through the transcript tracking their progress in their flight and so making it once again easier to build the overall ‘picture’ in your mind.
Once you have read through the timeline, you will be able to follow what I am trying to portray more easily....
Mike (MDX) initially told FIS 5 (08:50:31) that they were overhead Taree (Airport/NDB) at 08:50 (AZC was 08:45) and estimating Singleton at 30. This means they were 30 seconds (1 nm) into the changing track to RP Craven.
The timing was 1 ½ minutes (3 nm) after MDX was over Taree before FIS 5 said that he could expect an Airways clearance overhead Williamtown, so at this point Mike would have turned towards Williamtown. Why do I think he turned towards Williamtown here? Simply because 3 minutes (6 ¾ nm due to less head wind) in this direction towards WLM, Mike advised FIS 5 that he was “coming up on their Airspace pretty quickly”, and was warned to stay clear. This airspace (shown on the next page in dark blue) was known as R583A and it extended from ground level up to 10,000 ft.
At this point being virtually right on the boundary of their airspace (if not just inside it), he would have no option but to go into an orbit in the hope of not having to wait too long for the clearance. 1 ½ minutes later (another 3 nm travelled) he would have achieved ¾ of an orbit (270°) of a rate one turn (2 mins for 360°) in which Mike grew tired of waiting for a clearance that may never come and informed FIS 5 that they would instead go via Craven.
He revised an extended ETA time to Craven from 09:10 (flight plan 20 mins = 08:50 + 20) to 09:14. The time was just past 08:58 when he re-estimated Craven and so working on 2 minutes a mile on that leg as per his Flight Plan (41 nm in 20 mins) means Mike thought they were about 33 nm away from Craven at that point:
MDX pg 5