We know it did not land there, so we now need to find more witnesses that saw a low flying plane.
As you know, it was my belief that the lights out at the Coast seen by Mike when they first exited the cloud was Forster and this was the direction VH-MDX was observed on radar heading towards.... hence it is reasonable to keep looking in that direction.
(Found on Nev Dennard’s blog site): [abridged]
“My mother (a pilot in her younger years) was traveling along Coomba Road when she noticed a plane flying low over the lake (Wallis Lake) around that time. When she heard about the crash she felt it could have been the plane”
And another near Seal Rocks south of Forster: [abridged]
My husband was a dozer operator for a mining company operating at Bridge Hill Ridge near Seal Rocks in NSW. It is the highest hill down there. He was on night shift up until 12 pm. Next morning he told me about a Plane he watched on his meal break. It was a winter’s night & there was a big storm coming up. He said the plane was coming south along the coast.
The lights of Taree were on the top side of the Plane. Then it suddenly turned & went North West straight into the storm. He said he thought it must be turning back to Taree, as the Taree lights were on the North of the Plane then.
When we heard on the news about a plane going down & where they were looking, he said their in the wrong place. It went down over Mt George, Armidale area.
Neither of the people that furnished these reports have I been able to track down,
so I have not been able to find out anything further. The woman’s husband died 3
years after this event.
Tying the two of these reports together, I would put this as the course to explain these sightings:
You’ll note that there is a mile long airstrip on Wallis Island but unfortunately
it is a grass airstrip with no runway lighting. It is possible that they checked
this strip out (I was told Mike would have been aware of the existence of this strip)
but deemed it too risky to attempt landing there in the dark. From there I think
they would have likely attempted to see if it was possible to fly down the coast
and so headed south towards the bulldozer operator. The highest hill where the bulldozer
was is just over 500 ft, yet note that he said, “The lights of Taree were on the
top side of the Plane”... meaning that from his observation position, he was looking
down on it. And then again, “as the Taree lights were on the North of the Plane then.”
Herein lies a problem... Taree cannot be seen from his position as it is 35 miles away and there is a 300 ft range about 5 miles south of Taree obscuring it from view... and that is not taking into account the curvature of the Earth!
However, if there was cloud cover up at Taree, then what the Bulldozer driver could have been observing was the reflection of the lights of Taree off this cloud.
At this point, we need to step back and have another think as to why no radio calls, and why continue out to the coast rather than fly to Williamtown after in effect having an invite from WLM to enter their zone and land there? Unless we can answer these questions, it is pointless carrying on!
I now believe there was at least two good reasons to remain low and the first takes us back to the radio transmission, “just to compound things, we thought we had a cockpit fire but we seemed to have resolved that little problem.”
1/ This apparent cockpit fire could not have been much in the sense that obviously no-one got burnt. It would not have been referred to as a “little problem” if there was flame, so it had to have just been the smell of something burning. It happened after flying in rough air – just before they initially exited the cloud - and more than likely just a burnt wiring smell. The time they thought that they had resolved ‘the problem’ was when they were in clear air above the cloud where the air is smoother. In the rough air, any loose wiring could have been moving around chaffing against each other eventually causing a short and hence a burning smell. In the smooth air, this would have stopped.
Once they entered the extremely rough air in the lee of the Barrington Tops, any chaffing would have increased dramatically causing fuses to pop and very likely rob the radio of any transmitting power. When a radio is transmitting, it requires a much higher current draw – so if there is a power problem, then this is the time it will show up.
This of course could well explain the lack of further radio calls, but why then fly low?
It recently occurred to me that one of my life’s experiences could explain this and in my case was due to not being able to transmit in a Control Zone. The solution... remain low where you knew no-one else was flying! It also meant that the last place you would want to
MDX pg 64