Finally the last one observing a low flying plane was at Upper Rouchel.
It was observed for a brief time through a thin layer of cloud, thin enough to make out the lights and once again it was at a very low height, The lady estimated the cloud base was around 100 ft above their house and she initially thought it was going to land in their paddock. She observed that it came from the north and as it passed over, it turned east, although this does not necessarily mean that it traveled east from there as it may have been simply weaving around banks of cloud. Other people living close by also heard it.
The curved red line turning towards Upper Rouchel is only an estimated guess determined by ‘flying’ the low lying areas to avoid the high ground.
Where it flew from here is anyone’s guess as there are no further reports of a “low flying” aircraft that I am aware of. This may well have been as a result of reports south of there simply being ignored as it didn’t fit the believed scenario of it having crashed up in the Barringtons.
As you can see, if this low flying plane was MDX (no reason to think otherwise) it appears quite obvious that they had become boxed in by the weather conditions at the time. Mike earlier had made it quite obvious that his preferred option was to continue to Singleton and then to Bankstown and when he was faced with a snow storm blocking their way to Tamworth, he then had only one last resort option left... attempt to get through to Singleton even if it meant entering cloud. As there was no further options available, he had no choice. This course down to Upper Rouchel is in the direction of Singleton.
As you know, there were two Navigational Instruments still operating in MDX. The
ADF and the VOR. By this time I’m sure Mike would have worked out why his ADF had
been swinging as he would have no doubt at some point observed the electrical storm
and so was prepared to trust it again... maybe?
West Maitland had VOR facilities and Singleton had an ADF beacon (NDB).
If Mike had no option but to enter cloud, then surely he would have beamed in on one of these?
If this was the point that he entered cloud and was unable to out climb the terrain, then they should in theory be found along one of these lines, but there is no guarantee they did crash at this point. They may well have made it to Singleton and disappeared somewhere between Singleton and Bankstown! Without any means of communication, there was no way of letting anyone know they were still in the air short of setting off the Emergency Locator Beacon, but if that was possible and even if they did, it would have shown up with RCC as being a moving target... obviously just someone flying with a faulty unit, and ignored!
You may have noticed that I have left some of the times out of these reports, and that is for a reason.
In all the years I have been examining witness reports, I have found time and time
again the inaccuracy of the times given as people are trying (as Alan Wheeler admitted)
to remember back to what the time may have been. In the case of the bulldozer driver,
he put the time to the usual time that he stopped for dinner, but I have not yet
seen earthmoving drivers stop to a timetable!!! It’s generally when the next pile
of dirt has been moved, and then the next one, until such time they are so hungry
or thirsty they have to stop – or drop! Hence why I say the time given by this observer
(and many others) was media driven. His normal time to stop fitted in with the media
time published of MDX being in the area of Taree when it was at 5000 ft. However,
in his case, you’ll note that the end of his shift was 12.00 pm, so in actual fact
with an 8 hr work day (+ 1/2 hour for lunch break) would presumably place his meal
break at the earliest of 7:30 to 8:00 pm, and so quite likely at about the calculated
time that this plane was seen.
Observer times are to be taken more of a curiosity value... unless they can prove it by some other means.
I think the biggest obstacle in trying to find what happened on that fateful night has been that it appears that MDX flew a similar course around the Barringtons not once, but twice... the first at high altitude, the second at low... so hence why I call it bizaare! Due to this, (if I am correct) as you can see there has been huge potential for much confusion.
MDX pg 68