Once again, I need to acknowledge the hard work of Jesse Miller, Don Readford, Nev Dennard, Glen Strkalj, Martin Dalmazzo, Matthew Hoy, and many others (some don’t wish to be named) for the collections of these witness reports, for without them this article would not be possible.... and of course the faithful members of our team of volunteers who have shown endless faith in my abilities and helped out whenever needed in all eagerness.
In particular, Jesse Miller as he has had the enthusiasm to actively go out and chase
up reports from observers and collate much of what has already been bought forward.
He has interviewed many people over the years and really we are greatly indebted
to him. I’m at a loss being on the ‘other side of the ditch’ - living here in New
Zealand. If I lived over there, I would have been out door knocking myself.....
Without the help of Jesse, quite frankly I would have virtually nothing to go on, so full marks to Jesse! I guess after reading Don Readford’s book, the same also applies to him, although this is the only ‘contact’ I have had from him, so this is all I can go by.
Unless some more information comes to light, I would say this will be my last report
on MDX as quite simply, to be honest, I wouldn’t have a clue where to go from here!!
However there is always the hope that as a result of this report that someone will now come forward with information that was either ignored, or never presented, as what they observed was too far away from where everyone thought MDX to be.... somewhere south of Upper Rouchel.
A big majority of the other sightings that I have not covered in any of my articles,
I believe were either of ESV or other searching aircraft such as the Boeing 747 QF26,
the Fokker Friendship F27 VH-FCD, and of course the NSW Police helicopter that descended
and over flew the area. They were very unusual events, and at that point of time
the media was not aware that there was a plane that had gone missing, so many would
have seen these airliners and wondered.
As previously mentioned, Cessna 402 VH-ESV took off on the search at 8:45 pm and was flying around the Barrington area for a period of two hours (10:45) - covering a track distance of some 400 nm, so it would have been responsible for many of the observations, although I very much doubt any of these “low level” events would have been of it. According to the pilot of ESV, he flew around the area at 6000 ft.
If we consider that the plane was maybe slowed down to a better speed for rough air and obstacle avoidance... say 120 kts, this very roughly calculates as:
Jimmy Clair sighting 7:45
Cabbage Tree Mountain 7:49
South Coolongolook 7:55
Leaving Wallis Lake 8:03
Alan Wheeler’s 8:20
Top of Mt George Valley 8:48
Tomalla/Ellerston 9:38 (presuming 1/2 hr circling Tamworth)
Upper Rouchel 9:52
I say “very roughly” as it is more of an estimation than a calculation as the wind speeds at this low level are not known, and we are only ‘second guessing’ that Mike continued on a slow speed, so it is pointless to try to be more accurate.
MDX had 89 US gallons of fuel on board (full tanks) when it left Coolangatta at 5:02
Local time. At a burn rate of 15.33 gals/hr burn rate (according to Flight Plan)
they had enough to last 5 hours 54 mins total time and so this would put it as having
been in the air for something like 4 hrs 50 mins...
If they had been flying for this long, it is quite possible the emphasis had changed from a priority of getting to Bankstown - to that of finding a place to take on more fuel... not to mention a toilet break! WLM had said they would leave the landing lights on at West Maitland, so this would be an obvious place to head for. However, with WLM thinking that VH-MDX had crashed up in the Barringtons, it is quite likely they had by then turned them off? If the radio had failed in MDX (as I believe it had), then Mike had no way he could call to ask them to turn them on again.
I note in John Killingback’s report - a Flight Instructor from Cessnock, (flying at the time MDX was up in the Barringtons, who was flying near Singleton) said the tops of the cloud cover that started west of Scone (and as far as he could tell extended to Nelson Bay) were about 7500 ft and the base 3500 ft. According to a person I know that has spoken to him, his opinion after talking to him, the area not far south (2 to 3 nm) of Upper Rouchel was clear of cloud.
The highest area south of Upper Rouchel is all under 2000’, so if the cloud base was still at height, MDX could have easily made it through. The people at Upper Rouchel believed that the plane they heard had turned east, but as previously mentioned, that could have easily just been a case of it weaving through low lying cloud, or even turned from the heading it was on approaching Upper Rouchel and turning towards the West Maitland, or Singleton beacons. Sound can play funny ‘tricks’ on an observer if there is anything for it to bounce off. Just Google the question and see for yourself.
If they made Singleton, then they may well be found somewhere along the original
flight planned course SGT – MQD – HWK – BK, or anywhere off that track in the direction
of where they may have been able to obtain fuel.
With this in mind, I now suspect the final reason for their disappearance was simply
due to running out of fuel... in an area no-one has yet been.... or maybe it has
already been seen, but believed to have been a known wreck and so not reported (not
linked to MDX as that supposedly disappeared in the Barringtons!).
As said above, unless some more information comes to light, this may be the last report you hear from me, so from now on it is all up to you... my friends in Australia.
Hopefully I have been of help to eventually finding these lost souls and giving the families their much needed finality.
As at the time of publishing this long overdue Report, it is Christmas Eve so Merry Christmas everybody!!!
MDX pg 69