This Site is dedicated to all those families of the people that have tragically disappeared on flights in and around New Zealand. I only hope that from all the effort in building this site and from all the effort of those taking part in this venture, that it will bear fruit in bringing ‘closure’ to their memories!
Of the airstrips that I know of between Bruce Bay and Ross, there is one just south of the bridge at Karangarua, two at Fox, two at Franz Josef, one at Okarito, one at Harihari, and one at Gribben Flat in the Mikonui River.
Of all of these strips, the most likely one that Ryan could have landed and taken off again without being noticed by someone was the strip seven n.miles up the Mikonui River at Gribben Flat, but as the distance inland of this strip makes it further than Ross, we can safely rule this strip out.. After a lengthy conversation with a person that lives in Ross, I came to realise that there might be another possibility.
I remember talking to someone in Ross a year or two ago, and the impression I got in my mind was that this plane was climbing as though it had just taken off. At the time I searched all around the corner from Ross, (on Google Earth) back down the coast looking for a suitable airstrip that would fit this scenario, but came up fruitless. A person living in Ross recently told me there is a strip not that far north of Ross known as Butler’s strip. I checked with the owners of this strip and they said that no-one landed there that day, so this eliminated that remote possibility.
Another possibility is that Ryan landed somewhere on the beach between Bruce Bay and Ross.
I checked the Niwa tide times for that day and found that in that area, it was low tide at 11.41am and high tide at 5.56pm, so it is possible that he landed on the beach sometime after 2.40pm and was forced to take off again at 4.30pm or so, as the tide was coming in.
The Ross resident said there was a nasty southerly front that arrived at about 5.30pm. After a little thought, I came up with a theory that this was the same front that Ryan was confronted with south of Haast. This calculates as this front moving up the coast at an average speed of 35 knots (about 70 kmh). The front would have been in the region of Whataroa by 4.30pm, so this also could have been a reason for him to have been forced to get airborne again..
The standard gas capacity is 220/240 litres total for the 1953-56 C180 models. It said 240 on a Spec. Sheet (and 200 useable) shown on the Web, yet in the photo below of the same model C180, it says 110 litres per tank....? Which one is correct - I don’t know?
ZK-FMQ was a 1955 model and it was confirmed that FMQ still had these sized tanks by research done by Tom McCready a few years ago. Of this 220/240 litres, you could only count on 200 litres as being useable due to inefficiencies in the fuel tank system. For flight planning purposes, 60 litres/hr is used, although I know of a similar model C180 with the same model engine that has a certified fuel flow metering gauge that records it as burning 52 litres/hr, but that is only in the cruise, so 60 litres would be a good overall figure to use. This would make Ryan’s total fuel endurance time to being 3hrs 20 mins.
He was known on occasions to divert if the weather was bad in the Haast region, to Fox or Franz Josef, and as Fox has no fuel, then another possibility is that he landed at Franz, without anyone noticing.
Franz Josef Aerodrome, owned by Richard Rayward (Air Safaris) is quite a busy tourist airstrip, and if the local residents are anything like me, they ‘turn off’ to the sound of aircraft coming and going (I live on the edge of Bridge Pa Aerodrome, Hastings).
Although Ryan was meant to have filled up 3 or 4, 20 litre containers with Avgas in West Melton, no-one knows for sure if this was done as no-one saw him load them, but as we know that for him to remain airborne for as long as Bruce Bay, then this surely indicates that he at least refuelled the plane, so to not fill the containers as well would seem strange?
If he had landed on a beach, he would have had a very difficult time getting these containers and himself up on top of the wing and an even more difficult time trying to pour the fuel in, but then again, given the time it took for him to get to Ross, maybe he built a ramp/ladder (or the like) out