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You’ll note the timing of the observation was “just after 1700” which is pretty close considering that this person was having to remember something he saw, that at the time of observation, there was no way of him knowing that there was any reason to take note of it. He probably recalled seeing it just after he had finished at his workplace for the day.

He recalled that it was a high tail aircraft, heading towards Ponga Hill.  Paul departed Ardmore on runway 21 and standard procedure is to do a left hand turn at 500 ft, so this would place him pretty much exactly where this observation described. .

Overdue action is not considered until the aircraft is 30 minutes past it’s ETA (hence 1921)

Due to the Controller’s error in the expected time back, no-one was alarmed when Paul Clarke and ZK-WAC did not return at the end of the allotted one hour time frame...  in fact overdue action was not activated until 2030, when the Waitamata Aero Club realised one of it’s planes was missing!

The CFI of the Aero Club dispatched  Piper Cherokee ZK-DSK at 2035 immediately after notifying SAR to begin a search, and this aircraft searched until nightfall (2115) but saw nothing of ZK-WAC.

The official search started at 0600 the next morning and continued during daylight hours until 1705 on the 11th January - 4 days later. Nothing was ever found.

The fact that he had only flight planned for one hour and no-one had heard a radio call from him even though there were other planes flying at the time, it would seem very unlikely that he was still flying at a later time, so this means we can safely eliminate a lot of the sightings simply by going by the time they were observed. In the likelihood of any of the sightings being correct but recalling the time incorrectly, there is no information in them that would help anyway.

In the words of one of the Aero Club Instructors that knew him well, “It’s not that Paul would have stayed over his hour - never known him to be late back.  He was a really steady chap - good fun on the ground, but careful in his flying. It’s certain he went in the first hour, not later, you can bank on it. There was no reason for him to leave the  flying area and he wouldn’t have. Especially with his retest coming up - he would have been keen to ensure he kept his standard  and he would have been practicing his stalls and emergency landings. This is why we have been practicing on the emergency field area. He wasn’t the sort to do anything stupid. I have certainly never heard a thing to his detriment. Good guy.”


Strangely, there is only one sighting out of the 50 + that you could say was very likely to have been ZK-WAC and that is this one at Papakura:

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