THERE are no current plans to search the Dingo Tops, or Caparra areas for the wreckage of a plane that went missing in 1981, said Police Inspector Allan Fidick in a statement to the Chronicle. Inspector Fidick was the staff officer for superintendent Thurtell, the commander of Operation Wittenoom - a recent search operation for the plane at the Barrington Tops.
After the search failed to find the missing plane local resident Hugh Gooding said he believed the plane would be found in the Dingo Tops area. Following our article, we were contacted by Gordon and Lyrian Martin who, like Hugh, heard a plane "labouring badly" the night VH-MDX disappeared. Gordon told police he heard the plane fly over his home at Marlee East at approximately 7.10pm and unfortunately Hugh could not be specific about the time.
"It probably was the same plane that some people saw out near Caparra, but it was probably still flying west at that stage, air traffic control were still tracking and talking with the plane for approximately another 30 minutes after 7.10pm," said inspector Fidick.
"The flight path of VH-MDX on the night of August 9,1981 was a generally westerly direction when it went out, path was north of Gloucester. The plane flew out west for a way, then turned and flew south the other side of Moonan Flat. At this stage the plane was in trouble with ice, so got permission to change course and flew in a generally south east direction, trying to find Maitland or Raymond Terrace. About 7.35pm the plane was south of Mt Alyn, and has changed course again and flew in a general north east direction. At 7.37pm the pilot broadcast the plane was at 6500 feet altitude, losing height. Last broadcast was at 7.38pm at 5000 feet. (That is 1500 ft in a minute!). The last recorded points on radar had the plane at 7.38pm (last broadcast as well) just southwest of the Chichester Range, near Wilsons River still bearing north east. Ground level of that range is about 4500 feet above sea level. The accuracy of the radar at the time was + or - 800 metres. The planned search area of Operation Wittenoom was to cover the projected flight path of the plane considering last known information, and the topography of the area.
"The primary search area this time was actually very similar to the first search area back in 1981. That year apparently the weather was bad for an extended period and he first large scale ground search was not able to be launched until early September."