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New direction in 34-year-old plane mysteryInteractive map

ALAN Weller clearly remembers the stormy evening in 1981 when a Cessna 210 nearly ploughed into his farmhouse at Mt George.
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The night of August 9, 1981 was noteworthy alone for its terrible weather, with powerful gusts of wind and low, black clouds creating sleety, icy cold conditions throughout the Manning Valley and Gloucester areas.

Alan and his wife Lucy, who have lived at their farm just over the Tiri Bridge for 52 years, were readying for bed when they heard the tell-tale buzz of an approaching aircraft.

“We could hear it before we could see it,” Alan recalled.

Guy Watts, Alan Weller, Kelvin Gregory and John Ritchie look out towards the ridge that was the potential exit from the valley for VH-MDX.

He dashed outside to see the single-engine Cessna no more than 20 metres above the rolling hillsidethat house is perched on, battling against the gale.

“I was scared it was going to hit the house, it was that low,” Alan said.

In shock and disbelief Alan watched as the plane continued deeper into the Mt George valley he and numerous other farmers call home.

It’s the latest contribution to the mystery surrounding VH-MDX that, after 34 years, continues to deepen.

Alan says he has told his story to police and media multiple times over the past three decades, but according to him, the pleas for a redirected search have fallen on deaf ears.

“It was just ignored,” Alan said.

No trace of the plane has ever been found.

“I wasn’t expecting to see a bloody plane on top of my house”: Alan Weller.

It remains Australia’s only unsolved civil aviation incident.

On board the flight that night were five men – pilot Michael Hutchins, 52; Noel Wildash, 42; Rhett Bosler, 33; Philip Pembroke, 43, and senior Sydney Water Police chief Ken Price, 54.

Four of the men had sailed on a yacht to Queensland before enlisting the services of Hutchins to fly them back to Bankstown airport, starting in Proserpine with a fuel stop in Coolangatta.

The flight was going according to plan when events hurriedly began to unravel near Taree.

The radio transmissions between Hutchins and the Sydney Air Traffic Control paint a picture of the flight spiraling out of control over a 15 minute period.

At. 7.24 Hutchins radioed control requesting permission to ascend to 10,000 feet to escape turbulence.

Seconds later he radioed again saying that the automatic horizon and the direction indicator, two crucial navigation tools, had failed.

Ten minutes after his initial call Hutchins said the aircraft was picking up ice and was losing altitude at 1000ft a minute.

Alan WellerI heard this noise, I’ve looked up and seen this little plane battling

Kelvin GregoryThe red line shows the route the plane could have taken towards the suggested crash site.

TweetFacebook MapsPotential route of the downed planeDespite going back to that stretch of the Nowendoc Road near McQueen’s Bridge, the two could never agree on the exact location of the light.

Previous searches have been based upon the assumption that the plane crashed shortly after the final radio transmission was received at 7.39pm.

John’s accounts lend more weight to the theory that the plane could have flown through the farmers’ valley, over the ridge and the Khatambuhl Valley, before crashing near McQueen’s Bridge.

The new site is more than 50km north east of the Barrington Tops where past searches have been focused.

If Alan’s initial sighting was closer to 8pm, it also means that the plane may have continued to fly some time after the final recorded transmission at 7.39pm, with the loss of radio contact attributable to the plane flying well below the mountains hemming it in on either side.

It’s why they all believe a search in the new area is critical.

“It’s never been searched here at all,” John said about the area along the Nowendoc Road.

Given the lack of success with the traditional search areas, all the men are hoping that their first-hand experiences can provide a new direction to the mystery.

“We all live in the same area, we’re the same mould, we saw the same thing,” Kelvin said.

“We’re not pulling anyone’s leg.”

Port Macquarie News

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