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28 October 2011

Sydney radio hams help search for lost aircraft VH-MDX

A group of amateur radio operators from Sydney, Australia, recently took part in a multi-agency search and rescue exercise in a remote area of New South Wales. This, to help in the continuing search for a small plane that is believed to have crashed some 30 years ago with its pilot and four passengers on board.

The single engine Cessna aircraft had the tail identification of VH-MDX. It had taken off from Queensland for a flight to Sydney's Bankstown airport when its pilot identified as Michael Hutchins radioed that he was experiencing severe turbulence. Also that the plane had been hit by lightning and he could no longer determine its orientation.
To make matters worse, the wings were icing up and despite his best efforts, the Cessna was losing altitude. The aircraft then disappeared from radar and all communications ceased a few minutes later.

For thirty years since the accident, teams of volunteers have returned to the area to walk and climb their way through every piece of unsearched landscape in the hope that somebody will discover a piece of wreckage or spot something that helps to ends the riddle of VH-MDX. The regions that have been searched are marked off on a large map, so further unsearched areas can be checked the following year.

For the safety of the volunteer searchers, each of the six teams carried one vhf or uhf handheld radio and a portable 2-way High Frequency transceiver. Packed in a rainproof canvas box, the H-F sets included a short wire antenna that would work using skywave or NVIS propagation. This, to contact any of several radio command posts set up and manned by WICEN of New South Wales.

WICEN is a volunteer organization of licensed Australian amateur radio operators who donate some of their time and expertise to emergency communications to benefit the community much the same way that ARES members do here in the United States. Other groups helping with the search this year included the Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad, the New South Wales Police Rescue Squad, the New South Wales Volunteer Rescue Association and several others.

At the time of its disappearance the Cessna's four passengers were New South Wales Police Inspector Ken Price, who was travelling with Noel Wildash, Phillip Pembroke and Rhett Bosler.

Search aircraft sent to the general area could find no sign of wreckage, and there was no smoke or fire to guide them.
Several intensive land searches were also lunched but to date, no wreckage of the plane and the remains of its five occupants have been found. At airtime, the search is expected to resume sometime next year.

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Our thanks to Paul G4MWO for spotting this item

- Southgate Amteur Radio News