THE headwaters of the Williams River will be the primary search area for more than 150 emergency service personnel looking to solve one of the country’s most baffling aviation disasters.
‘Project Wittenoom’ has been several months in the planning and hopes to use new information and new technologies to locate the plane which went missing shortly before 8pm on August 9, 1981, somewhere over the Barrington Tops.
No trace of the plane or the five men on board has ever been found. To this day it is the only unsolved aviation disaster to have occurred on mainland Australia.
Now, a joint-agency project involving NSW Police Rescue, the air force, NSW Ambulance, the SES, RFS, National Parks and Wildlife Service, VRA and the Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad is hoping it can succeed where so many previous attempts to find the missing plane have failed.
The searchers will focus their efforts on an area pitted by steep gorges and thick bush.
“Our primary search area is some of the most challenging terrain up there,” Inspector Brenton Charlton from the NSW Police Rescue and Bomb Squad said.
“We’ll be targeting an area roughly 2km by 1km square ... 19km to 20km south of Scattered Top.”
The searchers are uncertain what they might discover, but are confident they are looking in the right place.
“This is certainly the largest search done in recent years,” Manning-Great Lakes Local Area Commander Superintendent Peter Thurtell said.
“If we do find something, we’ll first try to confirm that, the search will discontinue and specialist investigators will be sent in.
“We don’t feel any pressure to find the plane. A lot of this operation is our own desire to test our capabilities.”
Choppers from PolAir and the NSW Ambulance Service will provide some aerial support to the searchers, with a command centre based at the Little Murray campground.
The bulk of the search will take place between now and Sunday.
To read more about Project Wittenoom and see a YouTube video of the search so far click here