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Wednesday, 13 September 1972
Page: 749

Senator O'BYRNE - I direct my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Will a Department of Civil Aviation court of inquiry be set in motion to investigate the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the Tiger Moth aircraft carrying a pilot and a passenger from Hobart en route to Canberra? Will the Minister assure the Senate that the inquiry will have terms of reference sufficiently wide to investigate alleged events such as the breaking-in of the hangar housing the lost aircraft prior to its departure, threats made by telephone to the passenger prior to departure, and other unusual aspects of this tragic occurrence?

Senator COTTON - I obtained some material in relation to this matter in case honourable senators, particularly those from Tasmania, were concerned about it. The information that 1 have may help. I will be as brief as I can. The aircraft went missing on Friday while on a. flight from Cambridge to Flinders Island. Immediately the pilot of the aircraft failed to notify its arrival at Flinders Island, a search was launched along its track with 3 aircraft. The search has been continuing with a maximum of 13 aircraft on any one day, including a DCA F27. A night search also has been carried out over the aircraft's flight track. This is a typical, highly organised, intense operation which is being conducted from the special air sea rescue coordination centre at Launceston. The aircraft involved have spent 270 hours in the air so far and the approximate cost to yesterday was $13,300. That cost does not include the use of the Fisheries Department vessel which is searching the waters off northern Tasmania. All hearing and sighting reports have been checked and the persons concerned have been interviewed.

In the last few days the search has been concentrated over the Banks Strait area because it appears to be the area of highest probability. The search was scaled down yesterday because of deteriorating weather, poor visibility - the cloud base was about 900 feet - severe turbulence, and because the seas were very moderate to very rough. We have 3 aircraft concentrating on the Tasmanian north eastern area, both over land and over sea, and , beach searches are continuing.

I cannot see any need for a court of inquiry. I am most anxious that the search should go on and that the aircraft should be found if possible. What might have happened la relation to threats or breaking and entering in Tasmania is a matter for the Reece Government in Tasmania and the police of that State.

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