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Tuesday, 27 September 1949

Mr DRAKEFORD - I cannot give any conclusive information, but I am able to supply some particulars. Three aircraft, including the missing machine, took off at East Sale at five-minute intervals yesterday at 1430 hours for the purpose of familiarizing the trainee navigators on approaches and the local surroundings. The duration of the flights was to be two hours. The training area was bounded by Lakes Entrance, Dargo, Erica and Port Albert. The radius of the area from Sale was approximately 40 miles. The crew consisted of a captain, second pilot, a signaller and two navigation trainees. Each of the aircraft had fuel for four hours. The weather was broken cloud at 3,000 feet, with some slight showers. The missing aircraft was positively identified by one of the other two aircraft over Lakes Entrance at 1500 hours, and reliable reports have been received that the machine was seen at 1530 hours heading for Sale. It was again observed at 1610 hours over Port Albert at an estimated height of 500 feet. Immediately the missing machine became overdue, three Anson aircraft took off, and flew over the flying area until dark last evening without seeing any evidence of it. At first light this morning, four Ansons carried out a parallel track sweep over the training area. They returned to refuel, and three were then despatched to complete the unfinished part of the area. The fourth Anson was detailed to sweep the coastal areas as far as Orbost. Those aircraft are still in the air. At 1230 hours to-day, two Dakotas were despatched to search the swamp and wooded country in the south-west corner of the flying area,a report having been received that an aircraft was spotted in the Yarram-Fish Creek area. Those Dakotas are still airborne. If nothing eventuates from these searches, it is proposed to use two Lincolns to cover the mountainous region within the training area. The next of kin of each member of the crew has been informed, and I take this opportunity to express the Government's sympathy with them in their great anxiety.

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