Missing Cessna VH-MDX : Where in Barrington Tops is it?

Do a search for “VH-MDX” in Google and you’ll find all sorts of things. Unfortunately, what you won’t find (yet) is the location of this missing Cessna aircraft, that disappeared over Barrington Tops National Park, north-west of Sydney in August 1981.

It truly is Australia’s greatest aviation mystery and one that has confounded everyone from search & rescue and aviation experts, locals, bushwalkers and conspiracy theorists for over 30 years.

The main reason I started this blog was to encourage people to get out into the great outdoors and to demystify some of the dark arts of moving and living in our wild places.

But I also want to use my blog to encourage people with the necessary skills and experience to get involved through volunteering in their local outdoors community.

I produced this video above to give a glimpse into some of the work that has gone on behind-the-scenes this year to help bring closure to this long standing mystery. To hopefully answer some of the unanswered questions.

For many years, Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad has been running an annual SAREX (Search and Rescue Exercise) in different parts of this rugged and wild National Park, to not only test and train ourselves, but to inch closer to knowing the truth.

Each year, we’ve been supported and joined by other squads, in particular the NSW Police Rescue and Bomb Disposal Squad and PolAir and our volunteer brothers and sisters in WICEN, the Rural Fire Service and the State Emergency Service.

Next weekend is a big one. This year has seen the great guys over at Police Rescue really throw themselves into seeing this SAREX as an opportunity for all squads to work together, train together and learn from each other, under the authority of the State Rescue Board. The logistical exercise of this type of activity can’t be underestimated and the teams from Police logistics have been heavily involved in bringing this together.

Personally, this is my 3rd SAREX for this missing plane over the years and the weight of the families, the sense of expectation and the management of risk for us sits heavily upon all our shoulders. We’re certainly not going in with gung-ho hero attitudes. We take this serious terrain, very seriously indeed.

I’ll be heading up one of the small teams in the primary search box and we’re preparing ourselves for a gruelling few days, looking out for any clues and for each other.

Maybe this year, next weekend, we will know the answer.

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Secrets of the Police Rescue Rat Pack

A little while back I took part in a Land Search and Rescue workshop run by the Blue Mountains Police Rescue squad. It’s just one of the many great training opportunities thanks to the Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad.

Learning from each other - a great training weekend.

Learning from each other – a great training weekend.

On this two day workshop, we worked with our colleagues in other volunteer squads such as the SES and RFS. We learnt about Search Management from Police Rescue and put everything we learnt into practice during some NavEx and SarEx activities.

Bulkier and heavier than I'm used to

Heavier than I’m used to

One unexpected insight we got into Police operations this weekend, was the ration packs or “Rat Packs” that we were given. In fact, we were told that we were guinea pigs for the testing of what could become the new rat packs as part of their SOPSs during search and rescue operations. Actually, it turns out that we were the crash test dummies of the 2nd version of these packs. Even though they couldn’t tell us what happened to the first set of testers, we happily munched on, devouring our tasty bundles of joy.

Apart from the overall bulk and weight of the rat pack, these bags were pretty amazing. The 1 day pack certainly had enough food and sustenance for me for two days!

Day 1

  • Bounce Protein ball (coconut and macadamia)
  • Annie’s Fruit Leather (boysenberry and apple)
  • Brookfarm Gluten Free Muesli Bar
  • SPC Peaches
  • John West Tuna & Beans
  • Mrs May’s Almond Nutty Toffee Bites (delish!)
  • M&Ms
  • Squinch (Electrolyte powder)
  • PK chewing gum
  • Main Meal: Chicken Jambalaya + Hot Pack

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Without a doubt, the most impressive part of the pack, was the Hot Packs. Apparently, these are common amongst the military, but as a humble Aussie hiker, I’d never come across these. Put simply, it’s how to heat your main meal in what looks like a plain plastic bag, by only adding an inch of cold water to the bottom. Yep, with a few nifty little chemicals, these things work like magic. (I’m going to post a video in a coming blog me using one so you can see it in action).

Day 2

  • Up & Go
  • SPC Peaches
  • Oat Slice
  • Protein Bounce Ball
  • Brookfarm Muesli Bar
  • Annie’s Fruit Leather (boysenberry and apple)
  • Squinch (Electrolyte powder)
  • Main Meal: Beef Stew + Hot Pack
More yum on the 2nd Day

More yum on the 2nd Day

It was a good weekend with just the right balance of theory and practical. One of the particularly good outcomes, was getting to know some of the folk from the other agencies and how they work. In fact, we’ve already been on call-out operations with them since and it was great to work alongside some of these familiar faces.

Thanks to the Blue Mountains PRS (Particularly SD, IC and DA) for all their efforts. Great stuff.

Oh, and I found another use for the M&Ms in the rat pack!

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