The National, Wednesday July 11th, 2012
THE search for the missing Hevilift helicopter with three crew on board in Enga province continues today with the Australian Defence Force sending two Blackhawk helicopters and their crew from Port Moresby as reinforcements.
The Blackhawks, which are part of the joint task force helping in the country’s elections, will provide some relief for civilian search aircraft currently involved in the task being coordinated by Hevilift and PNG authorities from Mt Hagen.
Hevilift said in a statement yesterday that “there was no sighting of the Hevilift helicopter or of the three missing crew members during today’s search” which will resume this morning at first light.
Yesterday’s search failed despite the addition of a magnetometer fitted helicopter which can “measure” disturbances in the earth’s magnetic field. An aircraft the size of a Bell 206 has enough ferrous material in it to show up and be “seen” by one these machines.
The ADF support comes after a request from PNG emergency authorities yesterday morning.
Along with the Blackhawks, an aero-medical evacuation team, additional observers and a downed aircraft recovery team have also been sent to assist.
The name of the third missing crew member aboard the missing helicopter was released on Monday upon request by the family.
He is aircraft maintenance engineer, Emmett Fynn, 36.
The other two missing crew who were named earlier are Australian Russel Aitken, 42, and co-pilot Antony Annan, 53, a New Zealander.
The Bell 206 helicopter is believed to be heading for Hou Creek to refuel last Friday when it disappeared in the mountainous and densely forested area near Wabag town in Enga province, according to company officials.
A mayday call was broadcast about five minutes after the Hevilift helicopter left the InterOil drill rig site at 3.25pm on Friday.
Group managing director Paul Booij on Monday dismissed media reports that the helicopter had been flying in dangerous conditions.
“The conditions at the time the helicopter went missing were believed to be low cloud with reduced visibility but still favourable for flying, thereby allowing the flight to depart.
“We have received countless offers of assistance and we have taken up many of those offers in order to complement our own search assets.
“We have turned down some for the simple reason that you can only have so many assets in the search area at any given time,” Booij said.