One of Australia's most enduring aviation mysteries is a significant step closer to being solved, former Newcastle police rescue squad chief Peter Anforth believes.
Mr Anforth's close mate and colleague Inspector Ken Price was one of five people on flight VH-MDX 210 that went missing over the Barrington Tops on August 9, 1981. The others - returning from a fishing and sailing trip to Queensland - were experienced pilot Michael Hutchins and Sydneysiders Noel Wildash, Rhett Bosler and Philip Pembroke.
No wreckage or bodies have been found despite extensive searching. Mr Anforth, 76, acting on fresh information from the RAAF, believes he has finally pinpointed where the plane went down.
As a result, dozens of bushwalkers and State Emergency Service volunteers will spend this weekend scouring an area north-west of Mount Nelson in the Barrington Tops National Park.
"If it wasn't for poor health, I'd be there myself," Mr Anforth said. "It's tough country; the forest is so thick you are lucky to see a few feet in any direction. But I believe we have never been closer to finding them because this spot has never been looked at."
*Also see this wonderful personal account from someone who has spent hours searching for the plane
The single-engine aircraft disappeared from radar in bad weather northwest of Newcastle on the night of August 9, 1981. And despite Australia's biggest land and air search, not a trace has been found.
The 30-year quest for closure continues today when a team from the Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad heads into the Barrington Tops, where the plane is thought to have gone down.
Teams have searched sections of the 100sq km suspected impact zone every year since the plane disappeared, but search manager John Tonitto said inhospitable terrain made progress excruciatingly slow.
The plane was en route from Queensland to Bankstown when experienced pilot Michael Hutchins radioed he was having trouble maintaining altitude. John Gleave, who lost his friends Ken Price, Noel Wildash, Phillip Pembroke and Rhett Bosler in the crash, has no doubt the wreckage will one day be found.
"I think the families would like to finally say, 'Now we know what happened' and get that closure," he said.