Rising to the challenge

At a press conference into the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Picture: Elle Borgward www.communitypix.com.au d418434
At a press conference into the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Picture: Elle Borgward www.communitypix.com.au d418434

The City of Bayswater project manager is one of 75 State SES volunteers who have spent about 1700 hours in the air searching for debris since the plane went missing last month.

Mr Maclean, a Northshore Unit volunteer, is a trained air observer and said it was his most intense search.

‘The search area was probably close to as large as Australia; it’s an enormous area of water and we don’t have anything to reference to,’ he said.

‘There are no reference points; occasionally you may see a ship or a whale but it’s just a vast expanse of water from horizon to horizon and it really impacts on your ability to concentrate.

‘By the time you’ve flown three hours to get to the search site and you’ve searched for three, perhaps four, hours and all you’ve seen is ocean since you left Perth, by the time you get home you’re fairly tired.’

The Ocean Reef resident said the greatest challenge was maintaining concentration.

‘You don’t see anything but ocean, wave cresting, swell moving forward; your mind plays all sorts of tricks on you,’ he said.

‘The windows are very narrow so you’ve got perhaps a second-and-a-half between seeing something and it disappearing out of your view, so your concentration has to be extremely good at all times.’

Canning/South Perth SES volunteer Lyn Bryant, who has 15 years’ experience, said the difference with this search was the long flights and duration of shifts.

‘We try put five volunteers on each aircraft, which means four are searching at any given time and the fifth one is a relief so we rotate,’ she said.

The Como resident said searching the ocean became mesmerising after a while.

‘You get to the point where you’re not sure what you’re seeing but our training kicks in and we concentrate on what we’re doing,’ she said.

‘It’s disappointing but we’re happy to be doing this to have some input into the search for this aircraft.’