Update 7:00am 2/09/09: The Herald Sun’s Padriac Murphy is reporting this morning that the plane is a secret anti-terror spy plane owned by the Australian Federal Police.

What type of plane was it that spotted Victorian Water Minister Tim Holding stranded in the Victorian Alps?

This isn't the plane that spotted Tim Holding, cause we don't know what kind of plane it was

In a statement on their website this morning the Victorian Police stated that an Australian Federal Police plane had spotted a light from Holding’s makeshift camp.

Yet this afternoon Victorian police have contacted news organisations telling them to remove any reference to the plane being an AFP plane with the reference taken out of the media release . What is going on here and who owns this plane?

According to the original statement on the police media website an AFP plane located a possible camp site overnight.

The possible site gave searchers a narrowed-down area to investigate this morning.

A camera from the Victoria Police helicopter confirmed Mr Holding’s position on the mountain.

But if Victorian Police have now contacted media outlets telling them to take out a mention of the AFP plane for “security reasons.”

So if it is an AFP plane then why all the secrecy? Well The Punch can find no mention in the AFP’s annual report that they have a plane, so if they do have a plane it doesn’t appear to be on the public record.

Of course the plane may not be owned by the AFP at all.

It could be an Air Force plane, but then why not just come out and say it was an airforce plane unless it was an Air Force plane we’re not supposed to know about.

At the risk of sounding conspiratorial, we could be talking about another Commonwealth organisation that owns planes and doesn’t talk about it - say one of our spy organisations.

The point here is not whether the plane should have been used in locating Mr Holding, obviously any way they could have found him is a good way.

The question is why can’t we know about it given that we’ve funded the search? And secondly, would the same plane be used if you or I were lost in the bush? Is this a plane brought out for Ministers who manage to get lost in the bush.

Watch this airspace. 

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    • Margaret Gray says:

      03:21pm | 01/09/09

      Did they find a new dam up there?

      Tim was surveying it in.

    • Nige says:

      03:45pm | 01/09/09

      This is all just plane dam mysterious. If I get lost I want the “no"plane to come look for me!!

    • Frank Pettit says:

      03:52pm | 01/09/09

      Nah!!  Tim was assessing the spring thaw, and how much melt water he can send down that new pipeline.

    • Tim Bennett says:

      03:51pm | 01/09/09

      It took me a while to grasp that you meant “Australian Federal Police”, not “Agence France Presse” raspberry

    • FN says:

      03:53pm | 01/09/09

      Maybe it was KRudd’s 737.  After all he flies a heck of a lot.  Sooner or later one of his rubber necking jounos is going to spot something.  After all,  It would be preferable to look out the window than to listen to Krudd recite his next bore-you-to-death speech.

    • BW says:

      04:01pm | 01/09/09

      Leo, I suspect that Vic Police still have a grudge against the AFP for the earlier anti-terrorism raid and the exclusive scoop The Oz had on this story. I just wonder if this grudge is deeper than the one Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has against Essendon?

    • acker says:

      04:14pm | 01/09/09

      A plane with some pretty good infra red technology perhaps

      Maybe one of those drug detecting planes

    • Lanai Vasek says:

      04:22pm | 01/09/09

      Firstly, I want to make it clear I think it’s absolutely wonderful that Minister Holding was found and I’m sure his family is full of relief and gratitude to those who helped rescue him.

      But what I want to know is if they can find some Aussie Minister thrashing about in the Victorian Alps with these secret planes why can’t SOMEBODY find the cave Osama Bin Laden is hiding in?

      All seems a little bit strange to me.

      P.S. Maybe K.Rudd has frozen public service spending because he secretly splashed out on one of these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predator_Plane 

      Apparently they’re the top toy for world leaders these days. But shhh don’t tell anyone about it.

    • David says:

      04:28pm | 01/09/09

      Australian Customs operates Dash 8 aircraft with infrared censors for border protection work. Smaller Coastwatch aircraft would also have that technology as to the police helicopters. Then of course there are the RAAF Orions.


      Interestingly the press reported that Deputy Commissioner Kieren Walsh said the aircraft wasn’t part of the search.but could not identify the aircraft because of “security reasons”. Talk about generating interest.

      Could it be that if such an aircraft was sent up to search for Mr Holding that the public would ask why they aren;t used all the time?

    • Paul says:

      04:31pm | 01/09/09

      There’s more that meet the eye here!!! I suspect the military were involved as well. Anyway it was a good out come for all.

    • Pen Shunner says:

      04:37pm | 01/09/09

      The plane was most likely an Orion, that has been diverted from more important surveillance tasks at great expense. They do look after their own you know. Just don’t expect the same treatment if YOU get lost in the bush.

    • Earl says:

      04:40pm | 01/09/09

      You have to question his intelligence or lack of it, going alone on a bushwalk in adverse conditions. However I smell a stunt, nothing will be as it seems, like most of his term in politics.

    • Ian F says:

      04:40pm | 01/09/09

      The RF-111 (the reconnaissance variant), of which the RAAF has four, would have the capability.  Recall that former Minister Gareth Evans ordered the deployment of one to observe events in the Tasmanian wilderness in the early 1980s.  It would also be able to fly in all weather conditions.

    • Paddy says:

      04:41pm | 01/09/09

      Good to see Brumby called Kev747 and the defence department provided heat imaging plane that is capable of penetrating the cloud. Not for the average punter, but an ALP buddy is fine. Hang the expense.
      Interesting to know why the recent instances of people being lost and then dying never received this service.

    • Keith says:

      04:43pm | 01/09/09

      It could have been faster than a speeding bullet, it could have been a plane, but it could have been a mild mannered reporter, yes,  it was Sooooper…Leo!!

    • T says:

      04:49pm | 01/09/09

      This one’s gonna win you a Walkley, mate.

      Clearly, you’ve uncovered an alien conspiracy here. All the elements are present, the moody wilderness, the inexplicable interruptions of human technologies—his phone stopped working —and top secret aircraft.

      And didya see that comment in the cop’s press release: “...he used a space blanket to attract the attention…”. A “space” blanket!? Also, the Minister is described as “suffering dehydration and soft tissue injuries”; classic symptoms of an alien abduction! You watch, next he’ll come out saying he has no memory of what happened up there!

      Us ordinary folk are relying on you to pursue this story, Leo, but please be careful, these conspirators are ruthless! You probably should encrypt your future posts…

    • leanne says:

      04:53pm | 01/09/09

      Perhaps a UFO…lol

    • David says:

      05:02pm | 01/09/09

      Actually Pen military aircraft are often used in searches for civilians so it would be wrong to say some kind of extra effort was made to find Holding.

      SAR authorities use a horses for courses approach to the assetts used based on their effectiveness for different roles. Obviously the Orion is best suited for maritime SAR and many stricken yachties owe their lives to them.

      Finding a well-equipped hiker in a freezing alpine region is going to a lot easier using infreared censors than looking for someone in the bush during summer - in 2007 an Orion was used in a search for a mising Danish backpacker at Cradle Mountain so it’s not without precedent.

    • katea says:

      05:02pm | 01/09/09

      Any (much delayed) wedgetails arrived yet?    Testing maybe?

    • Kane says:

      05:02pm | 01/09/09

      Something is bloody dodgy here!

    • Fred Phillips says:

      05:13pm | 01/09/09

      Really? What’s the best you can hope for with this “story”?

    • Formersnag says:

      05:29pm | 01/09/09

      Just because we are, paranoid, it does not, automatically mean, they are not, out to get us, or that big brother, is, not, watching you?

    • phyllis.stein says:

      05:31pm | 01/09/09

      Your comment:
      @ Lanai Vesek “But what I want to know is if they can find some Aussie Minister thrashing about in the Victorian Alps with these secret planes why can’t SOMEBODY find the cave Osama Bin Laden is hiding in?”

      Well, perhaps it’s because one of them wanted to be found, and the other did not. If Osama ran out of the cave waving a tea towel every time a plane went over your point might be made, but as it stands, epic fail.

    • Gandalf says:

      06:09pm | 01/09/09

      gee and i thought it was just him negotiating with the aliens for the return of Harold Holt. Should we check him for probe damage?

    • Richard says:

      06:10pm | 01/09/09

      Channel Nine seem to think that it was their news helicopter that found him.

    • Timothy says:

      06:37pm | 01/09/09

      Channel Seven is also claiming the prize of finding him. I wonder who is trying to pull the wool for ratings?

    • Kym says:

      06:41pm | 01/09/09

      Don’t. Mention. The. Plane.

      ... I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.

    • Matt says:

      06:57pm | 01/09/09

      It was a chinese spy plane returning to the Lodge after a quick run over Cheviot Beach

    • AFR says:

      07:12pm | 01/09/09

      I saw a lot of nine news today, and every sentence they mentioned that it was “the channel nine helicopter” that found him.

    • Bex says:

      07:15pm | 01/09/09

      That would explain why 7, 9 and 10 are all personally taking responsibly for finding him.

      I was finding it quite amusing too.

    • Robbo says:

      07:26pm | 01/09/09

      And Channel Seven seem to think it was their news helicopter hmmmmm

    • Dean Felton says:

      08:08pm | 01/09/09

      Funny stuff, this, but seriously, folks, let’s demand some answers.  As taxpayers we’re entitled to know the details of whose plane it was, thanks.  Enough of the cloak and dagger.

    • jason says:

      08:10pm | 01/09/09

      Truly sickening to watch the fuss over this dumb minister while the very same govt ignores the plight of injured workers forced onto disability pensions because of deceitful practices by workcover and its agents.

    • Graeme Rogers says:

      08:15pm | 01/09/09

      Experienced bushwalker eh? My father was a bushy in the old days and he taught me as a child never leave home without a box of matches. That is all you need to make a smudge fire, eg smoke,  to get help. no GPS, mobiles beacons etc in those days.

    • Spooked by spooks says:

      08:34pm | 01/09/09

      A friend of a friend has a brother who works in the AFP. He specialises in infra red night flying. They are based out of Melbourne. He tells the story about how hard it is to adapt to wearing the infra red helmets

    • Jonno says:

      08:57pm | 01/09/09

      Found alive and well, seemed to look a bit uneasy about what sort of expression to put on his face. Dark clothing and heading out alone in bad weather conditions is clearly foolish behavior for an experienced hiker. I want to see evidence of injury to Tim and evidence of the accident site. The main urgency to find him was to see if he had been assassinated. I’m guessing thats why both sides of parliment where happy. Its good he is back, so he can look after the water. Did he survive on mushrooms?.

    • Anthony says:

      09:02pm | 01/09/09

      So we have a Black Ops plane finding dopey ministers that get lost in the mountains.  Would the same happen to me if i was stupid enough to go hiking in the alps on my own??  I doubt it, and it sounds like the powers that be dont want any of us to know about it either.  Who’s, and what type of plane was flying around to find him in the middle of the night?

    • Bewildered says:

      09:03pm | 01/09/09

      Stuuf channel 9 - it was 7 news copter that found him, Typical bloody channel Eddy - full of crap -just like his footy team.

    • mistrust says:

      09:11pm | 01/09/09

      It all seems a bit fishy to me. 100 meters off track and it takes 2 days to find him? Very strange! I’m starting to believe we landed on the moon!

    • Dave Davis says:

      10:03pm | 01/09/09

      Tim Holding is an idiot - just look at the debacle when he was the police minister and how he refused to read memos sent to him if he spotted a grammatical error or three…

    • James says:

      10:21pm | 01/09/09

      Welcome Back Tim…. now GO AWAY!

    • Dodgy ex hack says:

      10:27pm | 01/09/09

      Hi Leo,
      Did you know the Department of Environment and Heritage has a plane with hi-tech infra-red capabilities they run out of Essendon airport during the bushfire season.  I tried to do a yarn in it once but couldn’t get on. Might be a case of cross-departmental compassion.

    • Jon Vance says:

      10:42pm | 01/09/09

      What persons goes hiking when the weather is forecast to becoming,  cold and windy for that area, as a front was moving in. No epirp, no working mobile phone, as the battery was flat. A normal person would have it turned off when hiking, using it only for calls in an emergency.
      Crazy stunt or silly idiotic person? Is he going to compensate those who looked for him?

    • Andi says:

      10:52pm | 01/09/09

      A tad irresponsible of the Govt minister to go walkabout with no epirb after having that English guy a few weeks back go missing and the cost to us taxpayers.. You go walkabout in the bush, don’t be a bloody idiot and take a bloody epirb and save this country the expense of these stupid avoidable searches. LEARN Minister LEARN! Actually pay it back from your wages that we pay YOU!!!!!! AND please NO 60 minutes story PLEASE!

    • TheGypsy says:

      11:34pm | 01/09/09

      As I read it he was spotted by a UFO, who telepathically alerted a spy plane looking for cannabis crops in the bush which then passed the location on to every news organisation on the planet with a helicopter in the area….
      The only real mystery is why it took 2 days, unless the anal probe took longer than usual….........
      And of course its all very hush hush as the “powers that be” don’t want us to know that THEY know where all the good weed is growing. ROFL

    • Peter Ross Campbell says:

      12:50am | 02/09/09

      “David says:04:28pm | 01/09/09

      Australian Customs operates Dash 8 aircraft with infrared censors for border protection work.”

      I suspect you mean sensors; we burn incense in a censer in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, and ASIO might censor an infra-red signal that was a threat to national security, but then I guess Tim Holding might have been burning incense in a censor whilst praying for a sensor to find him and a censor to protect exclusive coverage of his rescue for sale to a media outlet

    • Rob says:

      07:09am | 02/09/09

      Great that he was found safely, but for forks sake Holding…406mhz personal beacons can be had for around $500, this clown must earn a bloody decent wage and should surely be able to spend that much on a beacon, or at least be able to hire one.

      If this was an average joe bushwalker going missing, then the media, the public & the authorities would be hounding the bloke for being so stupid to go into an area like this ill prepared and alone at this time of year.  They’d also be going on about how he should repay the costs of his rescue.

      Also, I doubt a regular citizen and their partner would’ve been given a helicopter ride from Bright to Melbourne like Holding was, when he was supposedly in good condition - why couldn’t he have stayed at Bright Hospital for observation overnight, and then be driven back to Melbourne.  Rescue choppers & their crew should not be used as personal limos and chauffeurs for useless politicians, or anyone for that matter.

    • ShaneO says:

      09:28am | 02/09/09

      The reason authorities keep these capabilities classified is so bad guys don’t employ counter measures to defeat them!

      Do tax payers need to know about a capability they don’t understand generally, and don’t care about, or would they rather have bad guys defeated by these capabilities in the interest of public disclosure?!

      Thanks to the train spotters highlighting the difference between ‘sensors’ and ‘censors’ and other such nerdy observations. You may sleep with a copy of Janes under the pillow but the average punter doesn’t care!

    • T says:

      10:06am | 02/09/09

      “ShaneO says: 09:28am | 02/09/09
      Thanks to the train spotters highlighting the difference between ‘sensors’ and ‘censors’ and other such nerdy observations. You may sleep with a copy of Janes under the pillow but the average punter doesn’t care!”

      ShaneO, that should be “Jane’s”. And highlighting the difference between sensors and censors isn’t so much “nerdy” as pedantic.

      Good work on including trainspotters, nerds and punters in one paragraph, though.

    • benough says:

      11:22am | 02/09/09

      To be honest I don’t really car if the government has a spy plane. I would rather they do.

      I believe governments can keep secrets for the good of their people. Just like your parents did when you were a kid and in hindsight you can understand why it was good for you.

      Sure some regimes keep things secret which they shouldn’t and isn’t necessarily for the good of their people but I don;t think I stand alone thinking that Australia is that kind of country.

    • Jonno says:

      11:29am | 02/09/09

      It was a US military satellite. They have pics of John and Kate as well.

    • Steve of Cornubia says:

      03:17pm | 02/09/09

      These clever-arsed spy planes are awful expensive things to put in the air, so the young Brit who was virtually hounded out of Australia by stories of incredible search & rescue costs should think himself lucky the thing wasn’t available to help find him.


    • Andy says:

      07:42pm | 02/09/09

      To the guys discussing whether 7 or 9 found Tim HOLDING, it was interesting to note that both commentators appear to have been lost as well as they both came up with different directions and distances from the hut.  I wonder which one of them guessed the story?

    • ShaneO says:

      07:46pm | 02/09/09

      Thanks to the train spotters highlighting the difference between ‘Janes’ and ‘Jane’s’ and other such nerdy/pedantic observations. You may sleep with a copy of Collin’s Dictionary under the pillow but the average punter doesn’t care!

    • anthony stevens says:

      09:37pm | 02/09/09

      great this plane can now be used for all search n rescue missions now…..

    • Joel B1 says:

      08:19am | 03/09/09

      Love the comments.

      I especially like that Tim’s antics have given the nutter bushwalkers an excuse to dis EPIRBS
      eg “All of those sort of battery-powered, man-made contrivances are only as good as making sure the batteries don’t go flat, that they don’t fall in water .. still rely on users to know what they are doing.”

      Ahem, EPIRBS are 1) waterproof 2) batteries last for decades 3) how hard is it to push a button labelled “Get me out of here”?


    • Batman says:

      06:51pm | 03/09/09

      I found Tim Holding. I parachuted from the batplane and gave him CPR because he was breathless at my power and beauty… not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    • Earl says:

      11:20am | 08/01/10

      This is a late addition to the speculation of the why’s and wherefore’s of his getting lost.  It was staged by AFP and the Vic government to try out the new spy plane. Timmy the idiot went out with flat batteries in everything, no epirb, limited food but plenty of warm survival gear, bad weather, wandering instead of staying put, refusing help from other hikers ...  Of course it was a getup. Has the spy plane been used since? No. I rest my case.

    • Hamilton27Winifred says:

      11:19am | 02/06/11

      According to my own analysis, billions of people on our planet get the loan from good banks. Thence, there is a good chance to receive a credit loan in every country.


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