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The flight was planned as a regular public transport flight from Williamtown to Lord Howe Island. After departure, the pilot reported to Sydney Flight Service that he intended climbing to flight level 230. However, as the aircraft passed flight level 200 the pilot advised flight service that he was now climbing to flight level 210.

The pilot did not report at the first scheduled position code named 'Shark' on time, but subsequently advised that he was descending to flight level 130. Shortly afterwards, the pilot reported having crossed 'Shark' and provided an estimate for the next scheduled position, 'Shrimp'. He also stated at this time that the aircraft was maintaining flight level 160. No further communications were recorded by Air Traffic Services from the aircraft. However, during the above period the pilot was in radio communication with two other company aircraft, both bound for Lord Howe Island. One aircraft was crewed by the company managing director and the company chief pilot.

When Sydney Flight Service did not receive the 'Shrimp' position report communications checks were commenced, and following the failure of these checks to establish contact with the aircraft, a search-and-rescue uncertainty phase was declared.

After the managing director arrived at Lord Howe Island he contacted Melbourne Rescue Co-ordination Centre in response to a request from that centre and inquired about the aircraft. The crews of both other company aircraft subsequently reported hearing a radio transmission from the pilot of VH-SVQ stating that he had 'lost it'.

An extensive air and sea search failed to locate the aircraft or its occupants. Only a small number of pieces of the aircraft were found floating on the sea surface.

The investigation determined that the flight was not a regular public transport flight as the company did not hold the required approval from the New South Wales Air Transport Council to operate such flights over the Williamtown to Lord Howe Island route.

The factors that directly related to the loss of the aircraft could not be determined. However, a number of factors relating to the operation this flight, the operation of the company and the oversight of that operation by the regulator were identified.

The report concludes with a number of safety recommendations.

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