Operation Niña: A Call to Australian Pilots

A US couple is hoping to mobilise Australia's east-coast pilots to help search for their daughter missing at sea.

Robin and Ricky Wright's 19-year-old daughter Danielle was on the schooner Niña when it disappeared on a voyage between Opua in New Zealand and Newcastle, NSW on 4 June this year. Australian and New Zealand authorities called off the search a month later.

However, Danielle's parents believe there is an 80% chance that the Niña is still out there afloat after having lost its mast in a storm, and are calling on Australian pilots to volunteer to search the Australian coastline from Cairns to Orbost and all outlying islands.

Robin Wright issued the following plea for help.

"My husband and I have been in Port Macquarie for the past four weeks searching for our daughter and six others aboard the historic racing schooner Niña, lost in the Tasman Sea now for six months. We spent a week flying from Norfolk Island, then flew up the coast as far as Cairns.

"We had no idea there are so many islands and reefs off the eastern coast of Australia, and Niña could very well be stranded on one of them. Danielle is our only child, and turned 19 in New Zealand just before they set sail. We believe Niña lost her mast and is drifting. The crew is incredibly talented and experienced, and we believe very capable of surviving indefinitely on fresh fish and rain water.

"Please join our efforts in rescuing seven very special people through Operation Niña by volunteering your time and efforts in aerial searches. The Tasman currents are highly unpredictable, and they could be anywhere at this point. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!"

A text message received from crew member Evi Nemath on 4 June, one day after the storm shows that the Niña was still afloat after the storm subsided. Subsequent satellite imagery has shown two objects in the Tasman that could conceivably be the missing vessel.

History shows that vessel left to drift in the Tasman head west, with Minx, Air Apparent, Scotch Bonnet and Windigo all making landfall on Australia's east coast having been abandoned in sea further east weeks earlier.

Operation Niña is asking for flying schools, aero club, air operators and private pilots to participate in a massive search over the weekend of 21-22 December, in hope that the crew can be found safe before Christmas.

The search co-ordinator is Earthrounder Ken Evers, who has set up an Operation Niña Facebook page for pilots to commit to the search for Danielle and her crew mates.

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