There’s nothing like a plane disappearance to set someone on edge about flying. As the weeks pass since the tragic loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 it’s hard to imagine how, with today’s technology, a jet of that size could practically vanish into thin air.
Yet this isn’t the first disappearance of its kind. Here are five of the greatest aviation mysteries, some of which still have yet to be solved:
On 5th December 1945, five Navy Avenger bombers disappeared off the coast of Florida during a training mission. According to radio transmissions, flight instructor Charles Taylor knew something was wrong when both of his compasses malfunctioned. Before the problem was identified, all contact was lost between the planes and the Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale. An aircraft was sent to search their last known area, but oddly enough it went missing as well.
No clue or piece of evidence has ever been uncovered to help determine what happened to Flight 19 or its rescue plane. Their last known position when flying through the Bermuda Triangle, sometimes referred to as the Devil’s Triangle, has led to multiple conspiracies involving extraterrestrial activity. The Triangle has been informally blamed for the disappearance of a handful of ships and aircraft, and remains one of our largest mysteries.
When you think of plane disappearances, chances are the famous ill-fated flight of Amelia Earhart comes to mind. Her quest to be the first woman to fly around the world is one of the most famous aviation mysteries of all time. With her twin-engine Lockheed Electra, her journey began in July of 1937 flying into less than ideal overcast skies. The last words she reported before her radio became unclear were “we are running north and south.” She and her navigator Fred Noonan vanished over the Pacific Ocean and were never heard from again.
A search mission was conducted, but after spending $4 million and searching an entire 250,000 square miles of ocean, the United States had to finally call it off. Earhart’s disappearance sparked conspiracy theories spanning from new identities to aliens. Some think she faked her own death, some believe the Japanese captured her, but none of us may ever know for sure.
In 1962 a US military plane with over 90 soldiers on board left Guam, intending to arrive in the Philippines. Though there was no distress call made, the plane never reached its scheduled destination. A US military search was conducted with 1,300 people searching for a sign of wreckage, but nothing was ever found of Flight 739.
The only hint to the plane’s disappearance came in the form of a Liberian tanker ship’s crew. The crew insisted they witnessed a bright light around the supposed time of the flight, but the US Civil Aeronautics board was never able to confirm the claim as probable cause for the plane’s disappearance.
Back in 2005, Helios Airways Flight 522 came just off course during its trip from Cyprus to Greece. When the crew seemingly ignored 19 different attempts at contact, two F-16s were sent to intercept the plane. Yet when the F-16 pilots caught up to Flight 522, they were met with a sight they’ll likely never forget.
Oxygen masks dangled from the ceiling, and the plane appeared to be flying itself. The captain’s chair was empty, the co-pilot was lying motionless on the plane’s floor, and all 121 passengers on board were dead.
The airplane’s autopilot remained active as the F-16s flew beside it, escorting it until it eventually crashed into a hillside in Greece. After investigations were made, it was discovered that human error was to blame due to the cabin pressurising incorrectly. Go ahead and try to get the image of a ghost plane out of your head after that.
On 2nd August 1947, the British Star Dust flight departed Buenos Aires en route to Chile, but soon after disappeared in the Argentine Andes. Decades passed before any sign of the plane was uncovered, but by the year 2000 debris was finally found. Remains from nine out of the eleven total victims were discovered, as well as an engine, in an Andes glacier.
Though evidence of a crash had been discovered, it’s still not clear what caused it. The plane’s last Morse code transmission of “STENDEC” has yet to be understood.
Many of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries are still waiting to be uncovered. Will we ever find out what happened to Amelia Earhart? Do you think Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will be added to a list of unsolved mysteries years from now? If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the British Star Dust, it’s that answers can still be found, even if it takes 50 years to do so.