Since the 1930´s more than 80 airplanes have disappeared without leaving any trace. Even thought it may seem like a large number to most; one must consider the fact that there are more than 100,000 scheduled flights that take off and land globally every day. This amount doesn’t take into account air taxis, military or cargo flights. Schedule flights make up about 1/3 of the total air traffic of the US alone; it is safe to say then, that aircrafts disappearing aren´t a common occurrence. Why is it then that some people continue to feel afraid to use of the safest methods of transportation? Perhaps it has to do with how disturbing it is to hear on the news that a flight has gone missing; or maybe is about how little control passengers have to avoid this awful type of situation.
Whatever the reason may be, we continue to be fascinated by stories of missing planes and the possible explanations to such mysteries. Here we have some of the most famous cases in history, of mysterious aircraft disappearances.
Amelia Earhart was an American pilot and writer and she was considered one of aviation’s most distinguished pioneers. Her accolades are many, but she is specially recognized for being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, for which she received the Distinguished Flying Cross from the US Congress and the Cross of Knight from the French Government. In 1936, Earhart began to plan a flight around the world following a strenuous equatorial route; although she wouldn’t be the first person to accomplish such feat, but she would have broken the record for the longest distance traversed. Emilia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan, took off on July 2nd from Lae, New Guinea with an intended destination of Howland Island. At this point, they had already covered almost one third of the total trip and had to cross the pacific to reach their final destination. Their last known position was near the Nukumaku islands, where they eventually lost contact with radio signal operators who were trying to give them on their final approach to their destination. There are many theories of what went wrong, but it is uncertain what exactly went on that day that lead to the disappearance of the airplane and its two person crew. The search efforts were vast and this is considered one of the most expensive find and rescue missions in American history.
On December 5th of 1945, a group of 5 american training bombers with 14 crewmembers took off from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. After just one and a half hour flying, the pilots reported being disoriented and not being exactly certain of their current location. The fact that the weather conditions were fair and the mission took place over the infamous area located between Miami, Puerto Rico and Bermuda Island, gave birth to the well-known legend of the Bermuda Triangle. The crew became hopelessly lost after hours of radio communication and attempts to find their bearings. Later a PBM Mariner originally schedule for a training mission of its own, was diverted to the vicinity to attempt to help the pilots find their way. The plane with a crew of 13 US Navy members exploded in mid air leaving no survivors, raising the toll to 27 men missing on that fateful day. The incident is attributed to faulty equipment and confusion on the part of mission leaders.
British South American Airways flight CS-59
Also know as Star Dust, flight CS-59 ended with the airliner crashing into Mount Tupungato in the Argentine Andes on August 2nd of 1947. The story has lead to much speculation, due to the belief that one of the passengers, a British civil servant, was carrying important documents and a load of gold ingots. Another fact that has fueled the controversy, was the last transmission sent by the plane, which contained the word STENDEC in Morse code. To the date, experts have been unable to understand what the word meant, and the fact that it was repeated in several occasions, seems to confuse them even more. In 1998, a mountain climber found an airplane engine in the area, this lead to a search that found pieces of the aircraft two years later, thus ending the mystery of the disappearance. The theory suggest that a navigation mistake made the crewmembers overestimate their location over the mountains and have a premature descent, which caused them to crash and cause an avalanche that ended up covering up the plane.
Flying Tiger Line Flight 739
On March 16 of 1962, a Lockheed Constellation disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. The aircraft was carrying 93 US Service members, 3 Vietnamese and a crew of 11 more; all 107 people declared missing and presumed dead. The disappearance of this plane lead to one of the most exhaustive searches conducted by the US Military in years to come. Eyewitnesses reported seeing what appeared to be an in-flight explosion, which lead experts to believe this was the fate of the airplane. The search was called off after 8 days and more than 200,000 square miles covered.