Airline disappearances have always captured the attention of the world. We think we know every corner of our vast planet, but there are still places where something as large as an aeroplane can disappear without a trace. Today we will look at ten such mysteries.
1. Malaysia Airlines Flight (MH370)
When Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared, carrying 239 people, it was one of the world’s more recent aviation mysteries. The aircraft left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8, 2014, but never arrived at its destination.
Despite rescuers spending months searching the seabed and the Indian Ocean to the south, they found no trace and eventually abandoned the search.
2. Flying Tiger Line Flight 739, 1972
Another aircraft to disappear without a trace was in 1962 when a Lockheed Constellation flew across the Pacific Ocean with 96 soldiers and 11 crew members onboard. Following one of the largest search and rescue missions in Pacific history, they could not find a trace of their lost crew.
There were speculations that the aircraft had been hijacked or sabotaged, but no one found any evidence to support this theory.
Reports of a fireball over the sea by some sailors aboard a Liberian tanker suggest Flight 739 may have exploded in mid-air. However, once again, this was not confirmed.
3. EgyptAir Flight 990, October 31, 1999.
In 1999 Egypt Air Flight Boeing 767 departed from Los Angeles before crashing into the Atlantic Ocean. All 217passengers and crew were killed. The Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority suspected mechanical failure. Still, the National Transportation and Safety Board thought the pilot had committed suicide because his last words were, “I rely on God”. There was much speculation by conspiracy theorists, but we still have no idea what happened.
4. Air France Flight 447, June 1, 2009.
On June 1, 2009, Air France Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, along with 216 passengers and 12 crew, went missing. The aircraft was not within radar coverage, and it was early morning and pitch dark. When the Airbus A330-200 disappeared mid-ocean, it took Air France six hours to concede its loss. After that, it was a complete mystery. Even when some wreckage was discovered in 2011, the tragedy was still not solved. There had been no distress signal even though the plane had flown into a storm.
5. Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, October 13 – December 23, 1972.
Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed in the Andes mountains in 1972, carrying the Uruguayan rugby team with their friends and family. A total of 45 people altogether. Because they had crashed into the Andes, there was little hope that the flight could be salvaged, and survival was thought unlikely; the search was called off after eight days. Nevertheless, the story to follow inspired a film in 1993 called “Alive”.
Some passengers died on impact, and others died following the crash due to injuries and cold weather. When the last survivors ran out of food, they made the awful decision to eat the flesh of some of their dead friends and teammates. Two more robust passengers managed to trek out of the mountains and get help for the 14 remaining passengers.
6. Star Dust Crash in 1947
Another flight to go missing in the Andes was the Star Dust in 1947. The British South American Airways Plane flew from Buenos Aires to Santiago, not to be found until the 1990s (around 50 years later) when the wreckage was discovered in the mountains. In 2000 body parts of passengers were found perfectly preserved in the glacial ice.
7. Lady Be Good, 1943
In 1943 A US Army Corps B-24, Lady Be Good, did not return to its Libya base, and it was thought the aircraft went down in the Mediterranean Sea. However, even after a thorough search, there was no sign of the missing plane.
In 1958 the plane was sighted in the Libyan Desert by a group of surveyors taking aerial photos. The plane had crashed but was preserved due to the dry conditions. The unfortunate crew had survived the crash and tried to walk out to get help. Their bodies were found along with the diary of the co-pilot that revealed that the nine crew had managed to bail out of the plane before it crashed. The survivors had managed to walk 85 kilometres before they started dying. Bodies of eight of the crew were discovered, and one is still missing.
8. Vancouver Douglas DC-4, 1951
In 1951 in Vancouver, Douglas DC-4 departed and had a planned stop at Anchorage Airport, Alaska. Unfortunately, the weather was dreadful, with a visibility of just 500 feet. The airport issued an emergency warning, but it was too late for the aircraft and crew member. To date, there is no trace of the craft and occupant.
9. The Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle
The Bermuda Triangle is one of the great mysteries of all time. It is a section of the North Atlantic Ocean of North America that has claimed more than 50 ships and 20 aeroplanes. The mysterious disappearances of flights throughout the century have given some superstitious folk the idea that the area is cursed.
The boundaries have never been universally agreed upon. Still, it is considered a vaguely triangular shape marked by the Atlantic coast of the Florida panhandle (in the United States), Bermuda, and the Greater Antilles.
To read up more on the fascinating mystery of the Bermuda Triangle, check out this National Geographic article.
10. Amelia Earhart, 1937
Amelia Earhart set out in 1937 to become the first woman to fly around the world. Amelia, with her navigator, Fred Noonan, took off from Papua New Guinea to fly to Howland Island in the Pacific, a flight of 4114 kilometres. She only had 7000 kilometres to go to complete her record.
During the flight, the plane experienced overcast skies and rain, which made celestial navigation tricky. Amelia radioed the coast guard, “We must be on you, but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low…We are running north and south” That was her last transmission, and her plane never reached its destination.
The most massive search in aviation history was launched across 647,497 square kilometres, where searchers combed the area for a trace of her plane. The search for Amelia Earhart’s plane continues with recent attempts to locate the fateful plane.
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