Famous Airplane Disappearances

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The disappearance of MH370 has baffled experts all over the world. Its strange flight path, mysterious redirection without any notification of what was going on all happened within just one hour of take-off. In mid-2014, still no wreckage has been found. Many theories have been put forward including systems failure, terrorism and a whole host of others; but until wreckage is found, nothing is certain and authorities can only speculate. Here are ten more of the most mysterious aircraft disappearances

1. Lady Southern Cross: 1935

Famous aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith ordered and had built an aircraft for the purpose of making the first eastward trans-Pacific flight in 1935 and he along with his co-pilot achieved this. Next, he had intended with another co-pilot (Tommy Pethybridge) to fly from England to Australia and set off in early November 1935. Two days later they disappeared during an overnight flight between India and Singapore. It took a whole 18 months for any wreckage to turn up but it was only a wheel ‘ the only item ever found

2. Amelia Earhart: 1937

Just two years later would be the most famous disappearance in history. Daredevil and adrenaline junkie Amelia Earhart was attempting to circumnavigate the globe having already achieved the record for being the first woman to cross the Atlantic. No wreckage was ever found and theories abound about her and navigator Fred Noonan’s fate. The more fanciful suggest that she had been on a secret spying mission for the USA before they entered the war. Another states that she faked her death to retire from public life

3. Glenn Miller: 1944

Glenn Miller (1904-1944) Big Band Leader and Composer
Most of the disappearances on this list are over large bodies of water but Miller, Big Band Jazz Musician who had been entertaining troops in England, was crossing to France as part of a morale booster when his aircraft disappeared. His flight path took him over The English Channel which is just 20 miles wide at its narrowest point and 150 at its widest. Despite this small area, no wreckage has ever been found of the aircraft which was crossing from Bedford to Paris and would have passed over at the area where the Channel is narrowest

4. Flight 19: 1945

The flight that sparked the entire legend of The Bermuda Triangle is this incident. Not one, but six bomber aircraft on a training flight led by a qualified instructor simply disappeared from radars. A flying boat which searched for signs of the aircraft also disappeared. Ships in the area reported seeing explosions, something that is not mentioned in Triangle Lore. Still, this remarkable series of events, getting lost and the failure of the navigation equipment fuels alien conspiracy theories to this day

5. B-47: 1956

Boeing B-47E
USAF officials are very concerned when nuclear materials go missing (though it was not a danger in that state). When they happen in the middle of a flight, the search becomes critical. The bomber was on an around-the-world flight and had already made one mid-air fuel stop. It was reported to have descended through a large bank of clouds to make a second mid-air flight stop when the tanker reported that the B47 had failed to make contact on schedule. No wreckage was ever found and no crash site ever identified

6. Charles Clifford Ogle: 1964

Due to the equipment aboard, private jets are far less likely to be found especially over large areas of deserted terrain. When he took off from Oakland International Airport he did not file a flight plan and did not contact the control tower. It is believed that he was heading over the Sierra Nevada when he disappeared. In 2007 during the search for Steve Fossett, a number of aircraft parts were found ‘ they were later identified as coming from eight separate aircraft. None of them has ever been conclusively proven to be Ogle’s aircraft

7. Swan 38: 1974

Aircraft are useful tools for monitoring extreme weather such as typhoons. Though satellite data may now be overtaking them in popularity, they were vital to saving lives and property in trying to determine the path of the typhoon. Swan 38 was a converted WC130 operating out of Guam that was sent out to investigate Typhoon Bess in October 1974. All contact was lost when the aircraft was on approach to the eye of the storm in order to take another reading. It is the only aircraft of its type lost in a storm ‘ no wreckage has ever been found

8. Valentich Disappearance: 1978

While on a training flight that was to last just 125 miles, Frederick Valentich disappeared over the Bass Strait. He contacted Melbourne Air Traffic Control and reported being chased by a flying saucer. He was a known UFO enthusiast and the ATC informed him that they could not track any other aircraft. Sceptics suggest that he had become disoriented and had seen his own lights reflected in the water ‘ suggesting that he may have been flying upside down in the moments before the crash. His wreckage was never found, fuelling the theory that he was abducted by the aliens he encountered

9. Ian Mackintosh: 1979

One of the biggest names ever to have gone missing as a result of an aircraft accident, Mackintosh was a BBC screenwriter, novelist and retired British Naval Officer when he and two friends attempted to cross the Gulf of Alaska in a light aircraft. The US Coast Guard received a distress signal and after no further contact, the Coast Guard searched the last known location; no wreckage or bodies were ever found

10. Boeing 727-223: 2003

The strangest aircraft disappearance where we still do not have any answers over ten years later is the story of the theft of this jet from Angola. Due to unpaid fees from its owners, it had been sat in storage for over a year. Originally a passenger jet, all seats had been removed and it had been converted for carrying fuel. Ben Charles Padilla and a mechanic boarded the craft ‘ neither man was qualified to fly it. It taxied to the runway and took off, heading over the Atlantic Ocean. Neither Padilla nor the mechanic have been seen or heard from since


Any aerial disaster is a tragedy but in cases where wreckage is found and bodies retrieved, we can at least offer some closure to the family members who are left behind. We can also get answers from the records and from the nature of the wreckage. In all cases above, either nothing has been found or only small parts of the aircraft have been found meaning that there will never be closure.

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