10 Flights In The History Of Aviation That Mysteriously Vanished Without A Trace

10 Flights In The History Of Aviation That Mysteriously Vanished Without A Trace

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Air travel is the quickest way to reach a destination. The Bureau of Transportation reports that there are a total of 631,939,829 passengers boarding domestic flights in the United States alone every year; which averages to 1.73 million passengers flying per day. Every now and then, we hear about flights disappearing without a trace. Although the pilots are trained to overcome problems mid-flight, there are instances where the problem is beyond their control. What’s strange is the fact that some of the flights that have gone missing throughout history, are yet to be found. Especially in the era where technology is advanced, we cannot determine what exactly caused them to disappear. Here, we have compiled a list containing flights that left behind no trace, debris or clues as to what happened to them.

1. Boeing 727 – Stolen from an airport in Luanda, Angola

Boeing flight, Luanda, Angola, Flights, American Airlines
Image source: Wikimedia

On May 25, 2003, a Boeing 727-223 aircraft, registered N844AA, took off from Quatro de Fevereiro Airport in Luanda, Angola. The American Airliner jet was owned by the Miami-based company Aerospace Sales & Leasing and was leased to TAAG Angola Airlines when the incident had occurred. A suspicious looking man was seen entering the aircraft before two other men (Ben Charles Padilla and John Mikel Mutantu) boarded the airliner. Neither men had a pilot’s license and 727’s require a three person trained crew.

The 727 was taxiing erratically with no communication between the crew and the control tower. It also took off with its transponder and lights off. Since then, neither the men nor the airplane has ever been discovered. Although authorities believe that Padilla hijacked the jet since Air Angola failed to make payments, his family believes that he was held against his will. (source)

2. Hawaii Clipper – The flying boat that disappeared a few minutes before 6 a.m. on July 29, 1938

Hawaii clipper
Image via Wikimedia/public domain

The Hawaii Clipper was a thing of beauty. The high-wing flying boat had a riveted hull, was 91 feet long and 25 feet high, with a 130-foot wingspan. It was one of the three Pan American Airways Martin M-130 flying boats that had a notable feature. The sponsons, or sea wings, gave the aircraft more stability and control in water while providing luxurious accommodations to passengers.

On July 29, 1938, Hawaii Clipper Flight #229 was flying from Alameda, California to Manila, while carrying nine crew members and six passengers. Soon after takeoff, the Hawaii Clipper disappeared over the Pacific. The disappearance launched one of the biggest intensive sea and air searches in Asiatic waters. After three days of extensive search efforts, an oil slick 1500 feet in circumference was discovered about 50 miles south of the spot the plane was last reported.

Although the spill samples were collected and analyzed, no valuable information of much significance was uncovered. The search was called off on the third day and to this day, neither the plane nor any of its passengers have been found. Aviation experts are still baffled by the mystery and wonder what really happened to the luxury passenger aircraft. (source)

3. Flight 19 – five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers that disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle on Dec. 5, 1945

Flight 19 disappearance, five flights
Image source: 1, 2

72 years ago, five Navy planes took off from their base in Florida on a routine training mission. Known as Flight 19, the fleet of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle on Dec. 5, 1945. The disappearance of five airplanes with 14 airmen on board caused many to speculate about the involvement of the Bermuda Triangle. Until today, no wreckage of any of the aircrafts has been discovered. An investigation of the recorded radio transmissions from the planes determined that the pilots could have been victims of navigational error caused by magnetism. Experts believe that the pilots flew off course into the Atlantic Ocean, where they ran out of fuel and crashed.

Although there has been no evidence to suggest the fate of the planes, many believe that they are victims of alien abductions, the existence of a mysterious third dimension created by unknown beings, or ocean flatulence. (source)

4. Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 – A Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation propliner disappeared after taking off from Vietnam

Flying Tiger Line Flight 739
Image source: Wikimedia

The Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 was a Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation propliner. On March 16, 1962, the aircraft chartered by the United States military to fly 96 American soldiers from Travis Air Force Base in California to Saigon, Vietnam, disappeared without a trace. The flight landed in Guam for a scheduled refueling at Andersen Air Force Base. Once refueled, the aircraft was en route to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

80 minutes after departure, the pilot radioed the tower to report that everything was working properly and that the flight was on schedule. That was the last time anyone heard from the pilot or the aircraft. The US military searched more than 200,000 square miles over a period of eight days, but unfortunately, never discovered the fate of the airplane. (source 1, 2)

5. Amelia Earhart – Vanished over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island in 1937

Amelia Earhart
Image source: flickr/CCO

During an attempt to become the first female to circumnavigate the globe by flight, Amelia Earhart and navigator Frederick Noonan went missing near Howland Island in the Pacific. As Earhart was facing one of the most challenging legs of her journey (crossing the Pacific Ocean), she made emergency radio contact indicating that she was lost and running out of fuel. She kept contact with the radio tower Itasca, at close proximity to Howland Island, before the connection ended.

After several hours of frustrating attempts, Itasca was unable to pinpoint Earhart’s exact location. Although several promising clues have emerged over the past few years, her fate as well as the plane, has yet to be discovered. Experts are performing sonar scans off the coast of Nikumaroro island, hoping to find a resolution to this unsolved mystery. (source)

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6. L’Oiseau Blanc – A French Levasseur PL.8 biplane that disappeared in 1927

L'Oiseau Blanc plane disappearance
Image source: Wikimedia

L’Oiseau Blanc or The White Bird, was a French Levasseur PL.8 biplane that mysteriously disappeared in 1927. French pilots Charles Nungesser and François Coli were attempting to cross the Atlantic when the incident occurred. According to several sources, the flights are believed to have crashed off the coast of Newfoundland, but the wreckage, cargo or bodies of the pilots have not been recovered. If the flight would have successfully reached its destination, it would have been the second time in history that a pair of pilots had crossed the Atlantic ocean. The first record was set by British aviators John ‘Jack’ Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown. They managed to successfully fly a modified version of Vickers Vimy bomber to Newfoundland in June of 1919.

Conspiracy theorists believe that the disappearance of L’Oiseau Blanc was a cover up so not to distract from Lindbergh’s achievement. 90 years after the pilots and the plane went missing, the search goes on in the waters around St.-Pierre. (source)

7. Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 – A Boeing 777 carrying 239 passengers and crew, vanished on March 8, 2014

Malaysia Airlines MH370 disappearance
Image source: Wikimedia

Since 2014, the whereabouts of a Boeing 777 that was carrying 239 passengers and crew, has remained a mystery. Although neither the plane nor the black box has ever been discovered, analysis of the plane’s last moments suggested that it crashed at a high speed without a pilot in control. Almost a year after the disappearance, the search and rescue efforts were finally called off. Recent studies by Australian scientists suggest that rescuers had been searching in the wrong location.

Until today, 33 pieces of wreckage have been discovered but not the crash site. Although investigators are finding debris that belong to MH370, it has not proven beneficial to them in locating the plane as they had drifted in the water. (source)

8. Varig Boeing 967 – A Brazilian cargo plane carrying $1 million in art disappears

Varig Flight 967, Brazilian flight
Image source: Wikimedia

An hour after takeoff from Narita International Airport in Tokyo, a Varig Brazilian Airlines cargo jet vanished into thin air. The incident occurred in 1979 and the Rio-bound 707 was carrying 153 paintings by artist Manabu Mabe; valued at $1.2 million. The plane also had six crew members that were never heard from again. Until today, neither the wreckage nor the paintings were ever found, however, several sources suggest that some of the paintings that went missing with the flight have appeared in auctions around the world. (source)

9. Star Tiger & Star Ariel – Went missing in the Bermuda Triangle

Star Tiger And Star Ariel
Image source: Wikimedia

The Star Tiger & Star Ariel were two separate flights of Avro Tudor planes. Star Tiger disappeared on January 30, 1948, while flying from the Azores to Bermuda and Star Ariel was lost on January 17, 1949, while flying from Bermuda to Kingston, Jamaica. Neither of the flights contacted the radio control tower informing them of any difficulties. In fact, their last contact was a routine message relayed by the pilots. Authorities believe that the extreme weather conditions could have blown the Star Tiger off course, causing it to run out of fuel or suffer instrument failure at mid-flight.

However, when the Star Ariel took off from Bermuda, the weather conditions were perfect and the last radio transmission informed the tower of good visibility and smooth flying. Until today, no wreckage or clues regarding the planes has ever been recovered. After the incidents were reported in various news articles, the entire fleet of Tudor IV’s was retired. (source)

10. Antonov An-32 – Indian Air Force transport aircraft disappeared while flying over the Bay of Bengal

Indian Army
Image source: zeenews

An Antonov AN-32 twin-engine transport aircraft carrying 23 passengers and six crew members mysteriously disappeared while flying over the Bay of Bengal. The aircraft belonging to the Indian Air Force disappeared from radar at 9:12 AM on July 22, 2016. Soon after the control tower lost all communication with the aircraft, India kicked off one of the biggest search operations for a missing plane on the sea.

Although the Navy, Indian Air Force and Coast Guard participated in the search, they were unable to locate the aircraft. Preliminary investigation reports suggested that the aircraft was not fitted with an underwater locator beacon, which made the search operations even more difficult. (source)

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