Espionage and sabotage, horrific state secrets, ‘diabolic’ triangles that swallow up planes, extra terrestrials and holes in time.
Even without the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines’ Boeing 777, history is full of mysterious disappearances of airplanes and a range of conspiracy theories seeking to explain the riddle.
In the end, there’s one answer. Even the most inconceivable can happen.
1. Amelia Earhart disappeared as she flew round the world (1937)
In 1937, American flight pioneer and an activist for women's rights Amelia Earhart, attempted with Fred Noonan as her co-pilot to fly around the world with a Lockheed 10 Electra.
She did not succeed. On July 2 1937, the Electra disappeared from the radars above the Pacific ocean, near Howland island.
The bodies of the two ambitious aviators or any trace of their aircraft were never found. The unexplained conditions under which Earhart disappeared in combination with her fame, led to dozens of conspiracy theories as regards her last flight. Most experts believe the airplane ran out of fuel and crashed into the sea. Others claim that the pilots attempted an emergency landing on Gardner Island, but were unable to say where the crash debris was.
According to another theory Earhart was an American spy and was shot down by the Japanese, arrested and executed, or according to another version, survived the accident but chose to retire to New Jersey where she lived out the rest of her life under a fake identity.
And some others believe that both she and her co-pilot were abducted by extra terrestrials.
2. The disappearance of Glenn Miller over the British Channel (1944)
In 1944, legendary musician Glenn Miller was giving a series of performances in Britain for the allied forces with a band from the US army.
He spent his last night, December 14, 1944, at Milton Ernest near Bedford. The next day, he was due to fly to Paris for a concert. He took off from RAF Tinwood Farm, with a single engine airplane that disappeared over the Channel.
There are numerous theories as to the fate of the airplane - some say it was shot down by friendly fire. On the other hand, journalist Udo Ulfkotte wrote in the newspaper Bild, that Miller did get to France but died of a heart attack in a Paris brothel.
3. Flight 19 and the Bermuda Triangle (1945)
On December 5, 1945, five torpedo bombers of the US Navy manned by experienced pilots left Florida on a routine patrol known as Flight 19 over the Atlantic, between Miami and Puerto Rico. Four hours later and little before their return to base, the control tower received odd messages from the pilots (that none of their flight equipment was working properly and that their compasses had gone crazy) that showed them to be disoriented. According to one version, their last communication was “We seemed to be going into white water. We are completely lost” - a little after the five airplanes with the 14 pilots disappeared for ever, without leaving a single trace. A rescue airplane sent to find them and its 13-member crew also went missing.
After investigations lasting several weeks, the US Navy concluded that the chief of mission, flight instructor captain Charles Taylor got lost over the ocean when his compass stopped working, failed to find his way back and the airplanes of Flight 19 plunged into the ocean when they ran out of fuel. But Captain Taylor’s mother did not accept the conclusions of the navy while the media sought more convincing answers, since neither debris nor bodies were ever found. The verdict was eventually changed. Flight 19 was officially described as lost as a result of unknown cause. Since then it is the basic scenario for stories relating to metaphysical phenomena at the famous Bermuda Triangle.
4. The disappearance of Star Dust and the mysterious code (1947)
The flight of Star Dust belonging to British South American Airways (BSSA) which was flying from Chile to Buenos Aires disappeared over the Andes during a snow storm on August, 1947.
Earlier, before losing contact, the pilot had managed to send a message in Morse code. It was one word only – a riddle: “STENDEC”. It was sent twice. For more than 50 years no trace was found of the airplane or its 11 passengers. Finally, in January 2000, a group of climbers found the wreck of the airplane and human remains which had been ‘hidden’ for more than half a century at the top of Tupungato Mountain, near the Argentina-Chilean border. Experts who examined the site and the wreck concluded that the accident was a result of extremely bad weather conditions and not pilot error. And they speculate that the airplane was not found for a number of years because it caused an avalanche when it crashed, and was buried underneath it. To the present, no one has managed to solve the riddle of the last message sent from Star Dust even though there are dozens of theories as to what it means. The more extreme say that it was an anagram of a call for help to a third, unknown power or a sign of attack from the ground. The airplane was said to be carrying important diplomatic documents.
5. The Bermuda Triangle ‘swallows’ Star Tiger (1948)
On January 30, 1948 the Tudor IV named Star Tiger was flying from the Azores to Bermuda with a crew of six and 25 passengers. The airplane was in communication with the control tower of Kindley Airport in Bermuda about two hours before the estimated time of arrival, seeking confirmation of the course it should follow for the airport.
This was the last communication from the aircraft. The Star Tiger never reached its destination. The search that followed found no trace of the airplane or its passengers.
Even the committee set up by the British government to investigate the cause of the disappearance could not come up with an answer.
6. The disappearance of Star Ariel (1949)
The Star Ariel – the third of BSAA – disappeared on January 17, 1949, during a flight from Bermuda to Jamaica. It was the same type of aircraft as Star Tiger and took off in very good weather but had communication problems throughout the flight.
It never reached its destination and the search for survivors among the 20 on board (13 passengers and a seven-member crew) stopped on January 25. There are many theories as to what may have happened, including sabotage.
7. Looking for Flying Tiger 739 (1962)
A routine flight with the military transport aircraft, a Lockheed Super Constellation carrying American troops to Vietnam ended in another tragedy. The airplane refuelled at Guam on March 16, took off and then just disappeared. For eight days, 1300 people from the US navy and Air Force swept the Pacific Ocean in vain in what was possibly the largest search operation in US military history, looking for a trace of the fated flight. Not a single piece of the plane or a trace of the 107 on board was ever found. The official US position was that the aircraft exploded in the air for unknown reasons, a version based on the testimony of the crew of a Liberian-flagged tanker who said they saw “an intense beam of light” in the sky coinciding with the scheduled time of the flight. Rumours rage however that it was either shot down or crashed in the sea after its engines were sabotaged during the stop-over at the naval base in Guam.
8. Flight 571 - the ‘miracle of the Andes’ (1972)
On October 13, 1972, a US made FH-227 belonging to the air force of Uruguay took off from Montevideo. The airplane was taking a rugby team with their family and friends, a total of 45 people, to Santiago in Chile for a match that was to take place the following day. Because of the bad weather conditions and the fog, the pilots attempted a blind landing, as a result of which the airplane crashed into the Andes and disintegrated. Of the 45 on board, 12 died in the crash, another six in the following days and eight were killed by an avalanche that fell on the wreck where the survivors had sought shelter. A search to locate the plane got underway almost immediately with the participation of three countries (Chile, Uruguay and Argentina), but unfortunately they focused on the wrong spot and even though an aircraft flew over the crash site it was unable to locate the debris of Flight 571, because it was buried by fresh snow. In the end, only 16 survived by resorting to the most basic survival instinct of man and animal – they ate their dead co-passengers. They were found 72 days later after two of them were able to find help. The ‘miracle of the Andes’ and the story of the ‘cannibals’ of Flight 571 became a book, a film and continues to shock people to the present.
9. ΤWA-800 and the conspiracy theories (1996)
This flight ended up a massive air disaster which sparked more conspiracy theories than any other in modern history. Flight 800 of ΤWA exploded in the air on July 17, 1996, a little after taking off from JFK, killing all 230 on board. Rumours were quick to spread that terrorists had hit the plane with ground to air rockets, a theory that was boosted by eye witnesses who said that the plane was hit by a beam of light, lightning or ‘something bright’. After a four year investigation, the NTSB attributed the tragedy to a short circuit of the plane’s electronics which led to sparks and eventually an explosion of the fuel tank. Many believe otherwise, for example that the plane was hit by a rocket, a bomber, even a meteorite. And that, in any event, the American government knows what happened but is hiding it.
10. The tragedy of Αir France 447 (2009)
The last – chronologically speaking disappearance of an aircraft - which led to innumerable conspiracy theories before the current tragedy with the Malaysia Airlines jet was flight 447 of Air France. On June 1, 2009, Air France 447 disappeared from the radar while flying over the Atlantic from Rio de Janeiro to Paris with 228 passengers. The search was futile for several months until some debris and about 50 bodies were found. The black boxes and another 104 bodies were eventually found two years later, in May 2011. Investigators concluded that the airplane’s sensors were frozen by ice and as a result the autopilot was disconnected. It was said that the crew tried to repair the damage but failed and were never able to regain control of the aircraft and prevent it from crashing into the ocean. The remains of 74 passengers are yet to be found.