As baffling as the disappearance of flight MH370 appears to be, it is not the first time that an aircraft has gone missing without a trace. Here are 10 examples of vanishing airplanes throughout history.
1. British South American Airways Star Dust
Star Dust was a British Avro Lancastrian airliner that crashed into a mountain in the Argentine Andes in 1947. The plane was headed from Buenos Aires to Santiago. The plane was not found and many conspiracies came up, but the plane was not found until 50 years later when mountaineers came across the remains of the plane. Experts concluded that the crew had started their descent too early due to poor weather conditions and crashed into the mountains.
2. Missoni’s Private Plane
In January 2013, a small aircraft disappeared off the coast of Venezuela. The plane was carrying the director of Italian fashion house Missoni, his wife and four other people and was headed from Los Roques to Caracas when it lost altitude at an alarming rate and disappeared from radar. The plane was found six months after the crash and divers located the six bodies of the passengers. No explanation has been made about the disappearance and the area where the plane was lost is now called the “new Bermuda Triangle”
3. Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571
This is another flight that fell victim to low clouds and high mountains, but in a time when the cockpit could not inform the pilot in such great detail as today. The plane lost both wings as it clipped the mountains and of the 45 passengers, about half survived the impact. Of those that survived the crash, only 16 were found by rescue teams 72 days later. The survivors admitted to having resorted to cannibalism to survive.
4. Bellanca Super Decathlon Flown By Steve Fossett
The American adventurer set off from Nevada on 3 September 2007 in an attempt to fly a plane solo around the world without refuelling. The 63-year old Steve Fossett was never heard from again and it wasn’t until October 2008 that his single engine plane was found after a massive search. Investigators claim strong winds to be the reason of the crash.
5. US Army Air Corps B-24D “Lady Be Good”
During World War II, this bomber was sent out on a mission over Naples, Italy in 1943. The plane never returned to base and the nine-man crew was designated as “missing in action”. The plane had actually overflown its target and ended up North Africa where the crew parachuted to the ground and walked a 100 miles eventually perishing from thirst and heat. The plane was found 15 years later, intact, by a British oil exploration team.
6. Trans World Airlines Flight 800
TWA flight 800 left JFK airport a little after 20:00 on 17 July 1996. The plane exploded a few minutes after take-off and killed all 230 passengers and crew on board. The explosion was reported by another flight that radioed Boston air control. Investigations traced the cause to be an electric short circuit which triggered an explosion in the fuel tanks, but many conspiracy theories came to life and have yet to be proven.
7. Bermuda Triangle
This is not just one flight but a collection of flights that have gone missing over the same area of the Atlantic Ocean. Ships and planes have disappeared without a trace in this area with its points in Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico. The disappearance of two British South American Airways planes in the 1940’s was later explained by a BBC journalist in 2009, but the legend of the Bermuda Triangle lives on, with many cases still unexplained to this day.
8. Egypt Air Flight 990
Flight 990 was headed from JFK to Cairo on 31 October 1999 and went down in the Atlantic. Due to the planes disappearance in international water, the duty fell to Egypt to investigate and search for the missing aircraft, but they refused and asked US aviation officials to investigate on their behalf. When American investigators discovered that the plane had been taken down intentionally by the Egyptian pilot, Egypt reversed their decision and claimed the plane crashed due to mechanical failure.
9. Amelia Earhart
Probably one of the most famous aeronautical disappearances ever is that of flying ace Amelia Earhart. In an attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 1937, her aircraft disappeared and has not been found to this day. A major search effort was made to find the double-engine airplane, but after two years both Earhart and her navigator, Captain Fred Noonan, were declared dead.
10. Air France Flight 447
In 2009, flight 447, headed from Rio de Janeiro to Paris disappeared and was not found for five days. The wreckage of the plane was discovered but it took divers two years to locate the black box. No survivors were found, and French investigators discovered that the auto-pilot had been disengaged, most likely due to the ice crystals that froze the air speed instruments. The disengaged auto-pilot caused the pilot to steer the plane at too steep an angle and stalled the plane. Air France refused these accusations.