Sunday 13 April 2014

Aircraft that vanished

The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines 777 goes on, and on, but, of course, it is not the only aircraft to have vanished without trace. Perhaps the most famous was the Lockheed Electra being flown by Amelia Earhart (pictured) in her attempt to become the first woman to fly around the world in 1937. A voice message from Earhart and her navigator near Howland Island in the mid-Pacific was the last thing ever heard from the flight.

Much bigger aircraft have also disappeared. In 2003, a Boeing 727, being leased by TAAG Angola Airlines, took off from Luanda with its tracking transponder switched off. The aircraft had been idle for 14 months and had racked up millions of dollars in airport fees. No trace of it or the one person known to be on board has ever been found.

In 1962, a Flying Tiger Line Lockheed Super Constellation chartered by the US military disappeared over the western Pacific. It had departed from Travis Air Force Base, California, carrying 93 American soldiers to fight the Viet Cong, 3 South Vietnamese military personnel and 11 crew. The pilot’s last message gave the aircraft’s position as 280 miles west of Guam.

A tanker in the area reported seeing what looked like an aircraft exploding, but one of the biggest air and sea searches in the history of the Pacific found nothing. Another Super Constellation from Travis Air Base carrying secret military cargo crashed the same day in the Aleutian Islands, leading to strong suspicions that both were sabotaged.

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