5 Mysterious airline disappearances

A year has passed since Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared on 8 March 2014. While search operations for the missing aircraft still continue, here are five airplane incidents that remain shrouded in mystery.

1. MALAYSIA AIRLINES FLIGHT MH370: En route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, the Boeing 777 passenger jet with 239 people aboard disappeared from radar and vanished mysteriously over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam. Contact with Air Traffic Control was lost about an hour after takeoff. Combined search operations of several nations have proved futile in solving the mystery surrounding the incident.


2. THE ANGOLA BOEING 727-233: On 25 May 2003, a Boeing 727-233 was stolen from Quatro de Fevereiro Airport in Luanda, Angola’s capital city. The number of people aboard the plane at the time is unknown, but American pilot and flight engineer Ben Charles Padilla Jr is suspected to be the flier. Without any communication with the tower, the aircraft began taxiing and took off without clearance. It headed southwest towards the Atlantic Ocean, with the transponder and all lights turned off. A worldwide search was carried out by the FBI and the CIA, but nothing has been heard of the aircraft since.


3. FLYING TIGER LINE FLIGHT 739: Flying Tiger Line Flight 739, a US military aircraft, disappeared on 16 March 1962. The Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation propliner carrying 93 American soldiers and three Vietnamese took off from Anderson Air Force Base at Guam after refuelling, but vanished over the Pacific Ocean. One of the largest air and sea searches of the Pacific followed, covering more than 200,000 square miles, but no wreckage was ever found.


4. THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE: A series of mysterious incidents took place in the Bermuda Triangle, the vast area in the western part of North Atlantic Ocean between Florida, Puerto Rico and Bermuda, during the 1940s. Two British South American Airways passenger jets, the Star Tiger and the Star Ariel, disappeared in the region in 1948 and 1949 respectively. Despite multiple search operations, what happened to the two aircraft or their 51 passengers and crew remains unsolved.


These were by no means the first such cases. In December 1945, five US Navy Avenger Planes had mysteriously vanished in the region after taking off from Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a routine training exercise over the Atlantic. Soon after their mission had begun, pilots reported disorientation and that they could not recognize landmarks below them. Both their compasses were also reported to be malfunctioning. Even more surprisingly, the PBM Mariner seaplane that was appointed for the search-and-rescue operation also disappeared later that day.

5. AMELIA EARHART: The pioneer American aviator’s ambitious attempt to circumnavigate the globe ended in mystery. Two months into her round-the-world flight in July 1937, Earhart and her Lockheed Model 10 Electra disappeared around Howland Island in the mid-Pacific Ocean. A multi-million dollar search produced no trace of the aviator or any remnants of her twin engine monoplane. She was declared dead in 1939.


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