The Biggest Aviation Mysteries
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared from air traffic control and radar screens on March 8. The plane was flying at 35,000ft when ...
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared from air traffic control and radar screens on March 8. The plane was flying at 35,000ft when all communication was lost, with no distress signal activated.
As the search goes on and time passes by, the mystery surrounding what happened to flight MH370 grows. But this is not the first time that mystery and intrigue has engulfed the aviation industry, sometimes those mysteries have eventually been solved, but others still have unanswered questions.
Here is a look back on 10 major mysteries from the history of aviation.
Amelia Earhart was an American aviation pioneer who in 1932 became the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Five years later she set off on a mission to circumnavigate the globe. After completing 35,000km (22,000 miles) of the 46,000km (29,000 miles) trip Earhart faced a final trip over the Pacific Ocean. Earhart's plane disappeared approaching Howland Island and despite a massive, multi-million dollar search, no trace of her plane has ever been found.
Earhart was declared dead in 1939, but speculation about the circumstances surrounding her death still continues.
The Bermuda Triangle is a triangular area with points in Florida, Puerto Rico and Bermuda, where it is claimed numerous ships and aircraft have vanished without trace. Incidents include Flight 19, which saw a training flight of five US bombers disappear while flying over this region - this incident has been attributed to navigational error and the aircraft running out of fuel. Two British South American Airways planes also disappeared in the area in the 1940s but it is thought that one ran out of fuel and the other suffered technical faults. Although there are no recent incidents attributed to the area, theorists keep the mystery of this region alive.
US big band musician Glenn Miller was flying from the UK to Paris during World War II to entertain US troops in France, when the aircraft he was flying in disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel. No trace of the plane, crew or passengers has ever been found. There are three main theories behind the crash, firstly that the plane was hit by Royal Air Force bombs, as Lancaster bombers were forced to jettison bombs following a failed raid on Germany.
The second theory came from a WWII airplane gunner, who in 2006 released a book claiming that his battery shot down Miller's plane. The third theory comes from a German journalist, who in 1997 claimed to have uncovered evidence that Miller had in fact arrived safely in Paris but on the day after his arrival died from a heart attack while engaged in relations with a French prostitute and that the US military had covered up the incident.
Star Dust was a 1947 British South American Airways flight from Buenos Aires to Santiago which crashed in the Argentine Andes. The subsequent search was unsuccessful and the fate of the aircraft remained a mystery for over 50 years. It wasn't until the late 1990s that pieces of wreckage from the missing aircraft began to emerge from the glacial ice.
Although many theories included corporate sabotage and alien abduction existed, an investigation in 2000 determined that weather factors caused the crash. It is thought that the crew became confused as to their location while flying at high altitude and believed that they had cleared the mountain tops. They started their descent, but the mountains were still covered by cloud and crashed in Mount Tupungato, killing everyone on board and burying itself in snow and ice.
The 'Clipper Romance of the Skies', a plane similar to the one pictured, was scheduled to take a round-the-world flight in 1957, heading west from San Francisco, with several stops before arriving in Philadelphia. The first leg took to the plane to Honolulu, but it never arrived. After a week of extensive searching, the biggest peace time search since Amelia Earhart, small pieces of wreckage were found floating on the ocean. Fifteen bodies were found and toxicology tests found higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide, which was listed as a possible cause of the crash. A definitive cause of the crash has never been determined, but theories include insurance fraud, a disgruntled crew member or engine malfunction.
This is the stuff of Hollywood, not real-life but over 40 years on, DB Cooper remains the only unsolved case of air piracy in US aviation history. In 1971, a man using the alias Dan Cooper purchased a ticket on a flight from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington. During the flight he gave a message to a crew member that he had a bomb on board and listed his demands as $200,000 in cash, four parachutes and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle.
The airline decided to agree to his demands and after releasing the passengers and refuelling in Seattle, pictured, Cooper and the crew took off again. During the subsequent flight to Reno the plane's rear airstair was opened and Cooper parachuted out. He was never found. In 1980, two packets of 100 $20 dollar notes and a third packet with 90 notes were found in Washington State, adding to the FBI's assumption that Cooper did not survive the parachute jump, but no explanation has been given as to why 10 bills were missing from the third stack. The FBI's case remains open.
In 1996, Trans World Airlines flight 800 exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near New York state, killing all 230 people on board. The explosion in the Boeing 747-100 took place just 12 minutes after take-off and initial speculation was that it had been caused by a terrorist attack. The FBI launched an investigation but 16 months later announced that it had found no evidence of a criminal act and so closed its investigation.
The National Transportation Safety Board carried out what was then the most extensive air disaster investigation in US history and determined that the probable cause of the accident was an explosion of flammable fuel air vapours in a fuel tank, which was most likely to have been caused by a short circuit. Many conspiracy theories still exist regarding the explosion including a missile strike from a terrorist or US Navy vessel that is the subject of a government coverup.
In February 2008, Fossett was declared legally dead. In September 2008, a hiker in the Sierra Nevasa Mountains in California found Fossett's identification cards and several days later a crash site was discovered just 65 miles from where he took off. Although initially no remains were found, but tests on two bones found in November 2008 produced a match for Fossett's DNA. Eventually the cause of the accident was found to be a combination of excessive downdrafts, high density altitude and mountainous terrain.
The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is a mystery that has gripped many people, with numerous theories and unanswered questions. The fact that no trace of the plane is yet to be found, in spite of a massive multi-national search involving aircraft, ships and satellites only adds to the mystery. Continued and conflicting reports of wreckage found, mobile phones going unanswered and possible pilot u-turns add further levels of intrigue.
Theories of hijacking and terrorism are hugely prevalent particularly as no distress signal was sent from the plane, but a US official has said that the plane continued to send a signal to satellites for four hours after it went missing indicating that it was possibly still flying.