The aviation industry has grown in leaps and bounds since the first flight by the Wright Brothers took place in the early 20th century. However, the industry has also experienced several bizarre incidents which have changed history, including the disappearance of aircraft while on a flight. Some of these incidents led to the disappearance of hundreds of passengers on board the flights.
5. Pakistan International Airlines Flight 404 (1989)
In 1989, the aviation industry in Pakistan was hit by the disappearance of the Pakistan International Airlines Flight 404. Under bizarre circumstances, a Fokker F27-200 Friendship aircraft and its 54 occupants disappeared. The aircraft was a relatively old aircraft, clocking about 44,524 hours of flight since its construction in 1962. The Fokker F27 aircraft had just landed at the Gilgit Airport from the nation’s capital, Islamabad and was ferrying a batch of passengers back to Islamabad. The flight’s pilot made a routine radio communication at 7:40 which was the last message received from the aircraft. The flight was later lost from radar with no communication being received from the crew. The Pakistani military was dispatched to conduct search operations which bore no results. Pakistani International Airlines Flight 404 is believed to have crashed in the Himalayas particularly in the region around Nanga Parbat, and all the occupants are presumed to have died immediately.
4. Skyways Avro York Disappearance (1953)
Skyways Limited’s Avro York G-AHFA was a four-engine aircraft which disappeared while transporting a troop of soldiers, their families, and six crew members from the United Kingdom to Jamaica. The aircraft had been built in 1946 and had undergone a complete overhaul in November 1952. It had been issued with a certificate of airworthiness three days before its ill-fated flight. The Avro York was operated by Skyways Limited but was owned by the Lancashire Aircraft Corporation. The Avro York aircraft began its fateful journey at the Stanstead Airport in the United Kingdom on February 1, 1953 on a flight that was to be used by the British Air Ministry as a military trooping flight. The flight took off and had its first stopover at the Lajes Field in the Portuguese island of Azores and later took off at 23:25 for the next stopover at Gander Airport in Newfoundland. Few hours after takeoff, the aircraft began sending distress messages to flight control at Gander Airport and disappeared soon afterward. Frantic search missions were commissioned with no results. The aircraft and all its 39 occupants disappeared under mysterious circumstances that have never been explained to this date.
3. Air France Latecoere 631 Disappearance (1948)
On July 31st, 1948 at 14:50 GMT, the Air France aircraft Latecoere 631 departed from an airport in Martinique’s capital, Fort de France and was destined for Port Etienne in French West Africa where it was scheduled to arrive at 01:00 GMT on August 1, 1948. The aircraft took off with 40 passengers and 12 crew members on board. However, around midnight, several mayday signals emanating from the aircraft were received by an American radio station indicating that the flight may have crashed. Several aircrafts from Air France and The French Air Force were dispatched to conduct a search-and-rescue mission. The United States Coast Guard also sent its USCGC ship to assist in the effort on behalf of the United States Air Force, sending several Boeing B-29 Superfortress planes to help. After several days of searching, parts of the plane wreckage were discovered scattered across the Atlantic with some being 1,570 nautical miles from Puerto Rico. The search for survivors was subsequently called off and all passengers on board were declared dead, making the disaster one of the worst in French aviation history. The 1948 crash caused Air France to withdraw all Latecoere 631 aircraft from its fleet. The cause of the crash is still not known.
2. Airborne Transport DC-3 Disappearance (1948)
1948 was a tragic year in the aviation industry, with another mysterious disappearance happening at the end of the year. The Douglas DST aircraft belonging to the aviation company Airborne Transport disappeared a few hours after takeoff. The mysterious incident caused widespread panic with the whereabouts of all crew members and passengers being unknown despite frantic search operations. The aircraft began its fateful journey on December 21, 1948 from the city of San Juan in Puerto Rico with the intended destination of Miami, Florida. However, the aircraft had experienced a few technical hitches early on. The landing gear warning light malfunctioned and the aircraft batteries were low of water and also discharged. The low batteries meant that the plane radio could not function properly. The aircraft’s pilot, Robert Linquist, was well informed of the poor form of his plane but downplayed it, refusing to delay the flight for several hours. The plane took off at around 22:03 but soon after lost contact with the flight control centers in both San Jose and Miami. The last communication from the aircraft was received at 4:30 with the pilot stating that he was 50 miles south of Miami. The aircraft and its occupants have never been found, and the incident was one of the many to be linked to the mysterious Bermuda Triangle.
1. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (2014)
The most recent aviation tragedy is the 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The incident attracted great international attention and involved a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft which was operated by Malaysia Airlines. The aircraft’s flight began at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia and was headed to Beijing Capital International Airport in China. The aircraft was carrying 239 people comprised of 227 passengers from 15 countries, and 12 members of the crew. The Boeing 777 took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at around 00:42 on March 2nd, 2014 on a flight that was scheduled to take 5 hours, 34 minutes to Beijing, China. The last verbal communication between the airplane and air traffic control was at 01:19. The aircraft later disappeared from the military radar and the secondary radar. Considering there was minimal cloud cover of the region and the crew never sent any distress signals, the disappearance was quite strange. Malaysia Airlines later released a press statement announcing the disappearance of the flight. An extensive search-and-rescue mission was later launched and involved several countries including Malaysia, China, and Indonesia. The search effort became the largest and most expensive search effort in aviation history. However, despite spending millions of dollars, neither the aircraft nor the people on board were ever discovered.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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