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A photograph of a plane wing, mid-flight

Five Famous Plane Mysteries

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From Amelia Earhart to the Flying Tiger, here are five of the most famous plane mysteries.

1937: Amelia Earhart

In July 1937, American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart was 22,000 miles into completing her unprecedented around the world flight. She was famed for being the first person to fly the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans solo.

Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were flying from Lae, New Guinea to tiny Howland Island in the middle of the Pacific when they vanished. Neither they nor their plane were ever found.

Recently, a jar of 1930s women’s freckle cream was discovered on the Japanese island of Nikumaroro, only 400 miles away from Earhart’s final destination. Earhart hated her freckles.

In 2017 a photo was uncovered in the US national archives that suggest Earhart and Noonan survived the crash. The picture, discovered by retired federal agent Les Kinney, shows people on a jetty in the Marshall Islands. In the image there is a woman with short facing away from the camera, this is believed to be Earhart.

1945: Flight 19 Navy Bombers

In 1945, Lieutenant Charles Carroll Taylor set off from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on a routine training exercise just off the coast. Taylor, a war veteran and experienced instructor with the Navy, was leading a squadron of five bombers.

Approximately two hours into their flight, Taylor radioed the base saying his compasses had malfunctioned. Almost three hours after that, they heard from him for the very last time, sounding confused and disoriented.

Lt. Taylor, along with his 13 trainees flying that day, had disappeared into the heart of the Bermuda Triangle. Despite extensive efforts, no wreckage has ever been found.

1962: Flying Tiger Flight 739

At approximately 1:30 in the morning on March 16, 1972 a bright fireball could be glimpsed in the clouds above the Mariana Trench. The trench is almost seven miles deep and lies like a gaping wound in the Pacific.

The light seen above it could potentially have been the last possible sighting of Flying Tiger Flight 739, a military transport plane carrying 96 troops to Vietnam.

No distress call was ever recorded, and this last possible sighting was made by crew aboard a nearby oil tanker. The soldiers never made it to Saigon.

1972: Uruguayan Flight 571

Most have heard some variation of the tale of people being stranded and forced to eat one another to stay alive. This is the true story.

Uruguayan Flight 571, carrying a rugby team, vanished in the Andes Mountains during a flight to Chile in 1972. Out of the 45 people on board, only 16 eventually survived. After running completely out of food, they were left with no option but to eat their deceased comrades.

Lost for a total of 72 days on frozen mountainside, the group conquered starvation, an avalanche and exhaustion until their rescue.

2003: Boeing 727-223

On the 25 May 2003, a Boeing 727 left the runway of an Angolan airport with its lights and transponder switched off and no clearance. It had been modified to transport up to 5,000 gallons of fuel at a time to diamond mines.

The Boeing, a huge beast of a plane, usually requires at least three fully trained air crew to pilot. On the evening of the 25th, it had just one: Benjamin Charles Padilla, a Floridian flight engineer.

The plane took off over the Atlantic, neither it nor its unexpected pilot to be ever seen again.