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They are the ultimate cold cases: aircraft that took off, never to be seen again.
With two-thirds of her world-record flight complete, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan took off on July 2, 1937 from Lae, New Guinea, bound for Howland Island. Their flight would take them 2,556 miles into the Pacific.
Their last known position report was approximately 800 miles into the flight. As they approached Howland Island, the US Coast Guard ship Itasca (which was there to coordinate Earhart's arrival) could hear voice transmissions from the aircraft, but Earhart and Noonan were apparently unable to hear radio transmissions from the ship.
The ship made multiple attempts to make contact with Earhart, but she and Noonan were unable to find Howland Island, with their last known transmission at 8:43am that morning.
Flight 19, a group of 5 TBM Avenger torpedo bombers, disappeared over the famous Bermuda Triangle on December 5, 1945. All 14 airmen on the flight were lost, and in addition, 13 crewmembers of a PBM Mariner flying boat, which was presumed to have exploded in mid-air which searching for the missing Flight 19.
It's assumed that Flight 19, which was on a combat training flight, made a navigational error, became disoriented, and had to ditch in the ocean.
Flight 2501 was a DC-4 flying from LaGuardia Airport in New York to Seattle, Washington. While over Lake Michigan, the aircraft dropped off radar at 3,500', while the pilots requested a descent to 2,500'.
While some aircraft debris was found floating on the surface of Lake Michigan, the plane's wreckage was never located. At the time, it was the largest air disaster in US history.
On March 10th, 1956, a B-47 dissapeared over the Atlantic Ocean with nuclear weapons material on board. The Stratojet was enroute from MacDill Air Force Base in Florida to Ben Guerir Air Base in Morocco. The B-47 completed its first aerial refueling along the route, but after descending to make its second refueling, failed to make contact, and was never heard from again.
Flight 739, a Lockheed Super Constellation, was chartered by the US military when it disappeared on March 16, 1962 over the Western Pacific Ocean. The aircraft, which was carrying 93 US soldiers and 3 South Vietnamese, sparked one of the largest air and sea searches in the Pacific.
After 8 days, the search effort was called off, and it was assumed the aircraft exploded in flight.
The Pan Alaska Cessna 310C was flown by the company's chief pilot, and carried two US Congressmen. Enroute from Anchorage to Juneau, the VFR flight encountered bad weather, and was never heard from again.
An air, land, and sea search was conducted for 39 days, with nothing ever found.
Swan 38 was a converted WC-130 Weatherbird on a typhoon investigation off the coast of the Philippines. The aircraft was flying to the eye of the typhoon when it disappeared. There were no emergency radio transmissions, and search teams were never able to locate the aircraft.
The disappearance of N844AA, a Boeing 727, sparked a worldwide search by the FBI and CIA. The aircraft, a former American Airlines jet, had been grounded in Luanda, Angola for over a year. It is believed that two mechanics, who were working on the aircraft to get it flight-worthy again, stole it.
Just before sunset on May 25, 2003, the aircraft taxied to the runway and took off without a clearance. The aircraft headed toward the Atlantic Ocean, and was never seen again.
It's hard to believe in the age of smartphones and constant internet connection, that an aircraft two-thirds the size of a football field can disappear. But that's exactly what happened on March 8th, 2014.
The Malaysian 777-200ER took off from Kuala Lumpur airport, bound for Beijing. 38 minutes into the flight, MH370 made its last voice contact with ATC. 6 minutes later, the aircraft deviated from its planned route.
7 hours and 38 minutes into the flight, the 777 made its last automated satellite transmission, which was estimated to have occurred over the Southern Indian Ocean.
After more than two years of searching, only a few small pieces of the aircraft have been found.
Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.