As the disappearance of a Malaysian Airlines jet continues to baffle investigators, we look at other famous aviation mysteries
The pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart vanished over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 while attempting to circumnavigate the globe. Various reasons have been given for her disappearance. Some claim she was a spy, and that she was shot down and captured by Japanese forces; some believe she faked her own death; and a few even claim she was abducted by aliens. Last year researchers claimed they had discovered remnants of her aircraft using sonar readings.
The Bermuda Triangle
The roughly triangular area bounded by Miami, Bermuda and Puerto Rico is where dozens of aircraft and ships are said to have vanished in unusual circumstances, with the disappearances attributed to paranormal or extraterrestrial activity.
Notable incidents include the disappearance of Flight 19, a US Navy bomber, on December 5, 1945, as well as the aircraft sent to search for it; that of a Douglas DC-3 aircraft with 32 people on board in 1948; and a mid-air collision between two US Air Force planes in 1963.
“D B Cooper”
In 1971, an unidentified man travelling under the name of “Dan Cooper” managed to hijack a Boeing 727, extort a $200,000 ransom, and leap from the rear exit on the aircraft (with a parachute), never to be seen again. No conclusive evidence has emerged confirming his true identity or subsequent whereabouts, but FBI investigatiors claimed he would not have survived the jump.
A year after the incident “Cooper vanes” were installed to disable aircraft doors while the landing gear is up.
Twa Flight 800
Trans World Airlines Flight 800, a Boeing 747, exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, New York, on July 17, 1996, resulting in the deaths of all 230 people on board.
While many speculated that terrorists were to blame, no evidence of a criminal act was discovered by the FBI following a 16-month investigation. Others suggested that a US Navy vessel blew up the plane with a missile strike, and that the US Government has since instigated a cover-up.
A report published on August 23, 2000, concluded that a short circuit was the most likely cause of the explosion.
Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571
On October 13, 1972, a Uruguayan air force plane carrying 40 passengers and five crew members disappeared while crossing the Andes. Seventy-two days later, after everyone on board was presumed dead, 16 survivors emerged. The story of how starvation drove them to eat some of the dead passengers was made into the 1993 film “Alive”.