Plane Disappearances: Where Did All Those Planes And People Vanish To?

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
November 10, 2017
Last Updated
October 2, 2021
Estimated Reading Time
28 min read
Posted in
Supernatural, Disappearances

Most of us are aware of the mystery of Flight MH370 and the rather unnerving fact that its whereabouts are still unknown. As unprecedented as that particular episode may be to some, the fact is, flying craft simply vanish from our skies at (relatively speaking) an alarming rate.

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 (MH370).

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 (MH370).

There are various theories as to what may be happening in the enigmatic atmosphere of the planet’s skies – some of which we will look at in a little more depth later – ranging from incidents with UFOs to secret portals scooping the aircraft and its occupants to another dimension and to who knows where.

Before we look at some of these incidents in more detail, check out the short video below. It looks at ten of the most mysterious disappearing plane cases.

The Five Missing Planes Of Flight 19

Perhaps one the strangest incidents of planes seemingly vanishing into thin air would be that of Flight 19. Maybe the fact that the Avenger aircrafts disappeared over the area known as the Bermuda Triangle, an area known for unexplainable phenomena and disappearances, leads people to consider such outlandish notions when other similar events occur.

On 5th December 1945, five Avenger torpedo bombers embarked on their mission – Flight 19 – which was nothing more than a standard patrol-and-return flight.

Shortly after take-off, however, each of the planes would begin to suffer problems with their navigation equipment. So much so, and so disorientating was the experience, they were soon low on fuel due to the constant adjustments. Records from the transmissions show that there was a decision to abandon their planes when the fuel ran out. The whereabouts of both the planes or any of the fourteen pilots is still a mystery.

The aircraft of Flight 19 (5 Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers).

The aircraft of Flight 19 (5 Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers).

In a further twist to the macabre affair, when a rescue plane ventured out to locate any signs of the missing squadron, it too vanished along with the entire thirteen-strong crew.

The Star Tiger And Star Ariel Disappearances Over Bermuda

On 30th January 1948, British South American Airlines (BSAA) craft, Star Tiger, also vanished in the Bermuda area. Thirty-one people vanished with it. Although there were strong winds that evening, both pilots were experienced and should have been able to navigate them. No wreckage ever surfaced.

The plane vanished in the early hours somewhere between Santa Maria and Bermuda. What’s more, there was no distress call made from the pilot at any time.

Almost exactly a year later, on 17th January 1949, Star Ariel, also a BSAA aircraft, along with 20 people, disappeared while flying in the Bermuda Triangle. As before, no wreckage or debris of the craft has ever come to light.

The flight itself was between Bermuda and Kingston in Jamaica and took place in excellent conditions and visibility. Whether of consequence or not, the plane was flying at a particularly high altitude. After the last contact at a little after 9:40 am, the plane simply disappeared. There was no indication of distress from the plane at any stage.

Might the time of year have played a part in each plane’s disappearance? Although this is pure speculation on our part, might conditions – atmospheric or otherwise – be responsible for whatever did cause the plane, for all intents and purposes, simply vanish off the face of the Earth? For example, less than five years earlier, in December 1945 (the same relative window), was the case of Flight 19 we examined above.

The short video below looks at the Bermuda Triangle a little further.

The Stardust Disappearance

Although we seemingly know what happened now over half a century later, the case of the British South American Airways plane, Stardust, is very much worth including here. Not least as it might offer clues to other planes that disappeared without a trace and remain missing.

On 2nd August 1947, the plane in question left Buenos Aires in Argentina destined for Santiago Chile. However, shortly after takeoff somewhere over the Andes Mountain range, it disappeared. The last communication from the plane came in morse code and concerned their arrival time and stated:

ETA Santiago 17:45 hrs STENDEC

The last word confused all who investigated the case and still does. It would lead to many over the years claiming that the aircraft had encountered a UFO and had possibly been abducted. There were also other claims of possible intentional sabotage. However, no proof or evidence for these ever surfaced. A coordinated search of the area took place, but no wreckage or bodies were ever recovered.

In 2000, however, 53 years after the disappearance, climbers in the region happened upon several significant pieces of wreckage as well as three of the ice-preserved bodies of the missing Stardust flight. This would lead investigators to suggest that the plane had crashed (in bad weather, incidentally) into the mountain. This likely created an avalanche that buried the wreckage and those on board until the chance discovery over 50 years later. The whereabouts of the remaining crew members, however, are still unknown.

The short video below looks at this intriguing case and discovery a little further.

The Varig Flight 967

Although there is no real suggestions or conspiracies surrounding it, the cargo of the doomed Varig Flight 967 is perhaps of particular interest, given it was carrying over 50 paintings worth over $1 million dollars by the artist Manabu Mabe, the Japanese-Brazilian artist, whose works were returning to Brazil following an exhibition in Tokyo.

The plane had left Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan on 30th January 1979. It was destined for Rio de Janeiro with a planned stop in Los Angeles. However, radio contact with the plane was lost barely 30 minutes into the journey. Not only were the plane nor any of six cargo crew members ever seen again, there were seemingly no clues whatsoever as to what might have happened. The only detail that investigators did discover was that the depressurization of the cabin had taken place which likely killed the crew.

A Varig Cargo Plane

A Varig Cargo Plane

Perhaps the plane crashed into the icy waters of the Pacific shortly after take-off? While it is possible that the search missions could have missed them, it surely is not very likely.

Should we return to the notion that the disappearance was the result of a targeted hijacking due to the valuable cargo onboard? Each of those 53 paintings is officially still missing. And they certainly couldn’t be sold openly? It is possible that they might trade hands on the “black” or “closed” market. Such networks do exist for exactly these purposes. It is a truly intriguing encounter and one that will very likely remain unsolved and unfound for the foreseeable future.

The Douglas Planes Disappearances Of The Late-1940s And Early 1950s

In the early 1950s, several Douglas transport planes simply disappeared without a trace over the United States and Canada. Indeed, as we will come back to a little later, it could very well prove to be the case that the locations where the planes disappeared are as important as the planes themselves.

Each of the following accounts features these unfortunate Douglas aircraft seemingly disappearing over spots that are now known – at least through the mysterious unsolved accounts – for such activity. Whether it be the Bermuda Triangle region off the coast of Miami or the seemingly bizarre activity that takes place over and under Lake Michigan, to the many strange disappearances of people and planes in Alaska, given what we know today of these locations, perhaps we should not be surprised that such aircraft seemingly vanished off the face of the planet.

We will start with one of the most intriguing that occurred in the late-1940s. And one that could be one of the earliest (in modern times) of a disappearance in the Bermuda Triangle.

The Airborne Transport DC-3 Disappearance, December 1948

The disappearance of a Douglas DST airliner in the early hours of 28th December 1948 is one that not only remains a complete mystery over seven decades later, but there is seemingly no obvious or likely reason for the apparent disaster. The flight was due to arrive in Miami, Florida after having traveled from San Juan, Puerto Rico with a total of 32 people on board including the crew.

Before the flight had left San Juan, though, there were perhaps indications of trouble. After having arrived from Miami on the 27th of December, it was noted that the aircraft batteries were discharged. However, charging them would delay the return flight, something the captain, Robert Linquist, refused to do. It was decided on his authority that the batteries would charge using the aircraft itself while in flight.

A DC-3 Transport Plane

A DC-3 Transport Plane

Despite having to remain circling the airport for several minutes in order to get enough charge to open two-way communications with the control tower, the plane eventually set out on its planned journey. The plane appeared to make it to around 700 miles from Miami given the last communications with the Air Traffic Control Center. Linquist stated they were at an altitude of around 8,000 feet.

Several hours later, at just after 4 am (ten minutes after the estimated arrival time) came further communications stating that they were now 50 miles from Miami. However, it would appear, given that New Orleans Air Traffic Control heard the communication that the plane may have drifted off-course due to high winds that the crew may not have received information of (although this is speculation).

This was the last communication from the plane, which for all intents and purposes, simply vanished into thin air. Although it wasn’t a term readily used at the time, many researchers have suggested over the years that the plane could have been a victim of the Bermuda Triangle.

The Douglas C-54D Skymaster Disappearance, January 1950

The first, a Douglas C-54D Skymaster military plane vanished into thin air while traveling from Alaska to Montana on 26th January 1950. There were 44 people on the plane (some of which were civilian passengers), none of whom of been found. Interestingly or not, the flight itself had been delayed for several hours due to a problem with one of the engines. However, following an apparent repair, the plane left Anchorage and into the Alaskan sky.

For the first two hours, all appeared normal, with the plane reporting its position over Snag in the Yukon region of Canada. However, following that, all communications ceased. Seven hours later – an hour after its expected arrival at Great Falls Air Force Base – a search operation was launched.

Named Operation Mike, the operation was one of the largest ever undertaken at the time and involved over 80 American and Canadian military aircraft, and over 7,000 people searching on the ground. In total, an area measuring around 350,000 square miles was covered. The search would continue for a little over three weeks before it was finally halted. Not one piece of wreckage or any sign of those on board was discovered.

A Douglas C-54D Skymaster

A Douglas C-54D Skymaster

What might have happened to the plane remains a mystery. As we might imagine there are many theories as to what might have happened, including that those on board might have been a victim of a mass alien abduction event. Whether of interest to this theory or not, a control tower and another aircraft would report several days later that they heard strange radio signals on the day of the disappearance but were unable to locate their origin.

Perhaps the most likely explanation, while still lacking in fleshed-out detail, is that the pilots of the plane, for whatever reason, were forced to land on the iced-over waters of the Yukon region. Assuming the ice held, they likely perished due to the elements before then sinking to the bottom of the waters once the ice melted several months later.

The Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 2501 Incident

The Douglas DC-4 operating as Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 2501 was flying from New York to Seattle – something it did each day – when it disappeared without a trace on the evening of 23rd June 1950. As well as the three crew members, 55 passengers were also on board. At the time of the disappearance, it was the deadliest incident in the history of American aviation.

The last communication came when the pilot requested permission to take the plane down 1,000 feet in altitude from 3,500 feet to 2,500 feet while flying over Lake Michigan. Shortly after, however, contact was lost with the aircraft. Shortly afterward, a search and rescue operation was put into action. This included dragging the waters of Lake Michigan and even using sonar technology. However, there was, aside from slight fragments of debris, including fragments of human body parts, no sign of the wreckage or those on board was actually found.

There is, however, a relatively disturbing development that came to light in the 2000s when an apparently unmarked grave containing many of those who died in the presumed crash was discovered near the shore of Lake Michigan. The discovery was made by the Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates (MSRA), who search for the plane each year along with other lost vehicles.

After further research, the co-director of the MSRA, Valerie van Heest, claimed that bodies from the crashed plane began washing up on the shores of the lake. These were then taken to a cemetery in the St. Joseph area of the city, buried, and the “mass grave” left unmarked. What’s more, this was done, according to Van Heest, without the families being aware of it.

Seven years after the discovery in 2015, a second apparent mass grave containing further victims of the crash was also discovered. Of course, how accurate the details are surrounding these discoveries is perhaps open to debate. If there is any truth to them, though, we should ask why such a decision was taken, when, and by who?

The short video below looks at this incident a little further.

The Canadian Pacific Douglas DC-4 Disappearance

A little over a year later on 21st July 1951, another Douglas DC-4 plane operating under Canadian Pacific Air Lines disappeared while flying from Vancouver to Tokyo. There were six crew members on board as well as 31 passengers, none of whom have ever been found.

The aircraft left the runway at just after 6:30 pm. Its destination was Tokyo with a planned stop at Anchorage Airport in Alaska. The weather for much of the flight was heavy rain but all appeared on course as the aircraft reported to the control tower that they would arrive in Anchorage around midnight. However, following this communication, everything went silent from the aircraft.

A Douglas DC-4 Plane

A Douglas DC-4 Plane

After waiting 45 minutes for their arrival a search effort got underway for the seemingly lost aircraft. Despite the combined efforts of the American and Canadian air forces over several months, no sign of the plane or any of those on board was ever found. What’s more, there is absolutely no official probable cause of the presumed crash due to the distinct lack of physical evidence as well as no clues to anything untoward in the communication.

The destination and presumed location of the disappearance are perhaps of interest, though, when we consider the number of disappearances that take place there. We will return to this point a little later.

The Bizarre C-124 Flight Incident

As it cut through the skies over the cold Atlantic Ocean on 23rd March 1951, the C-124 Globemaster II US Air Force plane suddenly began a controlled descent to the icy waters below, several hundred miles from the Irish coast. According to reports, a fire in the cargo hold was responsible for the pilot’s actions. The emergency landing was a success, with all of the fifty-three passengers and crew accounted for and unharmed.

The USAF C-124 that went missing.

The USAF C-124 that went missing.

An observation plane even confirmed their position, enquired as to any emergency treatment required (there was none), before returning to base due to low fuel. The passengers had good, military issued emergency rafts and lifejackets. Certainly adequate enough until the rescue crews reached them.

However, when they did a short while later, there was nothing or nobody there. Despite repeated checks of the location to ensure the rescue ships had not strayed off course, the crew and the plane had completely vanished. Searches of the area found no wreckage or no bodies, and their fate is still unknown to this day.

Flying Tiger Flight 739

One-hundred-and-seven people disappeared off the face of the planet along with the Flying Tiger, Flight 739, [1] somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on 16th March 1962 while on its way to Saigon. Having left California in perfect weather conditions, it soon vanished from radar and all contact ceased.

Flying Tiger Line Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation.

Flying Tiger Line Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation.

Investigations into the bizarre disappearance would turn up a witness. He was on board a civilian tanker off the Californian coast on the day of the flight. He would claim to see a bright flash before seeing “two red dots plummeting to the ocean at different speeds!”

This would suggest an explosion of sorts, which the official report states to have happened. It doesn’t, however, explain why no trace of the wreckage was ever recovered. Perhaps, given the fact that the Vietnam War was (unknowingly to most) around the corner, not to mention the plane’s location, as well as the involvement of the Lockheed Corporation – a company that is, rightly or wrongly, associated with black budget projects by conspiracy theorists and ufologists alike – there is more to this dark incident than most of us are ever likely to know.

More Recent Disappearances

It isn’t that these strange and unexplainable disappearances happened only in the mid-twentieth century. Aside from the aforementioned MH370 plane, several other aircraft have vanished without a trace in the opening decades of the 2000s.

On 25th May 2003, Flight N844AA [2] (a Boeing 727 Jet) would be stolen from the runway of Quatro de Fevereiro Airport in Angola. An American pilot, Ben Padilla, accompanied by a mechanic, John Mutantu, carried out the hijacking. Although there is no known motive for their actions.

The last confirmed sighting of the plane is as it grew smaller heading into the sky’s dark orange glow. Despite a worldwide search for the aircraft, and the two men behind the theft, nothing came to light. As you might imagine, particularly given the CIA’s involvement in the “search” for the stolen plane, conspiracy theories regarding the incident are as wild as the actual events.

On 22nd July 2016 an Indian Air Force Antonov An-32 transport plane seemingly vanished without a trace. On board were twenty-nine passengers (including six crew) while over the Bay of Bengal. The Indian government embarked on the largest search mission in its history in an attempt to locate the aircraft. The search went on for several months but would prove unsuccessful. The plane and all on board are still missing.

The short video above looks at the most recent disappearance.

The Truly Bizarre Disappearance Of Andrew Carnegie Whitfield

The disappearance of Andrew Carnegie Whitfield (the nephew of the rich steel businessman, Andrew Carnegie) is one that is particularly strange given the mysterious activity seemingly taking place after he had officially gone missing.

Whitfield himself worked for his uncle’s firm as an executive following his graduating from Princeton University. One of the things he did for fun and recreation, however, was flying. Specifically, flying his silver and red Taylor club monoplane. And what’s more, although very much an amateur pilot, he very had a handle on his plane having spent around 200 flying hours at the time of his last, presumably fatal journey.

Andrew Whitfield

Andrew Whitfield

On a spring morning of 17th April 1938, Whitfield would take his plane along the runway at Roosevelt Field in Long Island, New York, and take off with his destination being in nearby Brentwood. It should have taken him around 15 minutes to complete the approximately 20-mile journey. However, as the minutes turned to half an hour and then an hour, it became increasingly obvious that something was amiss.

An extensive search of the waters around New York went ahead, including in an area where one witness claimed to see Whitfield’s plane take a dive toward the water, even though he would have 150 miles worth of fuel onboard. However, no sign of the plane or Whitfield was discovered. Then, the story becomes even stranger.

“I Am Going To Carry Out My Plan!”

It would come to light that on the very same day he vanished, an Albert C. White had checked into a hotel in Long Island. This name was known to those who knew Whitfield to be an alias that he often used. What’s more, he did not – at least officially – check out. Even stranger, when the hotel room was searched by investigators, they would several items belonging to Whitfield. These would include expensive cufflinks, his passport, and two signed life insurance policies, for which his wife would benefit.

An even more intriguing detail surfaced that Whitfield had rung his home address from the hotel during the search for him. According to the telephone operator who connected the call, she heard Whitfield state, “Well, I am going to carry out my plan!”

His disappearance remains a complete mystery. Did he not ditch his plane but start a new life under another identity somewhere? If so, where, and why? There have been no alleged sightings of him, and it is difficult to see what he would have had to gain (barring any unknown financial troubles). Or did he really crash his plane into the icy waters of the Atlantic – either accidentally or purposely? If that was the case, why has not even a single piece of wreckage been found?

The short video below examines the disappearance a little further.

The Presumed Crash Of Russian Pilot Ace, Sigismund Levanevsky

Famed air pilot, Sigismund Levanevsky was perhaps one of the Russian Revolution’s biggest supporters having taken part in it with the Bolsheviks. He would serve in the Red Army and eventually become an accomplished military pilot, with one of his main claims to fame being his ability to navigate long-range flights. In fact, he performed several daring rescue missions over some of the worst terrain imaginable during the early 1930s, and by the time he had flown from Moscow to San Francisco via the North Pole, he was considered an international hero.

However, on 12th August 1937, while attempting another flight from Moscow to the United States, things went drastically wrong. At least it is presumed so. Less than 24 hours into the flight, under atrocious weather conditions, all communication with the aircraft suddenly ceased. There was no distress call, but a search mission still went ahead. Nothing was found of the plane, Levanevsky, or the remaining 5 crew members.

Although there was an apparent find of wreckage seemingly similar to the plane that went missing in Alaska in 1999, causing some to suggest this was Levanevsky’s plane, no definitive proof was found and officially, all remain missing.

You can check out a little more on the short video below.

Charles Nungesser And The Fateful Flight Of The White Bird

Perhaps one of the finest pilots in French aviation history is Charles Nungesser. After having flown as one of the best French pilots during the First World War, Nungesser found further fame flying planes for early movies in the United States. However, it was his desire to fly across the Atlantic Ocean non-stop. He would finally attempt to do this on 8th May 1927 when along with a fellow wartime pilot, Francois Coli, they set off in their plane – The White Bird – from Paris destined for New York, with plans to fly over southwest England, Ireland, over the ocean to Newfoundland before turning south toward Nova Scotia and Boston before their planned destination.

There were several sightings of the White Bird as it went across the English Channel and over England. However, following sightings of the plane from several residents of the town of Dungarvan in Ireland, the plane seemingly disappeared into thin air. No further sightings were made despite plenty of maritime vessels being in a position to do so.

When their plane failed to arrive in New York where thousands of excited spectators had gathered to witness the record-breaking landing, it became clear that something had gone wrong. As would be expected an extensive search went ahead for the plane and the pilots, but no sign whatsoever was seen.

It is unclear what might have happened to the White Bird and the two pilots. However, there were reports from some residents from Newfoundland and Maine of hearing a plane overhead around the time their particular flight would have been expected. This has led many to believe that they likely crashed somewhere in this region. And while there have been apparent discoveries of pieces of wreckage and fragments in the woodlands of the Maine area, nothing has been officially confirmed to say it was the long-lost White Bird.

The video below looks at the doomed transatlantic flight a little further.

The Mysterious Disappearance Of Sir Ian Mackintosh

The disappearance of 38-year-old Sir Ian Mackintosh is an interesting one. Not so much for any paranormal explanations of where the one-time officer in the British Royal Navy might have vanished to, but because of suggestions of alleged espionage work behind it.

After serving with the Navy, Mackintosh carved out a career as a novelist, as well as writing series episodes for television, often using his military background as subject matter.

It was on the evening of 7th July 1979 when Mackintosh boarded a plane with his girlfriend, Susan Insole, and the pilot, Graham Barber, at Anchorage in Alaska. Their destination was Kodiak which, incidentally, would take them over the Gulf of Alaska, a place where several strange disappearances have taken place. We should make it clear that such claims are pure speculation, with no official proof that Mackintosh was connected to any intelligence agencies.

Newspaper clipping about the Mackintosh disappearance

Newspaper clipping about the Mackintosh disappearance

It is certainly an intriguing notion, [3] however. Especially when we examine the statements of Mackintosh’s brother, Lawrie. He would state in the years following the disappearance that while there was no chance that his brother was “disloyal to Great Britain” – some had made claims he was a double agent working for the KGB – he did suspect he had ties to the intelligence services. What’s more, he had the impression during their last conversation that his brother was saying goodbye to him and had since suspected that his work had forced him to “go underground”.  Even stranger, when a family member, who was also a high-ranking Navy officer, attempted to access files on Mackintosh a block was immediately put in place. He was, according to Lawrie, told: “not to ask questions”.

A More Paranormal Explanation?

Ultimately, the plane they were traveling or any of the three people on board remain missing. The most reasonable explanation, especially given the distress call from the plane that they were experiencing engine problems, is that they crashed into the waters around Alaska.

However, it is perhaps worth taking a moment to examine this area over Alaska, referred to by some as the Alaskan Triangle (sometimes referred to as the Alaskan Bermuda Triangle).

According to those who have researched this region, there are bizarre magnetic fields that sometimes create “vortexes” causing planes to vanish from the sky. Others believe the electromagnetic anomalies have an affect on the human mind, possibly causing hallucinations which, in turn, lead to the planes plummeting into the dense woodlands or deep into the waters on the coastal areas. What’s more, around 16,000 people have also gone missing in this region in the last three decades alone.

Whether any of those apparent anomalies did play a part in the disappearance of Sir Ian Mackintosh remains to be seen.

The Bizarre Disappearance Of George R. Cogar

At the time of his disappearance and presumed death, George Cogar was one of the best minds in the rapidly growing computer industry, eventually inventing the data recorder which was used almost universally around the world soon after. He certainly didn’t appear to have any connections like the kind surrounding Ian Mackintosh above. However, a hunting trip in early September 1983 turned to tragedy, resulting in the presumed death of Cogar along with six other people.

The friends left the runway on Vancouver Island heading to Smithers in Canada where a lodge awaited them. They never arrived, with the last known and verified sighting of them being somewhere over the British Columbia region.

A huge search effort was almost immediately put into action. It would last almost a week and was, at the time, the largest such search in Canadian history. There was, however, no sign whatsoever of Cogar or any of the fellow hunters, despite the search covering a mammoth area around 40,000 square miles.

Unofficial searches still take place today, organized by the families of those who are missing. However, so far, all such efforts have proven futile. It appears, for all intents and purposes that the hunters and their plane simply vanished into thin air.

The Truly Mysterious Disappearance Of Amelia Earhart

It would perhaps be amiss to not mention the disappearance of one of the most famous pilots in history, Amelia Earhart. Not only do we not know exactly what happened to the most famous female pilot of her generation, possibly ever, but there are also a wealth of conspiracies and claims that fill that void of information, many of which are perfectly plausible, some of which are a little unlikely.

Perhaps we should first give a little bit of background to this female aviator. To say she was an inspiration for female pilots would be a huge understatement. Not only was she the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in May 1932 (at only 34 years old) when she set off from Newfoundland and arrived in Northern Ireland just short of 15 hours later, but she was also crucial in forming The Ninety-Nines, one of the first organizations for female pilots.

What’s more, she would write several best-selling books about aviation and her experiences in the air and put her considerable influence behind the steadily growing equal rights movements. It is perhaps also worth examining her activities during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918, during which time she would spend considerable time working as a nurse to assist the increasing number of sick from the disease. She would eventually become drastically unwell herself, something that would leave her with chronic sinusitis, a condition that would flare up on and off for the rest of her life.

It was, however, the doomed flight of the summer of 1937 that Earhart is remembered for when she would attempt to complete a circumnavigational flight of the planet. And it is there we will turn our attention next.

What We Know!

The fatal final flight of Amelia Earhart began on the 2nd July 1937 when she, along with her navigator, Fred Noonan, left New Guinea headed for Howland Island, a small island between Hawaii and Australia, in a particularly heavily packed Lockheed Electra. It was a journey that should have taken around 18 hours to complete.

The landing destination was chosen due to it being under the control of the United States, even though it was one of the smallest islands in the region, and not particularly ideal for such a landing.

It would appear that the majority of the flight went as planned, with radio contact being maintained right up to the point of landing. However, in those final moments of the flight, radio contact simply ceased. The details of the last transmission, however, are worthy of examination here.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart

For example, despite the Electra having enough fuel for 30 hours of flight (just short of double the amount of time required for the planned journey), Earhart claimed that the plane was running low on fuel. She did, though, state that Noonan believed they were in the correct area. We also know – according to this last transmission – that Earhart was flying at an extremely low altitude, somewhere in the region of 1,000 feet.

What’s more, the strength of the transmission suggested to the control room onboard the Itasca ship in the region that Earhart was indeed close to their landing destination, possibly somewhere in the region of 60 miles away. However, none of the crew saw the plane following this last transmission, almost as if it simply vanished into thin air. In the hours and days that followed the apparent disappearance, things turned even stranger.

The Mystery Of The Distress Signals

An immediate search would take place for the missing plane and the two people on board. What’s more, for several days distress signals were picked up by the searchers. This suggested to them that the plane must have been somewhere on land and certainly not under the water (which would have made the sending of distress signals impossible).

Because of this, the search was concentrated initially on the islands in the region with a view that the plane had made it to land or was floating somewhere on the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Despite the vast number of ships searching the water and the many planes performing flybys over the region, not a sight of the plane, Earhart, or Noonan were seen.

Various theories began to emerge as to where the plane – or the wreckage of it – might be, some of which we will come back to later. However, the cold fact in the years that followed was that nobody appeared to know what had happened to the world’s leading female pilot or her navigator. Both were officially declared dead in 1939.

We might also note that in the weeks leading up to the doomed Earhart flight, another aircraft had gone missing in the same region and also in very similar circumstances. Whether there is a connection between the two disappearances is open to debate.

The short video below looks at the final fatal flight of Amelia Earhart a little further.

Theories, Claims, And Conspiracies!

As we might imagine, there are numerous theories as to what might have happened to Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan. And while some are more outrageous than others, all are worth examining here.

Although the disappearance didn’t occur in the region of the Bermuda Triangle, for example, there have been suggestions that some similar type of phenomena was responsible for the disappearance of the Electra and the two people on board.

As unlikely as it might be, there are also claims that Earhart and Noonan were the victims of alien abduction. We should perhaps take these suggestions, in this instance, with a pinch of salt. There are, for example, unlike in the Valentich case almost five decades later, no signs of distress from Earhart, and certainly no reports of strange aircraft.

The Secrets Residing On Gardner Island

One early theory was that Earhart and Noonan might have landed their plane on a reef near Gardner Island, especially when the tide was low. However, it was also noted that had this been the case, during high tide, the plane and pilots would have been almost impossible to see.

What is perhaps also interesting to note is that despite the wealth of ships and aircraft that made up the search party, there was little interest in them approaching Gardner Island. In fact, only one ship (at least officially) did so. The island itself was uninhabited (again, at least officially).

However, when colonization did happen in the 1940s, the discovery of a skeleton came to light. What’s more, nearby was a sextant box. We will examine this discovery a little further shortly.

We should also note that when the remains were sent for analysis, it was suggested that it was that of a male. However, later examination using modern techniques of the late-20th century would conclude the opposite – that the remains were, in fact, that of a female. Whether this was the remains of Earhart or Noonan remains unknown. If it was, we have to ask where the plane went, and what happened to the other body.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart

It is perhaps worth staying with Gardner Island a little longer, especially when we consider the recovered artifacts by The International Group for Historical Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) in the 2000s. One of the specific recoveries that the organization concentrated on was the Earhart mystery.

Further discoveries by the organization are certainly worthy of our examination. For example, over the years of their searches in the region, they have recovered part of a plane panel, as well as a Plexiglas windshield panel that matched that of the lost Electra exactly. Even part of a flight suit that would have been worn in the late 1930s was also seemingly found.

What’s more, there have also been discoveries of makeshift tools with the suggestion that these were created by Earhart and Noonan following a crash landing in the region. Even the remains of seemingly hunted animals have been found in the same area. Perhaps these activities were taking place in the days that the Electra was sending out its distress signal?

The organization does appear to also have in their possession several bone fragments recovered from their region. However, at the moment, these fragments can’t be officially determined as human, much less that they belong to Earhart or Noonan. The organization does, though, plan to have the fragments tested again once more advanced technology and techniques become available.

They do, however, have what is perhaps the largest collection of potentially important items, as well as a wealth of research and records regarding the strange disappearance of the two unfortunate pilots.

There are also several other suggested destinations that some researchers suggest holds the secrets of the missing plane. And it is there where we will turn our attention next.

Other Possible Landing Destinations

As well as Gardner Island there are several other locations in the region that some believe may have been the pair’s final destination.

One of these is Nikumaroro Island, where in 2018, it came to light that a discovery of bones had been made on the island. What’s more, analysis of the skeletal remains appeared to show that they were almost a 100 percent match with Earhart. Further still, when they were originally discovered in 1940, a bottle of Benedictine was also found near the remains – a particular liqueur that Earhart was known to travel with.

While there is no definitive proof that the bones are the remains of Earhart (largely due to them having since been “lost”), it would appear the discovery is a strong candidate for them.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart

Other researchers point to Buka Island in Papa New Guinea following an apparent discovery of wreckage near a reef just off the island. Even more alarming – at the time of its reporting – was the assertion that two skulls had also been discovered among the wreckage. Furthermore, it is known that this region was the last recorded stop of the pilots before they seemingly disappeared from the face of the Earth.

However, upon further examination, it was determined that not only did the wreckage differ from the plane that Earhart and Noonan were traveling in, but the location itself was well off-course from the last known communications with the plane. Although it remains a discovery of interest to some, it appears this particular find is not that of the lost Electra.

Allegations Of Being A Spy

Perhaps some of the most intriguing claims surrounding the disappearance of Amelia Earhart is that she was, in fact, a spy.

The beginnings of these conspiracies perhaps came from Randall Brink who would state in the book Lost Star: The Search for Amelia Earhart that her real objective on that final doomed flight was to photograph Japanese airbases that were being set up on several of the islands. It was also Brink’s assertion that Earhart and Noonan were actively shot down by Japanese forces.

Perhaps adding weight to the claims was one of Brink’s sources, who was a military technician. According to the book, this technician claimed that he received orders to cut precise “holes for cameras”. These were in the lower fuselage and could be controlled electronically when Earhart was over the areas she was required to photograph.

Even more, Brink would also point to a piece of information that he had obtained through the Freedom of Information Act which stated that Earhart’s Electra did indeed harbor some of the most up-to-date advanced military equipment of the era.

Make of those claims what you will.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart

Perhaps because of this, other theories soon emerged that her disappearance was very much organized as part of an effort to change her identity due to security issues. The rumors began to gain ground as far back as the 1940s, with the claims being that after performing her duties as a spy for the United States’ government, she was relocated to a secret location somewhere in America.

How realistic this might be is perhaps dependent on your viewpoint. On the one hand, the highly publicized flight and disappearance thereof would have gone a long way to convincing the world of the pilot’s demise, it would perhaps make more sense to have “discovered” a body to put the final nail in the coffin of public debate as to her whereabouts.

What’s more, the millions of dollars spent on the search for Earhart and Noonan, while again perhaps contributing to the authenticity of the event, could be seen as a colossal waste of funds for someone who the government, if we accept the theories, knew was alive but would also have to spend further money to secretly relocate.

The rumors and claims of her being a spy and possibly going on to live a secret life because of such work certainly lend the mysterious disappearance another layer of intrigue. And, as we shall turn our attention to next, there are several other claims and rumors of possible locations where Earhart might have gone to live out the rest of her life in secret.

She Began Life Again In Secret

Staying with the idea that Earhart’s disappearance was very much orchestrated came other theories that she had simply begun life elsewhere in secret, perhaps simply tired of the attention she drew.

One of these suggested that she went to New Jersey after having been rescued from Japan by the American military (we will move on to the Japanese connection shortly). According to the claims made by Joe Klass 40 years following her disappearance in the book Amelia Earhart Lives, following this apparent rescue, she was given the identity, Irene Bolam, who was a “housewife” in New Jersey.

However, the real-life Irene Bolan would eventually take legal action against Klass, who had made claims in the book that she, like Earhart, was a trained pilot (something she denied). The legal case was settled out of court, and the book was removed from bookstores across America. Perhaps because of this, most see the claims of Klass as nothing more than speculation with little evidence to support them.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing claims of a secret relocation is those surrounding the Marshall Islands, not least as there is a photograph claiming to show Earhart in the months after her disappearance. And what’s more, the islands were under the control of the Japanese at the time the picture was taken.

Picture claiming to show Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on the Marshall Islands

Picture claiming to show Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on the Marshall Islands

The photograph would come to light decades after her disappearance and was discovered in the United States National Archives. It is claimed by some that it shows Earhart sitting on a peer with her back to the camera. What’s more, it is even claimed that Fred Noonan and the missing plane is also clear in the shot (in the corner of the photo). You can see that picture above.

Although many researchers consider the find certain proof that Earhart and Noonan didn’t simply disappear, others suggest that barring the picture being taken within days of her disappearance, it is almost impossible that it shows Earhart or Noonan. Some, though, believe that the picture was taken by a United States spy. And when we consider our next point, perhaps the credibility of the picture requires further examination.

She Was Taken By The Japanese

Without a doubt, some of the most disturbing claims and theories revolve around the notion that Earhart and Noonan were taken prisoner shortly after their landing. One of the most popular of these involves the Japanese military.

According to the theory, Earhart was shot down and subsequently captured by the Japanese military and then held as a hostage. If she was indeed a spy for the United States, this would perhaps make sense. Similarly, if she was, in fact, a spy for Japan, her placement there would also make sense, which we will move on to in a moment.

However, it is a theory that perhaps doesn’t stand up to scrutiny as well as it might. For example, Japanese authorities – despite the growing demise of the two country’s relationship – almost immediately offered assistance to the United States in the search for the missing pilot. What’s more, they would allow access to Japanese controlled islands so that the search could go ahead in the first place.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart

There are also further theories that Earhart was actually a Tokyo Rose – essentially, that she was working for the Japanese as an English-speaking broadcaster of propaganda. These broadcasts were aimed at Allied troops, spreading false stories of Allied losses and were designed to not only mislead the Allies but create a drop in morale. There is no real evidence that Earhart was involved in such activity. And what’s more, her widow would listen to countless hours of such propaganda broadcasts and vehemently denied that any of them was the voice of his presumed deceased wife.

A Mystery That Will Likely Remain A Mystery

There are similar claims that she was captured and executed in Saipan after crashing there and being accused of being a spy. According to the claims, her navigator also suffered the same fate. The claims would come from William Sablan, who stated that his uncle worked at a prison on the island in the late 1930s.

Knowing that his nephew had an interest in aviation and becoming a pilot, Sablan’s uncle shared with him his account of two American spies being captured, imprisoned, and eventually executed on the island. Furthermore, the two bodies were recovered from the island following the end of the Second World War and discreetly transferred to the United States. However, perhaps adding more mystery to the claims, the whereabouts of the bodies today are unknown.

Whatever might have happened to Amelia Earhart and Tom Noonan will likely remain a mystery for the foreseeable future. And while there are plenty of theories out there, with the possible exception of the discoveries by TIGHAR, none appear to be any more watertight than the next. One thing that is for sure, though, is that researchers in various fields maintain an active interest in what is perhaps one of the most mysterious of such aviation disappearances in history.

So, What Is Happening? A Plethora Of Possibilities, But No Answers!

When the aforementioned MH370 flight vanished from the skies in 2013, a quick check on various social media platforms and internet forums would reveal people asking who, or what, was on the flight? In short, conspiracy theorists instantly would jump on the notion that someone was an intentional target. And everyone else was simply collateral damage. Full passenger lists (unofficial but accurate) went around these forums, and it soon came to light – at least according to those in such circles – that four such passengers had connections to a patent for a semiconductor [4] – one that allegedly had connections to the Rothschilds family.

As you can imagine, these are the kinds of foundations that such theories can thrive on. Although that isn’t to say there isn’t a case to answer here. If there is any truth in such claims of world domination by a select few, then such an act of intentional sabotage is not completely beyond the realm of the imagination.

Many other people, as we discussed earlier, look to such areas and disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle, and assert, as unexplainable as those disappearances are, the same principles must be at work in other disappearances in different locations around the Earth.

If these strange locations are some kind of portal or inter-dimensional doorway, then many UFO researchers claim such aircraft to be either, the victims of intentional mass-abductions, or simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ultimately they are caught up in the open doorway of such portals as UFOs utilize them.

The questions continue, as will the bizarre and unexplained disappearances no doubt. The answers, however, may be a little longer in coming forth. Check out the video below that looks at ten more strange cases of disappearing flights.


1 The Mystery of Flying Tiger Line Flight 739, Fear of Landing, September 30th, 2016
2 Last Flight Of N844AA, Lew Hewitt, Historic Mysteries
3 An Unfortunate Accident or a Daring Escape?, Robin Barefield, Medium, June 22nd, 2020
4 The Malaysia Airlines MH370 Case – Rothchild ‘Inherits’ A Semiconductor Patent For Freescale Semiconductors, Eddie L., World Truth, March 23rd, 2014

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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