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The Disappearance of Flight 19

Flight 19′s Flight Plan

Much of the mystery surrounding the Bermuda Triangle stems from the mysterious disappearance of Flight 19. On December 5, 1945, five U.S. bombers took off from a U.S. Naval Air Base in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and subsequently disappeared. No trace of the planes or personnel involved in Flight 19 have ever been discovered.

At around 2:10 p.m. on December 5, 1945, five TBM Torpedo Bombers left on a training flight that would take them several hundred miles round trip over the Atlantic Ocean and back to their base. There were 14 men on board the planes. The flight instructor – who was piloting one of the bombers – had more than 2500 hours of flight time. Every other pilot involved had conducted 350-400 hours of flight time. In short, they weren’t the most experienced bunch, with the exception of the instructor, but they were hardly unprepared for a routine training flight.

When Flight 19 departed, it was a little windy and the water was choppy. This was within the norm for flight training in the area. Unfortunately, the weather got worse as the evening wore on. By then, Flight 19 was in trouble of an unknown sort. The weather was a problem for attempted search and rescue missions in the area.

At about an hour and a half into Flight 19, airplane and base radios began picking up strange communications between the Flight 19 bombers. It soon became apparent that Flight 19 had gotten lost. There was talk of at least two compasses malfunctioning. Over time, it was ascertained that Flight 19 had no idea where they were or what direction they should be heading. The instructor had the impression that they were over the Gulf of Mexico, while his students believed they were still over the Atlantic. Several attempts were made to change direction and stay on course long enough to spot land, but none were successful. There was only enough fuel in the planes to last until about 8 p.m. Radio communication was lost at about 6:20 p.m.

Numerous craft were sent out in search of Flight 19 in an attempt to set them on the right course. No one was able to spot the five planes. Even stranger, one of the patrol planes sent on the attempted search and rescue vanished as well. This disappearance is easier to solve. The plane was known to be something of a flying bomb. Men spoke of the smell of fuel inside of the plane. This would explain why a ship in the area reported an explosion in the sky and an oil slick upon the water in the area the plane was thought to have been. The plane itself was never found, nor were the men on board, who are thought to have died in the explosion.

The most likely scenarios place Flight 19 over the Gulf of Mexico or far east of Florida when they ran out of fuel. It is assumed that they would have attempted to make a water landing, which would have spelled their doom. The planes would not have made the landing and the men would have died on impact or while they were awaiting rescue in the open water. This would explain why nothing was ever found.

Other theories include aliens, time vortexes, rips in the space time continuum and so forth. None of these theories has any basis in fact, but they cannot be discredited as there is no proof of the fate of Flight 19 apart from the fact that they were obviously lost and would have run low on fuel. The fact that the five planes in Flight 19 disappeared as well as one of the planes that was searching for them only fuels such theories. Indeed, the disappearance of Flight 19 and the search plane was quite a strange occurrence.

Department of the Navy, The Loss of Flight 19, retrieved 11/21/10, history.navy.mil/faqs/faq15-1.htm
McDonell, Michael, Lost Patrol, retrieved 11/21/10, history.navy.mil/faqs/faq15-2.htm

About Shelly Barclay

Shelly Barclay writes on a variety of topics from animal facts to mysteries in history. Her main focus is military and political history. She is a writer for the Boston History Examiner, Military History Examiner and the Boston American Revolution History Examiner. She also writes for a local historical society newsletter. Shelly was a professional cook for 10 years and still has a passion for food. She cooks and writes about cooking nearly every day. She produces a wide variety of content, on top of her niches. Shelly is a stepmother, a former military, current veteran wife, sister of four and aunt of seven (so far).

One comment

  1. George A. Cepeda

    Some years back, I happened to see a program on the History Channel or Discovery Channel about the Bermuda Triangle. It's thought that there might be a more prosaic explanation for Flight 19's disappearance and eventual crash site. The instructor got confused into the flight and wouldn't listen to the students and let someone else with a functioning compass take over… Of course, being good subordinates they kept on following the flight lead despite his disorientation. Finally, they did turn back and it's thought they actually made it over land — far north of their base at Fort Lauderdale.

    A radar made contact with several unknown aircraft but they, of course, couldn't reach them on radio. The course those planes took would have crossed over into Georgia and possibly end up over swampland. At least that's the theory of one researcher. The problem today would be finding rusted out aircraft frames in marsh that's full of poisonous snakes, possibly alligators, and generally inhospitable for searchers. There was a serious proposal to use a satellite with an infrared sensor — they could possibly sort out heat differences between the swamp and metal of any crashed aircraft — but as far as I know nothing ever came of that.

    There are several problems with trying to find Avengers off the coast of Florida. In total, somewhere over 100 Avengers crashed off the coast of Florida during the operational life of the type… I know of at least 3 Avengers discovered in the past 20 years and none of them panned out as Flight 19 planes to my knowledge. Of course, there is the issue of the exact crash zone of the planes — they probably didn't ditch in exactly the same point and may be miles apart — did it actually happen over land or off the eastern seaboard of Florida.

    Another complication is the ocean current. Unless these planes settled into the water and got anchored to the bottom somehow there is a possibility of the airframes being dragged dozens if not over a 100 miles from their initial crash points. Not as ridiculous as it sounds — there have been documented discoveries of aircraft wrecks dozens of miles from the initial crashpoint and the only logical explanation besides bad crash point estimation is that strong ocean current dragged them far away where they initially sunk.

    The weirdest ocean current "repositioning" story I've heard of was a small yacht being dragged from off the eastern US seaboard all the way to the coastal water off of Europe! Think about it — that's thousands of miles but maybe still doable if the boat hadn't impacted and dug into the bottom at its sink point.

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