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The Disappearance of Flight 19

by Shelly Barclay

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 has ever been discovered.

Flight 19

Flight 19’s scheduled navigation exercise on December 5, 1945. 1. Leave NAS Fort Lauderdale 14:10 on heading 091°, drop bombs at Hen and Chickens Shoals (B) until about 15:00 then continue on heading 091° for 73 nautical miles (140 km) 2. Turn left to heading 346° and fly 73 nautical miles (140 km). 3. Turn left to heading 241° for 120 nautical miles (220 km) to end exercise north of NAS Fort Lauderdale. 4. 17:50 radio triangulation establishes flight’s position to within 50 nautical miles (93 km) of 29°N 79°W and their last reported course, 270°. 5. PBM Mariner leaves NAS Banana River 19:27. 6. 19:50 Mariner explodes near 28°N 80°W.

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.

flight 19

“Flight 19” by Anynobody. Licensed under GFDL via Commons

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 have 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 were 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.
McDonell, Michael, Lost Patrol, retrieved 11/21/10.

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