Aliens, terrorists, secret weapons – these are some of the most often mentioned reasons mentioned to explain unexplained plane catastrophes. Although it is hard to determine what happened, the truth can be rather shocking.
National Geographic has compiled a list of the most mysterious plane crashes that remain unsolved to this day:
2015: Germanwings flight 9525 – confidentiality is more important than safety
Germanwings passenger aircraft Airbus A320 was on its way from Barcelona to Dusseldorf when it crashed in the French Alps. The black box records revealed that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had locked himself in the cockpit and had intentionally piloted the aircraft into the mountains. The investigation revealed that Lubitz had been in deep depression for a long time before the catastrophe. Two weeks before the catastrophe, Lubitz was recommended to undergo psychiatric treatment, because he was unfit for work. Lufthansa, mother company of Germanwings, was not aware of the pilot’s mental condition. This is because, following confidentiality requirements, doctors did not report it to Lubitz’s employer. 150 people died in this catastrophe.
2014: Malaysia Airlines flight 370 – the mystery remains unsolved
Boeing 777 of Malaysia Airlines disappeared from radars in March 2014. It was approximately one hour away from Kuala Lumpur. The aircraft’s last known location was recorded above the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam. According to reports, the airplane had suddenly changed its course. No distress signals were received from the aircraft. Although parts of the aircraft were found in Madagaskar, Australia’s Kangaroo Sea, South Africa, Mauritius, Mozambique and Réunion, there is still no certainty about the fate of 239 people who were on board.
2009: AirFrance flight 447 – sleepless night prevents logical thinking
Several hours after its departure from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, all communications were lost with Airbus A330. Its last known location was above the Atlantic Ocean – two or four day journey by ship from the nearest port. Two years would pass before rescuers would find the least of the wreckage and the black box. The aircraft passed through some storm clouds, but there is nothing to suggest there had been an emergency. French authorities reported that it is possible that the aircraft’s speed calculation module had iced over, which caused the autopilot to turn off and the plane to lose altitude. It turned out later that prior to the flight, the pilot had slept only one hour after spending a romantic night with his girlfriend. 228 died in this catastrophe. Remains of 74 of them were never found.
1999: Egyptair flight 990 – suicide or technical malfunction?
On its way from New York to Cairo, Boeing 767 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near the coast of Massachusetts from a 4km altitude in 36 seconds. It is unknown what exactly killed the 217 passengers that were on board when the catastrophe happened. Egypt’s Civil Aviation Agency had initially asked US National Transportation Safety Board for assistance but later withdrew its request when suspicions were voiced about the possible suicide of Gamil El-Batuti, who was the co-pilot. Prior to the flight, El-Batuti was reprimanded for sexual harassment. It is possible that he decided flight 990 would be his last. NTSB concluded that El-Batuti’s actions could have caused the crash. No precise information was reported, however. Egyptian authorities mentioned that the cause of the catastrophe may have been a technical malfunction.
1996: TWA flight 800 – missiles or short circuit-caused explosion?
Trans World Airlines aircraft Boeing 747 exploded shortly after lift-off from New York International Airport. 230 people were killed in the explosion. Eye-witnesses claimed seeing fiery lines in the sky, which could mean the aircraft had been shot down by terrorists, it that it had been struck by a meteor. President John Kennedy’s press secretary Pierre Sellinger believed the explosion was caused by an anti-missile test conducted and that the passenger aircraft was shot down by USS Normandy accidentally. National Transportation Safety Board, on the other hand, concluded that the explosion was caused by a short circuit malfunction.
1972: Uruguay air force flight 571 – only cannibals survived
45 passengers, including Montevideo rugby team, were travelling to Santiago, Chile, with a special flight organized by Uruguay air force. Unfortunately, this flight crashed in the Andes because of poor weather conditions. Twelve people died in the crash, six people died several days later. Another eight of the survivors died in an avalanche that passed over the wreckage of the aircraft. Two of the survivors managed to cross the mountains in ten days. They were found by a travelling trader, who gave them food and later informed rescuers. After 72 days of searching, rescuers finally located the remaining 16 survivors. They later confessed eating their dead comrades to survive.
1968: Aer Lingus flight 712 – a mistake of the British Army?
Vickers Viscount 803 aircraft owned by Irish AerLingus was on its way from Cork to Heathrow when it crashed into the sea. 61 people died in this crash. Investigators of this crash failed to find a single reason for the crash. Some witnesses claimed the plane was shot down by an experimental weapon fired by the British military from Aberporth test polygon. The British government has always denied its involvement in this catastrophe.
1962: Flying Tiger Line flight 739 – disappears above the Pacific Ocean
The US army planned to deliver 93 soldiers and three civilians from South Vietnam to Saigon using a Lockhead propeller aircraft. After refuelling at an air force base in Guam, the aircraft departed in the direction of the Philippines. The aircraft never reached its destination. The US government invested a lot of effort to locate the missing aircraft, but to no avail.
1957: PanAm flight 7 – insurance fraud or fire?
Flight 7 was considered one of the most exclusive lux class ‘flights around the world’. On its way from Los Angeles to Honolulu, Boeing 377 disappeared from radars. After five days of searching, rescuers finally found the wreckage in the ocean. Investigation uncovered that some of the 44 passengers who were on board had suffered carbon monoxide poisoning before they died. One curious thing to note that among the passengers was some middle-aged man, who was a former military engineer, had bought two insurance policies two days before the flight.
1947: BSAA Stardust – what does the word Stendec stand for in the Andes?
BSAA’s used Avro aircraft Stardust disappeared on its way from Buenos Aires to Santiago. Fans of conspiracy theories spent 50 years talking about terrorists, aliens and explosions. In addition, oil to the fire was added with the word Stendec, which was mentioned by the pilot Reginald Cools three times before the aircraft disappeared. In 2000, wreckage of the missing aircraft was found in the Andes. It is possible that the crash was caused by the pilot’s mistake. Eleven people died in this catastrophe.
1945: Flight 19 – five bombers disappear without a trace in the Bermuda Triangle
Five Avenger bombers departed from Fort Lauderdale for a simple training flight. After 90 minutes it became clear that the experienced pilots became disoriented – compasses would not function properly. Air control asked them to return, but the five bombers continued on their way until they finally disappeared near the coast of Florida. It was later concluded that the catastrophe was caused by a technical malfunction or lack of fuel. This helped create the myth of the Bermuda Triangle. Two years later, BSAA lost two more planes in the Bermuda Triangle. However, the disappearance of Star Ariel and Star Tiger is believed to be associated with a possible diversion.
1937: Amelia Earhart – unfinished adventure around the world
She and Fred Noonan departed together on a trip around the world in a two-engine Lockheed Electra. After covering approximately 11,000 km, the paid had to land on Howland Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The last radio message received from them was unclear: ‘We are running on line north and south.’ Millions of dollars were spent on the search for them. It was all for naught, unfortunately. It is possible that their plane simply ran out of fuel. The fate of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan remains unknown to this day.