A US Army Air Corps B-24D named Lady Be Good was part of a bombing raid on Italy on April 4, 1943. It was the first mission for both the plane and the crew. Lady Be Good was the only plane of the mission that did not return to its base in Libya. Officials assumed at the time that the plane went down in the Mediterranean Sea. An extensive search was carried out, but no sign of the plane or crew was found. In 1958 an oil survey exploration crew was taking aerial photographs and spotted the plane in the Libyan desert. The plane had crashed, but was preserved well in the arid conditions. There was no sign of the nine-man crew. In 1960, the remains of eight of the nine crew members were found at various places in the desert. Among the items found with the bodies was a diary of co-pilot Robert Toner that revealed the tragic story. The nine men had bailed out before the crash; eight survived. The survivors walked 85 miles before five gave up and three continued to walk until they died. The remains of gunner Vernon L. Moore were never found. It is one of the oldest aviation mysteries.
Until 1 years ago, rumor and intrigue surrounded the story of Star Dust, an airliner that disappeared without a trace in 1947. Widespread searches failed to turn up any trace of the aircraft or its 11 passengers, and theories of spies, sabotage, and even alien abduction swarmed around tales of the lost prop plane. But 50 years later glacial ice in the Andes melted to reveal wreckage that looked startlingly like Star Dust. We now know that the aircraft plunged into the snowy mountain range and, on impact, instantly buried itself in an avalanche. It took half a century of glacial melting, but this puzzle was finally solved.
The missing Malaysian Airlines plane, flight MH370, is one of the most famous aviation mysteries nowadays. An aircraft had 239 people onboard and was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014 when air traffic control staff lost contact with it. Despite an extensive search of the southern Indian Ocean, no trace of the aircraft was found until the discovery of the barnacle-encrusted flaperon on Reunion Island, more than 3,700km (2,300 miles) away from the main search site, in July 2015. French investigators confirmed the aircraft wing part came from the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777, after one of three numbers found on the flaperon was formally identified by a technician from Airbus Defense and Space (ADS-SAU) in Spain, which made the part for Boeing. Investigators are continuing to search for the rest of the plane. The scope of the search has changed many times since the plane disappeared, because of confusion over its last movements, but it is expected to be concluded by the middle of 2016.
It wouldn’t be a list of aviation mysteries without her. In 1937 Amelia Earhart vanished in a Lockheed Electra, never to finish her round-the-world flight. The only clues that Earhart and her Electra left behind were a few garbled (and disputed) radio transmissions. We may never know what happened to Amelia Earhart after that flight. The simplest theory – that she ditched her airplane and died at sea – has never quite satisfied popular imagination. The craziest theories have her captured and executed by the Japanese government or quietly living out her days in New Jersey under an assumed name. Regardless, this remains one of aviation’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
At the height of World War II, the United States Navy dispatched five torpedo bombers on a routine training flight over the Bermuda Triangle. The Bermuda Triangle is somewhat famous for eating airplanes, so it is hardly surprising that all 14 crewmembers aboard the five military aircraft were never seen or heard from again. But hours later, the Navy sent an additional 13 men on a search-and-rescue mission in a Marine flying boat. And they didn’t return it! To this day, Flight 19 remains as one of the aviation mysteries, and reminds us to just stay away from the triangle.