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A man signs a poster with MH370 written on it (Foto: Edgar Su/REUTERS)
Image: Reuters

Missing planes

Robin Eberhardt
March 17, 2014

Malaysian Airline Flight MH370 is still missing after more than a week of extensive search operations. But it wouldn't be the first time a plane has disappeared under mysterious circumstances.


After more than a week Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 is still missing without trace despite the fact that some 26 countries are involved in the search. If MH370 isn't found it would be the biggest unexplained disaster in history - but it wouldn't be the only one. Even in the age of high-technology aviation, missing planes are not unheard of. Here are some of the most notable cases since civil aviation started its major expansion after World War II.

May 31, 2009, Air France Airbus A330 flight from Brazil to France

The plane went missing in mid-ocean outside radar coverage. It was carrying 228 passengers when it vanished four hours into its flight. At the time it was thought that the plane had been struck by lightning. It took two years to find the wreckage. A report by French authorities stated that the disaster was caused by a combination of faulty equipment and inexperienced pilots.

January 10, 1995, Merapati Nusantara Airlines Flight 6715

The Twin Otter 300 vanished on a scheduled flight from Bima Airport on the Indonesian island of Nusa Tenggara Barat to Satartacik Airport on the neighboring Nusa Tenggara Timur Island. There were 10 passengers and 4 crew members on board. It appears that the plane crashed into the Moro Strait due to bad weather.

Twin Otter 300 Foto: Mathias Trachsel/dpa)
A Twin Otter 300 went missing in 1995Image: picture-alliance/dpa

August 15, 1976, SAETA Flight 232

The Vickers Viscount 785D with 55 passengers and four crew members on board went missing on a Uruguayan internal flight from Quito to Cuenca. The wreckage was not located until 2003 when climbers found remains of the aircraft on Chimborazo Mountain. No reason for the crash was ever found.

January 10, 1974, TAM-52

The Douglas DC-4 was operated by the civil air service of the Bolivian military and was on its way from Santa Rosa Airport to La Paz-El Alto Airport. No trace of the airplane was ever found. It carried 21 passengers and 3 crew members.

October 16, 1972, Cessna 310 from Anchorage to Juneau

The plane carried the majority leader of the US House of Representatives Hale Boggs and his fellow Democrat, Congressman Nick Begich. The two politicians were on the way to an election campaign event. The plane vanished without a trace. No remains of the aircraft were found after 39 days of intensive search and the two politicians were declared dead on December 29.

March 16, 1962, Flying Tiger Line Flight 739

The Lockheed L-1049 was chartered by the US military and carried 96 soldiers and 11 crew members. It was on its way from Guam-Agana Airport to Angeles-Clark Airport in the Philippines when it disappeared over the western Pacific Ocean.

Lockheed L 1049C (Foto: Keystone/Getty Images)
A Lockheed L-1049 with nearly 100 soldiers on board disappeared over the western Pacific in 1961Image: Getty Images

The disappearance triggered a large scale search operation by the US military, which included aircrafts and ships. The search operation covered more than 520,000 square kilometers. But the wreckage was never found.

February 3, 1961, Garuda Indonesia Flight 542

The Douglas DC 47A was on a domestic flight from Surabaya-Juanda Airport to Sultan Aji Muhamad Sulaiman Airport on the Indonesian Island of Kalimantan. The flight disappeared off Madura Island. It carried 21 passengers and five crew members. The wreckage was never found.

November 9, 1957 Pan American Airways Flight 7

The Boeing 377 left San Francisco airport for a round-the-world flight. It carried 36 passengers and eight crew members. The plane never arrived at its scheduled destination of Honolulu. A week later bodies and parts of the wreckage were found some 1500 kilometers east of Honolulu. The cause of the accident was never established.

February 2, 1953, Skyways from London to Jamaica

The Avro York was chartered by the British Air Ministry for a military troop flight to Jamaica. It departed Lajes Field in the Azores for its next destination Gander Airport in Newfoundland after a short stopover. Six hours after its departure Gander Airport received a distress message before it lost contact with the plane. A large scale search did not find any traces of the plane. It carried 33 passengers, including 13 children, and six crew members.

July 21, 1951, Canadian Pacific Airlines

The Douglas DC-4 took off from Vancouver International Airport for Tokyo. The last known position of the aircraft was reported from British Columbia Space Center around four hours after its departure. Then all contact was lost.

Douglas DC-4 (Foto: Jeff Topping/Getty Images)
A Douglas DC-4 was involved in at least two mystery disappearancesImage: Getty Images

The US Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force started an extensive search but failed to find any trace of the aircraft or the 31 passengers and the 6 crew members. The search was called off on October 31, 1951.

January 17, 1949, British South American Airways

The Star Ariel departed from Kindley Field in Bermuda in the morning. It was scheduled to fly to Kingston, Jamaica. The last message from the plane was received one hour after its takeoff. The wreckage of the Avro Tudor was never found. The plane carried 13 passengers and seven crew members.

Avro Tudor VII a 40-60 (Foto: A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Two Avro Tudors vanished near the Bermuda triangleImage: Getty Images

December 28, 1948, Airborne Transport

The Douglas DC-3 departed from San Juan, Puerto Rico. It reported problems with its electrical system. After the plane made contact with New Orleans to say it was just 80 kilometers away from Miami, nothing else was heard from it. The aircraft carried 29 passengers and three crew members. It was never found.

January 30, 1948, British South American Airways

The Avro Tudor, which went under the name Star Tiger, was a scheduled flight from London Heathrow to Bermuda. After an overnight stop over at Santa Maria-Vila do Porto Airport, Azores, the plane started on the next leg to its final destination in bad weather conditions. Contact was lost after 12 hours into its flight. The plane carried 25 passengers and six crew members. The US Air Force started a search for the plane but failed to find any trace of it.

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