What happened to flight 19?
The ill fated five avenger bomber planes of the Flight 19
led by Commander Charles Taylor that took off on December 5, 1945 on a training mission, never returned to its naval base of Florida. It was at 7.04 p.m. when the last transmission was received at the control tower from the flight. After that it was all silence.
So, what may have finally happened to the flight 19 planes? Over the next 5 days, 250,000 square miles of area in the Atlantic ocean was literally combed by the coast guards, navy ships and aircraft. No trace was found of any oil leakage, life raft, fire or wreckage of any sort. Here is one of the most acceptable explanations of Flight 19 tragedy although the disappearance has actually remained a mystery until date.
Flight-19's projected route map
It was getting dark. The sea started to foam and was becoming heavy too. Strong breeze further complicated the matter. Many communications took place between the trainees and the flight leader Charles Taylor during this time. This was evident from the transmissions that were intercepted at the tower. There seemed to be a strong difference in opinion between them over the position of the flight.
The trainees were insisting that they should fly west. They were right. If they flew west, they would have reached home. However, in order to keep with the military discipline, the team continued to follow the leader.
Being hopelessly lost and knowing that the planes were running out of fuel, Charles Taylor possibly made up a plan that they would continue to look for the base station until the fuel level came below 10 gallons. And then all would ditch their planes together into the Atlantic with a last hope of survival. And soon it was time to do that...
The planes as they descended in the dark and into the foaming sea, it was very likely that they all would have crashed into the water. Well, you can't expect these heavy iron birds weighing some 14,000 pounds each to survive and to be seen again once they crashed into the sea. And that too during a rough stormy weather when the waves were some 50-foot high. Even if some survived the crash, they would have anyway died in the freezing cold December water of the Atlantic.
In 1986, a wreckage was found off the coast of Florida while a search was going on for the space shuttle Challenger. The wreck was taken out of the ocean by Aviation archaeologist Jon Myhre in 1990. He was convinced that it was one of the Flight 19 planes, but could not provide a definite evidence.
In 1991 a salvaging ship found the wrecks of five Avenger planes 600 feet below at the ocean bottom and off the coast of Florida. But after examination it was confirmed that they were not Flight 19 planes. So the incident has continued to remain as a mystery.
Well in the initial report, the U.S. Navy wanted to show this accident as something caused by confusion on part of commander Charles Taylor. But Taylor's mother was not ready to accept this as this would ruin her son's reputation. She vehemently objected and forced the Navy to produce the final report with the cause shown as Reasons Unknown.
The final report said "We are not able to even make a good guess as to what happened". While this may have spared the sentiment of the woman, but had blurred the facts considerably. And such official report only further cemented the belief among millions of people around the world that Bermuda Triangle is indeed an evil space.
Update May 2014
1) Now here are some interesting findings that point the fingers to a different direction. Two men - John Myhre (an Aviation archaeologist I had already mentioned in earlier section) and Andy Marocco have been trying to track the route of the Flight 19 avenger bomber planes and identify the crash site for over 25 years. Based on several circumstantial evidences, they say that the wreck of the torpedo bomber that was discovered in 1989 at Everglades (in Broward County) was that of Charles Taylor's plane. Taylor was the commander of flight-19 squadron.
2) They collected US Navy's 500 page report of Flight-19, and figured out that the aircraft carrier USS Solomon which was offshore from Daytona Beach in Florida, was actually able to pickup radar signals of few unidentified planes at around 7pm on that same day when the incident took place. They were all flying over north Florida, at an altitude of about 4,000ft and at a speed of 135mph when they took a turn towards south east. Based on speed, time and flight position, Myhre and Maroccco calculated that it was quite possible one of the planes would have crashed near where the torpedo bomber wreckage was found in 1989.
3) They also closely looked at a file picture of the cockpit of torpedo bomber found in 1989 and determined that it was that of a TBM-3 avenger plane identical to which Taylor was flying. They also concluded from the Navy archives that US Navy does not have any record of a TBM-3 avenger plane crashing between 1944 to 1952 other than that of the Flight 19 which went missing in 1945. This further supports the fact that the wreck at Everglades could be that of Flight 19.
4) From an internet picture of a shoe hill found from the 1989 torpedo bomber's crash site, it was determined that the shoe size was 11 which could only fit a man who was minimum 6ft tall. Charles Taylor was 6ft 1-inch tall.
5) So all fingers are now pointing to the wreck at Everglades found in 1989 to be that of Flight 19. But is it confirmed that the 1989 wreck was indeed that of Charles Taylor? Well the problem is, the wreckage itself has now vanished. One imagines that over the years, collectors and others would have taken it away piece by piece. For final conclusion, one needs to look at the Navy bureau identity numbers on the wings of the 1989 wreck and tally that with the plane of Charles Taylor or any other missing plane of flight 19. If they tally, then you can be sure it was that plane. But where can one find the wings now? Nobody knows.... and the mystery is technically still unresolved.
6) But even if the above is conclusive, what could have happened to the remaining planes? Marocco and Myhre say that they would have got scattered and gone into different directions. It was dark and quite possible that they lost each other.
The well known and respected author Larry Kusche had explored the baffling mystery of Flight 19's disappearance by interviewing Commander Charles Taylor's Navy Comrades, friends and relatives and has documented his findings in his book The Disappearance of Flights 19 where he concluded that it was a series of mistakes on part of Commander Taylor that resulted into such a dreaded disappearance.
1) Check out Flight 19 Full Story
to know all about the missing planes including what happened since the planes took off, which direction did they head for, what did the control tower hear, and many other facts.