In Depth

The mystery of MH370, EgyptAir flight MS804 and seven other planes that vanished

Disappearance of Cairo-bound passenger jet sparks fresh interest in MH370 and other missing planes

The EgyptAir flight MS804 that went missing in the early hours of Thursday morning has sparked renewed interest in Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which vanished on 8 March 2014 and has gripped the public imagination ever since. Unanswered questions about the MH370 such as why the communication system was disabled, and why the aircraft apparently executed a U-turn before it disappeared have deepened the mystery.

But this is not the first time a plane has gone missing. Here are eight other planes that vanished from the skies leaving barely a trace:

The 'stolen' Boeing 727-233

In 2003, a Boeing 727-233, registered N844AA, began taxiing along the runway at Quatro de Fevereiro Airport in Luanda, Angola with no communication between the crew and the tower. The mid-sized plane manoeuvred towards the runway and took off without clearance. The jet then headed west over the Atlantic ocean with its lights off and its transponder not transmitting, and has never been seen since. On board were two men, neither of whom were believed to have been capable of flying the aircraft, Air and Space magazine reports. A worldwide search by the FBI and CIA failed to locate either the plane or its crew and was eventually called off. To this day, the whole incident remains a mystery.

Mid-air art heist?

A cargo plane belonging to Varig Brazilian Airlines disappeared in January 1979 just 30 minutes after it took off from Narita International Airport in Tokyo. Adding to the mystery of the plane’s disappearance, on board were 153 paintings valued at more than $1.2 million (£700,000). Neither the plane, its crew or nor the paintings have been seen since.

Flying Tiger Line Flight 739

One of the most enduring mysteries in aviation history is what happened to the Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 in 1932. The US military flight carrying 90 military personnel took off from Guam, in the western Pacific, but never arrived at its destination in the Philippines. The plane issued no distress call and no wreckage has ever been found. The crew of a Liberian tanker claimed to have seen an "intensely luminous" light in the sky, which some believe may have indicated the flight exploded in mid-air, but the US Civil Aeronautics board ruled it was "unable to determine the probable cause of the incident", Time Magazine reports.

Bermuda Triangle

Several planes disappeared in the region between Florida, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda in the 1940s in mysteries that have been the focus of intense interest from conspiracy theorists and aeronautical historians ever since. Two British South American Airways passenger jets vanished in the area in 1948 and 1949. Fifty-one passengers and crew were lost in the two incidents, one involving a Star Tiger plane and the other a Star Ariel plane. In an official report into the Tiger incident, investigators said they were "baffled" by the aircraft's disappearance. Several other planes have disappeared in the region including five US bombers that vanished in 1945, but in spite of massive air and sea searches, no trace of the bodies or aircraft was ever found.

Air France Flight 447

In 2009 a flight from Rio De Janeiro to Paris crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing 228 passengers and crew. After a day of searching wreckage was spotted and parts of the plane, including the black boxes, were eventually recovered. But the bodies of 74 passengers were never located, and it took three full years to conclude that the crash had been caused by a combination of ice build-up, mechanical failure and pilot error.

Top Gun crash

Stunt pilot Art Scholl crashed and disappeared without trace when his Pitt S-2 camera plane crashed during filming for a scene for the Hollywood film Top Gun. Scholl had intentionally put the plane into a flat spin to film a scene for the movie, but the aircraft never recovered from the manoeuvre and plunged into the ocean. Scholl's last recorded words were: "I've got a problem here," the LA Times reports. The film was dedicated to his memory.

Amelia Earhart

Aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart disappeared in her Lockheed Model 10 Electra somewhere over the central Pacific Ocean in 1937 while attempting to circumnavigate the globe. In spite of a multi-million pound search effort, no remnants of her plane have ever been found. Earhart was officially declared dead in 1939, but speculation about the circumstances surrounding her disappearance continues to this day.

EgyptAir flight MS804

EgyptAir flight MS804 crashed in the Mediterranean on 19 May, with 66 people on board: 56 passengers, seven aircrew and three security personnel. Investigators continue to close in on the "black box" flight recorders and now believe they are getting close to the plane's location.

According to the BBC, search teams believe they have "heard locator-beacon signals from at least one of the 'black box' flight recorders, and now salvage experts are heading to the site to take a closer look".

Hopes remain that the discovery will shed light on what caused the plane's crash. In the absence of any official explanation, there has been a flourishing of conspiracy theories - including suggestions that the crash may have been an insider job, a weird accident or even alien intervention.

As information from the flight recorders continues to emerge, the gap between "the sort of speculation and interpretation which floods the internet and the dearth of hard, official information" is narrowing, says the BBC's Kevin Connolly, adding: "Nowhere is that evidence awaited more keenly than here in Egypt. There is sensitivity to outside criticism here but that is vastly outweighed by a shared sense of shock and grief."


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