Flight 19 (1945)

View Poll Results: So what happened to Flight 19
Did it just disappear into the Bermuda Triangle 2 40.00%
Did it crash in the ocean 3 60.00%
Don't care 0 0%
Voters: 5. You may not vote on this poll

Flight 19 was a flight of five US Navy TBM Avenger torpedo bombers which disappeared on a training flight out of the Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station on December 5, 1945. The aircraft and 14 crew members were never found, and neither was one of the search planes , a Martin PBM Mariner, which also disappeared with the loss of 13 aircrew. Although US Navy investigations [1] concluded that Flight 19 became disoriented and ditched at sea when out of fuel, the incident has been linked to the Bermuda Triangle myth.

The instructor leading the flight was US Navy Lieutenant Charles C. Taylor, an experienced Pacific Theatre pilot but who had not long been at Fort Lauderdale and was unfamiliar with the area. The trainee pilots had little experience in Avengers, but had trained at Fort Lauderdale and knew the area well.

Flight 19 was undertaking a routine over-water navigation/bombing exercise, similar to one completed a few hours earlier by another flight. (The enlisted men in the aircraft were taking part in advanced combat aircrew training). Called “Navigation Problem 1”, it involved the Avengers negotiating a triangular course from Fort Lauderdale. The first leg was due east for 123 miles, then slightly north of north west for 73 miles, then south west for 120 miles back to base. Just 56 miles into the first leg, the aircraft dropped bombs as scheduled on the Hens and Chickens Shoals, just south of the Grand Bahamas, to practice strafing.

US Navy TBF Grumman AvengersThe five aircraft making up Flight 19 were routinely armed, pre-flighted and filled with enough fuel for a minimum five hours flying before leaving the naval air station at 14:10 pm local time when the weather was fine although the sea state was described as moderate to rough. As is customary on many training flights, one of the trainee pilots assumed the role of leader out front, and Lieutenant Taylor rode shotgun at the rear.

Radio conversations between the pilots were monitored by base and other aircraft in the area, and it is known the bombing operation was completed successfully. Subsequent conversations indicated that shortly after turning to port on to the second leg of the flight plan, Lieutenant Taylor had taken over the lead of the flight after there were indications the aircraft were lost. Lieutenant Taylor radioed to a senior flight instructor flying in the area that he thought he was over the Florida Keys but was unsure of his position, that both of his compasses were unserviceable, and that he did not know how to get to Fort Lauderdale. He was advised to put the sun on his port wing and fly up the coast to Fort Lauderdale. A later reconstruction of the incident showed that the islands in question were probably their bombing target, well east of the Keys. Lieutenant Taylor, thinking he was on a base course toward Florida, actually guided the flight further north.

Meanwhile as the weather worsened and radio contact became more intermittent, the five aircraft were in fact well out to sea east of the Florida peninsula. At 17:16 Lieutenant Taylor said he was flying west and would do so until landfall or running out of gas. He requested a weather check at 17:24 and at about 18:20 in his last decipherable message, he was heard asking his colleagues to close formation. He informed them they would need to ditch unless reaching land, and advised them that when the first plane dropped below 10 gallons of fuel they would all descend together. Nothing more was heard from Flight 19.

At 17:50 pm several land based stations had triangulated Flight 19's position as being well off the coast of central Florida, but the weak radio reception and interference from radio stations in Cuba meant the pilots could not be reached to give them this information.

Earlier, as it became obvious the flight was indeed lost, numerous air bases, aircraft and merchant ships were alerted. Several aircraft were dispatched to search for the Avengers and guide them back if they could locate them. One of the aircraft was the PBM-5 Martin Mariner (Buno 59-225) which took off at 19:37 with a crew of 13 from Banana Beach Naval Air Station at Cocoa Beach , (now called Patrick Air Force Base). The aircraft radioed a routine message to its base a few minutes later, but was never heard from again because it exploded 23 minutes after takeoff.

At 19:50 a tanker reported seeing a mid-air explosion then flames leaping 120 ft high and burning on the sea for 10 minutes. The captain reported searching a sea of oil for survivors, but found none. The USS Solomons (CVE 67), also reported the explosion, in the exact same position an aircraft had disappeared off radar. The nickname for the Mariner was "the flying gas tank" due to fumes from the aviation fuel constantly leaking into the fuselage.

Navy investigators spent months examining thousands of pages of testimony from people involved in any way with the disappearance of the Avengers and the Mariner. They concluded that the Avengers became lost and ditched into very rough seas after running out of fuel, and that the Mariner exploded in mid-air, probably when fuel fumes were ignited.

Aircraft and ships carried out what has been described as one of the most rigorous searches in history, but no trace of aircraft of crews were ever located. In 1981 the wreckage of five Avengers was discovered off the coast of Florida , but it was found later from serial numbers on engine blocks that they were not Flight 19. The five tightly grouped Avengers had crashed on five different days in the exact same spot.

In 1986, the wreckage of another Avenger was found off the Florida coast during the search for the wreckage of the Space Shuttle Challenger. In 1990, aviation archaeologist Jon Myer located and raised this wreck from the ocean floor. He was convinced it was one of the missing planes but positive identification could not be made. In 1992 another expedition located scattered debris on the ocean floor that may have come from an Avenger but nothing could be identified.

The disappearance of Flight 19 has long been touted as a major Bermuda Triangle mystery. Charles Berlitz, a popular author of various books on anomalous phenomena, attributed Flight 19's disappearance to anomalous or unexplained forces despite evidence which indicates that a prosaic explanation for the disappearance is far more likely and plausible.

Berlitz's claims that the trainee aviators were expert pilots, that they reported a number of odd visual effects, that the Avengers were built to float for long periods, and that there were calm seas and a clear sky were all erroneous.

The fate of Flight 19 was a plot element of the 1977 science fiction movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

At NAS Banana River, two PBM-5s were being prepared to join the search, after being diverted from a regularly scheduled night navigation training flight. A flight mech checked out one of the planes, PBM-5 BuNo 59225, filled it with enough fuel for a 12-hour flight and, as he later testified before the Board, "I found it to be A-1. I spent about an hour in the aircraft . . .and there was no indication of any gas fumes. There was no discrepancy in any of the equipment and, when we started up the engines, they operated normally."

According to the pilot of the other PBM, "About 1830, operations called and the operations duty officer in regard to the five TBMs whose last position was reported as approximately 130 miles east of New Smyrna with about 20 minutes of fuel remaining. We received this position and were told to conduct a square search. We were instructed to conduct radar and visual search and to stand by on 4805 kc, the reported frequency on which the TBMs were operating. At the time we were briefed, Ltjg Jeffrey, in Training 49, was to make the second plane in the search. No other planes were included."

Were any plans made for a joint conduct of the search mission? "Yes, I was to proceed to the last reported position of the TBMs and conduct a square search. Lt. Jeffrey was to proceed to New Smyrna and track eastward to intercept the presumed track of the TBMs and then was to conduct an expanding square search at the last reported position of the TBMs."

What were the weather and sea conditions when you arrived in the vicinity of 29 degrees north, 79 degrees west? ". . .the ceiling was approximately 800 to 1200 feet overcast, occasional showers, estimated wind, west southwest about 25 30 knots. The air was very turbulent. The sea was very rough."

At 1927, PBM-5, Buno 59225, was airborne from Banana River with 3 aviators aboard and a crew of 10. At 1930, the aircraft radioed an "out" report to its home base and was not heard from again.

Cruising off the coast of Florida, the tanker S.S. Gaines Mills was sailing through the dark night when it sent the following message, "At 1950, observed a burst of flames, apparently an explosion, leaping flames 100 feet high and burning for ten minutes. Position 28 degrees 59 minutes north, 80 degrees 25 minutes west. At present, passing through a big pool of oil. Stopped, circled area using searchlights, looking for survivors. None found." Her captain later confirmed that he saw a plane catch fire and immediately crash, exploding upon the sea.

With the plane that went after them, even though it is believed to have exploded, nothing has ever been found but a black oil slick. The testimony above says it was in working condition. It is all strange.
Here is a few more links:



So we got two who say it crashed into the ocean, and one who says it just disappeared.

Anyone else?

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