Vanished in the air

”All planes close up tight . . .we’ll have to ditch unless landfall . . .when the first plane drops below 10 gallons, we all go down together.” These confused messages were heard by the surprised staff of the military air traffic control at Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale, Florida at 6.20 p.m. on December 5, 1945. Lieutenant Charles C. Taylor, the leader of a squadron of five TBF Avenger torpedo bombers that had taken off four hours earlier, gave those desperate instructions to his fellow airmen – but to no avail. The navigation training flight that was planned to last three hours ended in tragedy. All the planes of the squadron Flight 19, alongside the crew, were lost without a trace. The event has been considered one of the greatest mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle.

Bombardiers Avenger

Although the mission had been correctly prepared, a fatal accident occurred. Flight instruments operated properly, planes were fuelled up, and the weather was fine at Fort Lauderdale. However, around 90 minutes after rising into the air Lt. Charles C. Taylor called the tower reporting about both of his malfunctioning compasses and losing all sense of direction. Although he had no idea about their position Taylor did not hand over command, even though pilots of the other Avengers were supposedly aware of their location. At the time of the last caught radio message the squadron allegedly flew north of the Bahamas, off the east coast of Florida, where they faced horrific weather conditions. As they were short of fuel Lt. Charles C. Taylor decided to make an emergency landing in rough seas despite the darkness, huge wind gusts and fierce storm. Unfortunately, his decision proved fatal.

Just before 7.30 p.m. a PBM Mariner flying boat was sent to rescue the pilots in peril, but similarly to the squadron it was also lost. In the following days several hundred ships and aircraft combed an area of 250 thousand square miles in the Atlantic and the Gulf but neither the 27 victims nor the plain wrecks were found.

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