Every year, there are a number of accidents involving aircraft. But for all the general aviation accidents, some more mysterious and unnerving examples emerge that capture the public’s imagination. These accidents and disappearances, such as Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in March of 2014, endure for years precisely because they represent the unknown danger that seems to always be lurking deep in the background. Here are a few of the most famous examples throughout U.S. history.
Amelia Earhart Disappearance
Amelia Earhart emerged as a national icon after becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Unfortunately, she later became infamous for another, more tragic event. On June 1st, 1937 she set out from Miami in her Lockheed Electra to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. However, on July 2nd, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared in the Pacific near Howland Island. While conspiracy theories regarding her demise remain to this day, the most likely cause of the disappearance was that she simply ran out of fuel.
This might be the most “shocking” example of an airline crash on the entire list, if only for what occurred after the crash. Flight 571 was a chartered flight from Uruguay to Chile carrying a national rugby team. The plane crashed in the Andes Mountains between Argentina and Chile, resulting in the deaths of 12 of the 45 passengers and crewmembers. In the days following, six more succumbed to injuries as well as the elements, and a later avalanche claimed eight more people. All told, the remaining people survived for 72 days after the crash, at which point they were finally rescued. The most harrowing aspect of their tale is that their ultimate survival depended on them resulting to the cannibalism of dead passengers.
Egypt Air Flight 990
Mystery still surrounds Flight 990, which left Kennedy Airport bound for Cairo, Egypt on October 31st, 1990. What is known is that the aircraft plunged some 14,000 feet in 36 seconds and crashed off the Massachusetts coast. New information shows that the co-pilot had been reprimanded for misconduct, and that the chief of the airline pilot group told him that 990 would be his last flight. The co-pilot’s response was perfectly ominous: “This is the last flight for you too.” The plane crashed amid reports of a desperate struggle for controls in the cockpit.
TWA Flight 800
The official book may be closed on Flight 800, a passenger jet carrying 230 people from JFK airport bound for Paris, but questions still lurk regarding just what happened on July 17th, 1996. The official cause of the accident was listed as a spark that ignited in the plane’s central fuel tank. However, out of the some 755 witnesses that were interviewed, hundreds reported seeing a streak of light rise up from the ground and connect with the aircraft just before the explosion. Some witnesses even went so far as to use the words “missile” and “rocket.” Unfortunately no one survived the flight, and what really occurred may never be known.
These are a just a few harrowing aviation incidents that keep people all over the world thinking and guessing. Of course it’s crucial not to let stories such as these color one’s opinion of air travel. That’s because the data shows flying gets safer each year.