Aviation Mysteries: 10 Strangest Aircraft Disappearances in History

malaysia-airlines-flight-370 (Image: Laurent ERRERA, cc-sa-4.0)

Everyone’s familiar with the most infamous of all aircraft disappearances – the plane of Amelia Earhart. Tragically, with all our more modern technology, the disappearance of an entire aircraft isn’t unheard of now, as painfully illustrated by the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. There are many more aircraft whose disappearance is surrounded by tragedy and mystery, though, and some date back to the earliest days of flight.

10. The America, Atlantic Ocean

the-america-airship (Image: Library of Congress, public domain)

Financed by organizations like The Daily Telegraph and The New York Times, the America was the airship that made the world’s first attempt at crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Little more than a cotton and silk balloon, the airship had a crew of seven – six humans and a cat named Kiddo, who was brought along for good luck.

Originally delayed by weather, the American left Atlantic City on October 15 and was surrounded by not only naysayers, but the determination of her crew to prove them all wrong. The journey was plagued with problems from the start, not the least of which was the cat. Kiddo was less than thrilled to be included in the mission, and made it a point of being as vocal as he could about it. Attempts to lower him off the ship and onto another craft failed, so it was quickly clear he was along for the entire ride. He settled in quickly, though, but their problems weren’t over.

the-america-airship-2 (Image: Bain News Service, public domain)

There were also airship-related problems, including difficulty in maintaining a consistent height, with the ship wavering at times between 200 and 3,600 feet. Winds proved more than a challenge, and to make matters even worse, a hurricane was brewing to the south. Originally heading in the right direction, the airship was eventually blown back to the west by insurmountable winds; after 72 hours they radioed the Royal Mail Ship the Trent and requested assistance. The America’s entire crew – including Kiddo – made it into the lifeboat when they were picked up by the Trent.

The mail ship took them on to New York, where they were treated to a hero’s welcome in spite of their failure. They could count a number of firsts as their success, though, including sending the first radio message from an airship to the shore and to a ship. The America itself was never seen again, though, and the last glimpses of it were of the airship rising and heading out farther over the ocean. Kiddo retired to a non-airborne life living with the daughter of one of the crew members.


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About the author: Debra Kelly




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