Aviation Mysteries: 10 Strangest Aircraft Disappearances in History

4. L-8 Blimp Disappearance

l-8-blimp (Image: US Navy, public domain)

This one’s a bit unique in that the aircraft came back, but the crew didn’t.

The U.S. Navy’s L-8 aircraft was once a Goodyear advertising blimp, before it was drafted into military service during World War Two. Part of its job was reconnaissance, patrolling the west coast of the United States and looking for Japanese submarines. On August 16, 1942, the blimp left Treasure Island with a crew of 2 – the 27-year-old Lt. Ernest Cody and 38-year-old Ensign Charles Adams. Both had years of experience – Cody was already well-known as an experienced pilot of the blimp, and Adams was one of the men who had searched the crash of the Hindenburg for survivors. The flight was to be a routine one.

They left on the blimp, but when it landed, there was no trace of either one of the men.

Bizarrely, there was also no sign that anything had even gone wrong. Parachutes were still in their places, life jackets hadn’t been touched, tools were all still stowed. Both the airship’s engines were still on and in working order, the only damage to the craft had been incurred when it hit the cliffs on its way down in its unmanned landing. Radio and communication equipment was all working, and the briefcase filled with military documents – that Cody was in control of, and had orders to pitch overboard in case of emergency – was still there.

There were several smoke bombs (used to mark locations where enemy submarines were spotted), and, most bizarre, the craft’s side door was open. As a safety measure, the door was designed to only be able to be opened from the outside, to prevent accidental opening during flight. Whether it was open when the craft came down or if those who were first to the scene opened it, no one seems sure.

There’s a number of theories as to what happened to the crew – that there had been a stowaway or a fight between the two men, that one – or both – of the men had fallen out trying to get a better look at something… none of the theories have ever been proven, though, leaving the empty L-8 blimp’s reappearance a mysterious one.


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About the author: Debra Kelly




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