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-   -   Bermuda Triangle plane mystery 'solved' (http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=50824)

Andrew of Ware 13 September 2009 08:04 PM

Bermuda Triangle plane mystery 'solved'
 
Two of the so-called Bermuda Triangle's most mysterious disappearances in the late 1940s may have been solved.

Scores of ships and planes are said to have vanished without trace over the decades in a vast triangular area of ocean with imaginary apexes in Bermuda, Florida and Puerto Rico.

But a new examination for a BBC series provides plausible explanations for the disappearance of two British commercial planes in the area, with the loss of 51 passengers and crew.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8248334.stm

(The ten part BBC Radio Four series on the Bermuda Triangle starts tomorrow at 15:45, by the way.)

Eddylizard 13 September 2009 09:24 PM

Most interesting, thank you. I wonder if this could be related to the reasons behind the 1947 crash of Stardust - no wreckage was found until recently because a headwind caused the flight crew to badly miscalculate their groundspeed and therefore misreport their last position using dead reckoning. It seems they thought they were descending towards Santiago, but they actually descended into a mountain on the other side of the Andes.

minimarmot 14 September 2009 01:53 AM

Don't forget just dangerous and error-prone transatlantic flight was in those days. You're navigating using a chart table and a compass and, trying to estimate how far you're travelled on what bearing, with next-to-no landmarks. (Airliners carried sextants well into the '70's - http://www.vc10.net/Photos/inside_the_vc10.html) These aeroplanes were basically Lancaster bombers with seats and notoriously treacherous kerosene heaters stuffed in - in other words, designed for a completely different purpose than long-range passenger transport. It's hardly surprising that more than a few of them got lost and ran out of fuel, iced-up and crashed, had carburettor failure, had that heater turn into an incendiary bomb, or any number of other points of mechanical failure. Tragic, but hardly mysterious.

Besides, hasn't it been pretty well established that losses-per-square-mile x shipping volume, the Bermuda Triangle isn't statistically much more dangerous than any other chunk of ocean?

jimmy101_again 15 September 2009 01:06 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by minimarmot (Post 1047058)
Don't forget just dangerous and error-prone transatlantic flight was in those days. You're navigating using a chart table and a compass and, trying to estimate how far you're travelled on what bearing, with next-to-no landmarks. (Airliners carried sextants well into the '70's

Plus, in the 40's, western pilots didn't know the jet stream existed. When you are flying over featureless water and navigating mostly by dead reckoning it makes a heck of a lot of difference if you are actually flying into/across/with a 500 MPH stream of air. If you think your ground speed is 250 MPH and it is actually 600 MPH (or minus 100 MPH!) it's pretty easy to get lost.

minimarmot 15 September 2009 04:27 AM

Quote:

Plus, in the 40's, western pilots didn't know the jet stream existed.
Jimmy, are you saying that it was known about in the Soviet Union? The reason I ask is that I once saw an An-2 pilot demonstrate how to fly backwards with a stiff headwind. Pretty freaky.

Floater 15 September 2009 06:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Andrew of Ware (Post 1046884)
Two of the so-called Bermuda Triangle's most mysterious disappearances in the late 1940s may have been solved.

It was solved already in 1975 when Larry Kusche published his book The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved.

Wikipedia has a good article on the "phenomenon".

WildaBeast 15 September 2009 08:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by minimarmot (Post 1048060)
Jimmy, are you saying that it was known about in the Soviet Union?

It was known to the Japanese, I believe. They used weather balloons to send bombs across the Pacific during WWII with the help of the jet stream.

Quote:

The reason I ask is that I once saw an An-2 pilot demonstrate how to fly backwards with a stiff headwind. Pretty freaky.
I saw a documantary on PBS several years ago about how scientists and pilots first came to understand the jet stream. The first American pilots to encounter the jet stream and really document it were B-29 bomber crews. I forget if they actually interviewed one of the pilots, or just read one of their reports, but they told a story of a crew flying a mission at high altitude. The captain asked the navigator what their ground speed was. The navigator reports back "Sir, we're going 3 mph backwards."

jimmy101_again 16 September 2009 04:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by minimarmot (Post 1048060)
Jimmy, are you saying that it was known about in the Soviet Union? The reason I ask is that I once saw an An-2 pilot demonstrate how to fly backwards with a stiff headwind. Pretty freaky.

As folks have posted, the Japanese discovered the jet stream just before WW2. The balloon bombs were specifically meant to take advantage of the stream.

There a great PBS / BBC Nova about an jet airliner lost over the Andes in 1947. For fifty years conspiracy theories flourished. Then the plane was found and it was concluded that it had descended in clouds straight into a mountainside. The pilots had no reliable navigational aids and were flying by dead reckoning. The (flight time)x(air speed) said they had crossed the mountains. Unfortunately, they were flying into a jet stream type head wind and were many miles behind where they thought they were.

The jet stream is generally pretty high. Until jets and pressurized cabins became common it wasn't too much of issue.

Eddylizard 16 September 2009 05:25 PM

Never mind

jimmy101_again 16 September 2009 07:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Eddylizard (Post 1049260)
Never mind

Sorry Eddy, I forgot that you had already posted about the airliner in the Andes.
:duh:

Eddylizard 16 September 2009 07:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jimmy101_again (Post 1049410)
Sorry Eddy, I forgot that you had already posted about the airliner in the Andes.
:duh:

Nah I mistakenly posted that I thought the Lancastrian was a prop plane rather than a jetliner, then looked it up and I was wrong. So I withdrew my post.

WildaBeast 16 September 2009 08:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Eddylizard (Post 1049413)
Nah I mistakenly posted that I thought the Lancastrian was a prop plane rather than a jetliner, then looked it up and I was wrong. So I withdrew my post.

But you were right. In 1947 it would have had to have been a prop plane, as the first jetliner to fly was the Comet in 1949. Wikipedia says the Lancastrian was powered by 4 Rolls-Royce Merlins.

I wonder if this is what Barbara meant about nitpickers and airplanes in another thread? ;)

jimmy101_again 16 September 2009 09:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WildaBeast (Post 1049502)
But you were right. In 1947 it would have had to have been a prop plane, as the first jetliner to fly was the Comet in 1949. Wikipedia says the Lancastrian was powered by 4 Rolls-Royce Merlins.

I wonder if this is what Barbara meant about nitpickers and airplanes in another thread? ;)

Crud, that's right, it was a prop plane. That was one of the things they found, big pieces of the engines and they weren't jets.

minimarmot 17 September 2009 05:46 AM

Quote:

But you were right. In 1947 it would have had to have been a prop plane, as the first jetliner to fly was the Comet in 1949.
The Comet was the first _production_ airliner _designed_ to fly with jet engines, but we can cut Eddie some slack here because the first airliner with jet engines or any kind was either the Avro Ashton or Avro Tudor Mk.8 - both of which are Lancaster / Lancastrian derivatives. But these were prototype / testbed / proof-of-concept projects that were not intended for production or sale.

I don't want to promulgate an urban legend myself, but one of the reasons for the horrible reliability of the Lancastrian and Tudor is alleged to have been that they were fitted with engines that had failed RAF QA and were stored until after the war, then resold for civillian projects, the rationale presumably being that a regional airliner flogs its engines a lot less than Hawker Hurricane. But that was reckoning without transatlantic distances and high altitudes.


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