Bermuda Triangle plane mystery ‘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.
One plane probably suffered from catastrophic technical failure as a result of poor design, while the other is likely to have run out of fuel.
Sixty years ago, commercial flights from London to Bermuda were new and perilous. It would require a refuelling stop on the Azores before the 2,000-mile flight to Bermuda, which at that time was the longest non-stop commercial overseas flight in the world.
The planes would have been operating at the limit of their range. Today planes arriving at the tiny Atlantic island deep need sufficient reserve fuel to divert to the US East Coast 700 miles away, in case of emergency.
And the planes of the post-war era were far less reliable than today’s airliners.
British South American Airways (BSAA), which operated the route, had a grim safety record. In three years it had had 11 serious accidents and lost five planes with 73 passengers and 22 crew members killed.
On 30 January 1948, a BSAA Avro Tudor IV plane disappeared without trace. Twenty five passengers and a crew of six were on board The Star Tiger. No bodies or wreckage were found.
The official investigation into the disappearance concluded: “It may truly be said that no more baffling problem has ever been presented.
“What happened in this case will never be known and the fate of Star Tiger must remain an unsolved mystery.”
But there are a number of clues in the official accident report that reveal the Star Tiger had encountered problems before it reached the Azores.
The aircraft’s heater was notoriously unreliable and had failed en route, and one of the compasses was found to be faulty.
Probably to keep the plane warmer, the pilot had decided to fly the whole trans-Atlantic route very low, at 2,000 feet, burning fuel at a faster rate.
On approaching Bermuda, Star Tiger was a little off course and had been flying an hour later than planned.
In addition, the official Ministry of Civil Aviation report considered that the headwinds faced by Star Tiger may have been much stronger than those forecasted. This would have caused the fuel to burn more quickly.
“Flying at 2,000 feet they would have used up much more fuel,” said Eric Newton, one of the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s most senior air accident investigators, who reviewed the scenario for the BBC.
“At 2,000 feet you’d be leaving very little altitude for manoeuvre. In any serious in-flight emergency they could have lost their height in seconds and gone into the sea.”
Whatever happened to the plane, it was sudden and catastrophic - there was no time to send an emergency signal.
The Avro Tudor IV was a converted warplane that was eventually taken out of passenger service because of its poor safety record. Only BSAA continued to fly the aircraft.
Gordon Store was chief pilot and manager of operations at BSAA. In an interview with his local newspaper last November, he said he had no confidence in the Tudor’s engines.
“Its systems were hopeless
Secrets of the Bermuda Triangle revealed?