The disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 captured the attention of the world. Or, at the very least, it captured the attention of CNN. As I write these words, the breaking news of the day is that a Chinese ship has possibly heard the pulse signal from the plane’s flight recorder. By the time you read these words, that latest potential explanation may go the way of all others. One thing is for sure, however: the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 is hardly the first mystery in the air to capture the attention of the world.
Glenn Miller was arguably the most popular musician in the world as he climbed into a single-engine plane on December 15, 1944. It was to be a short hop across the Channel from England to France so that the swing band leader could join the United States Army Air Forces Band for a concert to celebrate both Christmas the liberation of Paris by the Allies. Instead, Glenn Miller joined Amelia Earhart and the pilots and crew of Flight 19 as the most famous and infamous Americans ever to mysterious disappear into the air. Neither the bodies of the passengers nor the wreckage of the plane has ever been found. Since you can’t have even one tiny little unanswered question surrounding any sort of mystery without conspiracy theories multiplying, it should come as little surprise that a huge mystery with enormous unanswered questions like the disappearance of Glenn Miller has produced more than a few theories ranging from a military cover-up to hide the fact that Miller did not die heroically in uniform, but naked in a French bordello to his own brother’s confession 40 years after the fact that Miller actually died of cancer in a hospital.
Andrew Carnegie Whitfield
The name Andrew Carnegie Whitfield doesn’t hold quite the same aura as Amelia Earhart or Glenn Miller, but his mysterious disappearance in 1938 was big news. And, indeed, the details of Andrew Carnegie Whitfield’s missing plane are actually some of the most enticing of all. Firstly, that name Carnegie is not some coincidence; Andrew’s namesake uncle was one of the richest robber barons to ever make his fortune off the blood of workers in American history. So young Andy’s disappearance in a plane immediately stimulated theories about kidnapping. Whitfield was the pilot at the controls of a small plane and had logged more than 200 hours in the air and on April 17, 1938 his flight plan took him directly over Long Island for what was supposed to be a short 22 mile trip to Brentwood. Despite flying over a rather heavily populated area sometime after 9:00 AM, Whitfield and his plane vanished without a trace and neither was never seen again.
The interesting thing about the disappearance of the small plane piloted by Frederick Valentich Australia’s Bass Straits is how it provides a stark counterpart to what is arguably the most perplexing aspect of the Malaysia Flight 370 mystery. While it appears to be the case that absolutely nothing is known about what went on during that flight following the captain’s final words to air traffic controllers (whatever those words are determined to be by the time you read this), a very great deal is known about what went on during Valentich’s mysterious final flight. Of course, it so happens–as is often the case in these types of things–that what is known only deepens the mystery. You can read for yourself the actual transcripts of the conversation that took place between Valentich and air traffic control. It may be viewed as a lesson in placing high expectations based upon hindsight to read Valentich’s description of a strange and unexplained craft hovering around him, making loud grinding noises and then, perhaps, helping the pilot on his way into legend. UFO? Drug dealers’ helicopter? The Australian version of the Bermuda Triangle? Nobody knows as of yet because, once again, we have a case of a plane and pilot vanishing without a clue. And perhaps, just maybe, the mystery of Malaysia Flight 370 would not have been made clearer if we’d been privy to what was taking place inside the cockpit of that big jet, but murkier.