Map: 84 Planes That've Vanished

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is the 84th plane to go mysteriously missing since 1948. A new visualization maps out this history of lost flights.

The disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 hasn’t gotten much less baffling since the news broke on March 8th. The investigators from 26 countries racing to solve what's been dubbed the biggest mystery in aviation history haven't ruled out hijacking, pilot suicide, mass murder, or sabotage. While it’s shocking and strange, it's far from the first time an aircraft has seemed to vanish off the face of the Earth: since 1948, some 83 aircraft have been declared “missing,” according to data compiled by the Aviation Safety Network. That means no trace of bodies or debris from these flights capable of carrying 14 or more passengers has ever been found.

A new map by Bloomberg Visual Data charts the disappearances and large aircraft searches from 1948 on. It leaves us with far more questions than answers—whether these vanished planes are miles deep on an ocean floor or stranded on enchanted islands a la Lost, we may never know. Conspiracy theories about Flight 370 abound, of course—promoted even by the likes of Rupert Murdoch.

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In the 1940s and '50s, when communication technology was still in its primitive stages, such disappearances were more common. But there's only one flight in recent history that disappeared without a trace for as long as Malaysia 370 has. In 2007, it took a team of 3,600 people 10 days to locate Adam Air Flight 574 after it crashed into the sea near Sulawesi Island in Indonesia, and it took even more time to figure out the cause of the crash (pilot error and a faulty navigation device).

No discernible patterns emerge on this map, besides the fact that the most commonly disappeared plane model is the Douglas DC-3—19 of which have gone missing—and that five aircraft were swallowed up in or around the supposedly paranormal Bermuda Triangle. What does that teach us, other than that the paranoid should perhaps avoid flying on DC-3s over the Bermuda Triangle?

The history of flight disappearances suggests that even if Flight 370 isn't located in the near future, it could resurface decades down the line. One Boeing 727 that took off in 1985 wasn't discovered until 2006, when a group of hikers found its wreckage in a glacier on Mount Illimani, Bolivia's second-highest peak.

[Image: Contrails via Shutterstock]

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6 Comments

  • rcholsen

    The heck with planes which can fly over areas that are impossible to explore. How about an entire village with 2000 people called Anjikuni in Canada?

  • rcholsen

    The heck with planes. They can move to remote areas. What about the entire village of Anjikuni with its 2000 inhabitants?

  • Mike-Sandi Bodway

    95% of the missing aircraft are over water. The probability of them being found are slim to none. Once in the water, Ocean life takes over and weighs the material down. Unless massive under water current push the wreckage around which sometimes does happen during hurricanes or other events, The wreckage will be consumed by the ocean. No great mystery here. Micro burst have brought down planes before. Pilot error and mechanical error are all reasons why planes vanish. Flight 370 is a tough one. But my personal opinion is it was pilot/terrorist. Or its sitting in a terrorist occupied area of the world and will show up when or guard is down.

  • I suspect so many DC-3s have vanished because the DC-3 is one of the oldest airliners (introduced in 1936!), and because later in life many of them were bought and used by airlines that flew in very remote areas.

  • joneil

    This is not to be made light of. There IS something out there that swallows aircraft and crews, never to be seen again in THIS world! And we DON'T know what it is! The airspace between Fort Lauderdale and Havana on a clear autumn morning on Airways is definitely NOT a very remote area! Check out Argosy Airlines DC - 3 flight between FLL and Havana in 1978! The captain, George Hamilton, was MY chief pilot and the stewardess, Barbara, was our stewardess when we worked the Lehigh Acres land sales in 1968. DC - 3 INCIDENTALLY. Poooff! Gone without a trace in two sweeps of approach radar at Havana, Cuba. joneil@hcolsen.net Come back with comment for further information if you wish.

  • Shaun Craill

    Never mind Malaysian Flight 370, check out the map, the entire country of New Zealand has simply vanished without trace!