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.

Map: 84 Planes That’ve Vanished
[Image: Contrails via Shutterstock]

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.

About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.