A recent headline proclaimed yet another 'Ghost' jet lost and presumably never to be seen by us mortals again. The date? May 20, 1983. The story?
"... The owners of a $2 million Learjet that flew 1,600 miles over Europe with no one at the controls, have abandoned hope of recovering the crashed plane and its three man crew from the North Atlantic...." The plane was on a 450 mile pilot training cruise from Vienna to Hamburg. It failed to land and then cruised, apparently on automatic pilot, at 43,000 feet over the Netherlands, the North Sea, Scotland and the North Atlantic. Fighters were sent to intercept because of fears it would crash into populated areas, but it continued on a straight course...." Flight Lt. John Marr, 23, pilot of one of the two Royal Air Force jets that intercepted the plane over Scotland, said he had "a good look in... We could see seats inside the front cockpit and white headrests," he said. "There was certainly no one in the cockpit..."
This is New? NO: Another midair disappearance took place on January 11, 1980, when Louisiana State University head coach "Bo" Rein and pilot L.S. Renscotter took off from Shreveport, LA for a routine flight of only 50 minutes going to Baton rouge. They were flying in a nearly new Cessna Conquest plane. Shortly after the takeoff at 9:10 pm the craft veered almost 180 degrees from its pre-filed flight plan. It was now moving away from Baton Rouge at a height of 25,000 feet, more than 2,000 feet above the safety ceiling for that kind of craft.
The FAA watched the plane on radar but could not make contact with it's occupants, it then notified officers at Scott AFB Rescue Center in St. Louis, IL, in the general direction that it was unaccountably heading. Still watching on the radar screens they saw the plane turn more to the Northeast. It was now flying at 28,000 feet, which they knew was definitely unsafe, and they saw it enter and leave the area of Memphis, TN without responding to the inquiries from the rescue center. The Air Force then sent two Phantom Jets from North Carolina. They found the Cessna and flanked it at an astonishing 40,000 feet. The three planes then flew side by side at a speed of 250 mph.
They had a good visual contact but they told watchers at their base that there didn't seem to be anyone aboard the small plane; The plane had now strayed, without a pilot, over parts of the states of Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and North Carolina! And, it was under almost constant surveillance. It was also sighted by the crew of a Pan American Airlines flight, who, like the others, could make no radio contact.
Captain Zoerb was the last to see the small plane. It began losing altitude over the ocean, and Zoerb then made three close runs close to the Cessna, actually within 500 feet of it! He could see clearly that the aircraft's instrument panel was lighted. He could see, too, that there was no one in the cockpit. With the F-106 as its escort, the Cessna then headed toward the waters of the Atlantic offshore Hampton, VA. It fell slowly at first, then tumbled into a watery grave at some 5,000 feet a minute. The ocean at that point is too deep for recovery...
What happened to both passengers and planes? Neither ship could be found. Nor could the crews or pilots. Speculation runs rife as usual... Could it be UFO related? No UFOs were seen in the area or were reported at the given times.
How does Fate decide to pick and choose its victims? Questions, always questions, but no answers shall come forth. Something, somewhere, wanted two planes and assorted crews and passengers. That much we know. As to the rest... no one will ever know. Gone, but not forgotten by their families and friends. Two flights into Eternity!
Since this article was written there has been another plane that piloted itself only in this one the accompanying jet could see the windows were completely frosted over so he couldn't see in.