Friday, May 12, 2017

Flight 19 a mystery? Not so much...

The discussion of this particular missing flight actually piqued my curiosity enough to do just a tad bit of research, and once one wades through all the "woo" and can get down to some basic information, the only thing mysterious about the disappearance of Flight 19 is that it happened in an area known as the Bermuda Triangle.

First and foremost on the list one must investigate the flight commander;  Lieutenant Charles Taylor,  the flight commander on this training flight, and as ranking officer he would have had the final say in any navigational course changes.  By all reports Taylor was unorganized, very poor at navigation and had already "ditched" two airplanes due to being lost.  Given Taylor's history, it is a wonder why he was assigned a supervisory role on this mission, but overall it must have been his flying hours compared to the other pilot's hours in planes of this type.  It is even reputed that Taylor arrived late for this training evolution.

The aircraft themselves were Grumman TBM1C  Avengers.  Not quite an advanced aircraft by today's standards, but very serviceable in the day and time it flew.  Flight 19's Avengers had no clocks, which raises a red flag to me, due to the type of mission which they were flying...a mission that was meant to teach "dead reckoning" in which one of the most important factors is calculating time. Dead Reckoning (per wikipedia)" is the process of calculating one's current position by using a previously determined position, or fix, and advancing that position based upon known or estimated speeds over elapsed time and course."  Also from the same Wiki:  "Dead reckoning is subject to cumulative errors."  Meaning that if time is measured in a haphazard way, or variations in speed or heading are not accounted correctly, one's plotted course and one's actual position may have nothing in common.

Why is this important?  It's important due to communication that another flight received from Taylor stating that "he was sure he was in the Keys" and was attempting to find Ft. Lauderdale.  Even one of the members of Flight 19 was heard on the radio to say "Dammit, if we could just fly west we would get home; head west, dammit."  
This leads me to believe that even Taylor's subordinates did not trust his judgement, but in keeping with decorum and chain of command, they followed orders.

Even after the location of Flight 19 was triangulated and broadcast to Taylor, he refused to believe the land based radio operators and did not adjust his course as requested by them.

To me, the only mystery is where the 5 Avengers ditched, and where they are to this day.  Yes, the weather rolled in during the last hour or so of their flight, and obscured attempts to locate the wreckage, and rescue the pilots.  Had there been no weather, it's possible that all of the crews would have been found.  

While there is some room for conjecture and speculation in the matter of Flight 19, I don't think there is enough room to label it a "mystery" or to include it in the lore of the "Bermuda Triangle."  I think we have a case of a flight commander who was disorganized, a poor navigator and who refused to listen to subordinate officers who may have understood navigation principles much better than he did.  Call it pride or bravado or genuine panic, but I blame Taylor for the loss of those planes and the loss of those men.