In addition to being the location of the famous top-secret Air Force base called Area 51, the Nevada desert also carries even deeper secrets, especially when it comes to missing planes. In fact, it is estimated that around 2,000 planes have gone missing just in the last 60 years. This area is called the Nevada Triangle and it is also known as the “graveyard for planes.”
Many of those who have gone missing in the triangle have been highly experienced pilots, so what’s making them seemingly vanish into thin air? Strange things happen to equipment inside of the Nevada Triangle, which include compasses that go haywire and plane ignitions that fail. There are many theories as to what’s causing all of these disappearances, from simple pilot error, to mountain waves and downdrafts, to Area 51 and aliens.
While some crash sites have been found, other aircraft disappearances have never been solved or even located. A couple weeks ago we told you about the little-known Alaska Triangle, and today we’re going to tell you 10 strange facts about the equally little-known Nevada Triangle…
10. Location of the Nevada Triangle
The Nevada Triangle forms from Las Vegas, Nevada in the southeast, to Fresno, California to the west, and up to Reno, Nevada at the top. The Sierra Nevada mountain range stretches 400 miles from Nevada to California and is located right inside of the deadly triangle. There are three famous parks inside of the triangle which are Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks.
The Sierra Nevada mountain range is a very remote area with more than 25,000 miles of mountain desert and rugged wilderness. There are exceptionally high mountain peaks with Mount Whitney having the highest point in the contiguous United States measuring at 14,505 feet. These treacherous areas make it exceptionally hard – if not impossible – to find many of the planes that have vanished over the years.
9. The Disappearance Of Thousands Of Planes
Over the past 60 years, approximately 2,000 planes have gone missing in the Nevada Triangle. That averages out to a staggering three disappearances each and every month. What’s even more alarming is the fact that the majority of these planes have never been found – no wreckage and no human remains. It’s as if they vanished into thin air.
The most famous area on the planet where planes and boats have gone missing is the Bermuda Triangle. However, the total number of aircrafts that have gone missing in the Nevada Triangle have greatly outnumbered those that have been reported missing in the Bermuda Triangle. In fact, there have been around 30 unsolved cases of aircraft and/or marine disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle since the late 1800s – that’s a far smaller number than the 2,000 vanished planes in the Nevada Triangle just in the last 60 years.
8. Area 51
The most famous “secret” air base is that of Area 51 and coincidentally (or maybe not…) it’s located inside of the Nevada Triangle. One possible theory as to why so many planes go missing in that area is because of the heavily guarded military base. It’s impossible to get close to Area 51 without being stopped by armed guards, but what would happen if a plane got too close to the base? It would most likely be shot down. A more far-fetched, but popular theory is that since the base is widely thought to have housed UFOs, the disappearances in the area may be contributed to paranormal activity or even aliens.
While the explanation of military drills and experiments that have gone tragically wrong are to blame for several military plane crashes and deaths, it still does not explain the reason why countless other aircrafts have gone missing that weren’t even flying in that general area.
7. What Happened To The Gambler’s Special?
On February 18, 1969, Hawthorne Nevada Airlines Flight 708 – nicknamed the Gambler’s Special – was traveling from Long Beach, to Burbank, and then to Hawthorne, bringing people to gamble and have fun. The aircraft went missing, along with the 35 people who were on board (32 passengers and 3 crew members). During the search efforts, five more people died. The wreckage was finally found at Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the Sierra Nevadas. Oddly enough, after examining the wreckage, there was no evidence of any mechanical or electrical malfunction so it’s unclear as to what caused the plane to crash.
When a man hiked to the exact spot of the crash, he found a tube of lipstick lying on the ground, along with some mascara which was surprisingly still wet inside. He also found shiny coins that were most likely from a slot machine, and even more tragic was a stewardess’s jacket.
6. The Missing B-24 Bomber
One of the earliest planes that had been reported missing was on December 5, 1943 when a B-24 bomber disappeared. It was on a routine night training mission that began from Fresno, California, to Bakersfield, California, then to Tucson, Arizona, and back. The bomber was carrying pilot 2nd Lieutenant Willis Turvey and co-pilot 2nd Lieutenant Robert M. Hester, along with four other crew members – 2nd Lieutenant William Thomas Cronin, 2nd Lieutenant Ellis H. Fish, Sergeant Robert Bursey, and Sergeant Howard A. Wandtke.
The search for the missing aircraft and its passengers started the next day with nine B-24 bombers that were out looking for them. Things even got more tragic when one of those bombers carrying Squadron Commander Captain William Darden along with his crew also went missing during the search. His plane wasn’t found until 1955 when Huntington Lake reservoir was drained in order to make repairs to the dam. At 190 feet below the water, the five crew members were still sitting in their stations inside of the aircraft. Two of the crew members, however, parachuted from the plane and survived. They stated that the pilot must have mistakenly thought that the water was frozen and decided that it was a good place to land the plane, but it was in fact not and the bomber ended up at the bottom of lake.
The B-24 bomber that had originally gone missing on December 5th was finally found in July 1960 when geological survey researchers found the wreckage in and near a lake that is now known as Hester Lake.
5. The 1957 Disappearance Of A Training Jet
On May 9, 1957, yet another military plane went missing when Air Force Lieutenant David Steeves was flying a T-33 training jet from Hamilton Air Force Base near San Francisco on its way to Arizona. When he and his plane weren’t found after an extensive search, he was officially declared dead. However, 54 days later, the pilot made his way to a camp in Kings Canyon National Park.
He said that something in his plane had exploded and he had to eject from the aircraft. During the landing, he badly injured both ankles and had to drag his parachute with him to keep him warm as he crawled more than 20 miles in freezing temperatures at a high altitude for 15 days without shelter or food. He then found an abandoned National Park Service cabin where he found some food to eat and was able to fish and hunt until he gathered enough strength to keep on going and eventually found civilization.
Finally in 1977, some Boy Scouts found the canopy of his jet, but no sign of the wreckage has ever been found.
4. Other Mysterious Disappearances
While this list mentioned several of the more famous disappearances in the Nevada Triangle, there are countless others to mention and here are just a couple of them…
In 1941, Lieutenant Leonard C. Lydon was flying his Army fighter squadron over the mountains when he had to parachute out of the aircraft. He landed within a mile of where the plane supposedly crashed, which was in the remote Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, but to this day no wreckage has ever been located. He even claimed to have seen the aircraft go down, so he knew basically where the crash site would have been, but it’s as if it vanished into thin air.
In August of 1964, a wealthy real estate developer named Charles Ogle took off from Oakland, California but vanished on his way to Las Vegas. He was a trained pilot with the Marine Corps so he definitely didn’t lack experience. Neither he nor his plane has ever been found.
3. Are Mountain Waves To Blame?
Some people believe that there is a natural phenomenon called a “mountain wave” that’s causing all of the planes to crash in the Nevada Triangle. This phenomenon is an airflow that is caused by unpredictable winds and downdrafts. There is definitely unpredictable weather over the mountains, which can cause sudden and severe thunderstorms that include very strong winds.
The mountains run perpendicular to the Jet Stream, which can cause major problems when combined with the high peaks and wedge-shaped range. The downdrafts and strong winds that it can create can be exceptionally dangerous for a small plane, tossing them quickly towards the ground.
2. Microbursts And Delta Flight 191
On August 2, 1985, Delta Air Lines Flight 191 descended towards the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. However, less than a mile from the runway it crashed into two water tanks, killing 137 people and injuring 20 others. It was determined that a downdraft (or microburst) had caused the crash. Obviously, this has nothing to do with the Nevada Triangle itself, but we’re using it to illustrate how microbursts could be responsible for at least some of the plane disappearances.
A microburst is a small downdraft that moves opposite than a tornado and is found during very strong thunderstorms. They have very strong winds that can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes and the strength of the winds can even knock over full grown trees. Winds can sometimes rush down at 400 feet per minute or more in the Sierra Nevadas and then bounce up even faster, which will cause a plane to crash.
1. Steve Fossett’s Disappearance
The most famous disappearance in the Nevada Triangle is that of American businessman Steve Fossett. Fossett was widely recognized for setting several aviation world records, as well as being the first person who flew non-stop around the planet in a hot air balloon all by himself. He was definitely an adventurer who also loved sailing.
On September 3, 2007, he was flying his single-engine Bellanca Super Decathlon over Nevada’s Great Basin Desert when it vanished. There was an extensive search for him and his plane, but his wreckage was not found, although searchers did come across several other crash sites of other missing planes. After a month, the search for Fossett was called off. The following year, a hiker found his identification cards out in the wilderness. A couple of days later they found his crash site which was around 65 miles from where he had originally taken off. About a month later, two bones were discovered around a half a mile from the crash site that were later tested and proven to be Fossett.
After his plane was thoroughly examined, there was no evidence found that it suffered any type of equipment malfunction. So why did such an experienced pilot crash his plane? The theory behind the crash is that of an extreme downdraft of 400 mph winds, which Fossett’s plane wouldn’t have stood a chance against.