NHHC Home Frequently
The Loss Of Flight 19
1. The Bermuda Triangle FAQ
2. McDonell, Michael, "Lost Patrol," Naval Aviation News (Jun.1973): 8-16.
3. Flight 19 and Search Plane Accident Reports
At about 2:10 p.m. on the afternoon of 5 December 1945, Flight 19, consisting of five TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers (manufactured by the Eastern Aircraft under license from Grumman) departed from the U. S. Naval Air Station, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on an authorized advanced overwater navigational training flight. They were to execute navigation problem No. 1, which is as follows: (1) depart 26 degrees 03 minutes north and 80 degrees 07 minutes west and fly 091 degrees (T) distance 56 miles to Hen and Chickens Shoals to conduct low level bombing, after bombing continue on course 091 degrees (T) for 67 miles, (2) fly course 346 degrees (T) distance 73 miles and (3) fly course 241 degrees (T) distance 120 miles, then returning to U. S. Naval Air Station, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
In charge of the flight was a senior qualified flight instructor,
piloting one of the planes. The other planes were piloted by qualified
pilots with between 350 and 400 hours flight time of which at
least 55 was in TBM type aircraft. The weather over the area covered
by the track of the navigational problem consisted of scattered
rain showers with a ceiling of 2500 feet within the showers and
unlimited outside the showers, visibility of 6-8 miles in the
showers, 10-12 otherwise. Surface winds were 20 knots with gusts
to 31 knots. The sea was moderate to rough. The general weather
conditions were considered average for training flights of this
nature except within showers.
A radio message intercepted at about 4 p.m. was the first
indication that Flight 19 was lost. This message, believed to
be between the leader on Flight 19 and another pilot in the same
flight, indicated that the instructor was uncertain of his position
and the direction of the Florida coast. The aircraft also were
experiencing malfunction of their compasses. Attempts to establish
communications on the training frequency were unsatisfactory due
to interference from Cuba broadcasting stations, static, and atmospheric
conditions. All radio contact was lost before the exact nature
of the trouble or the location of the flight could be determined.
Indications are that the flight became lost somewhere east of
the Florida peninsula and was unable to determine a course to
return to their base. The flight was never heard from again and
no trace of the planes were ever found. It is assumed that they
made forced landings at sea, in darkness somewhere east of the
Florida peninsula, possibly after running out of gas. It is known
that the fuel carried by the aircraft would have been completely
exhausted by 8 p.m. The sea in that presumed area was rough and
unfavorable for a water landing. It is also possible that some
unexpected and unforeseen development of weather conditions may
have intervened although there is no evidence of freak storms
in the area at the time.
All available facilities in the immediate area were used in
an effort to locate the missing aircraft and help them return
to base. These efforts were not successful. No trace of the aircraft
was ever found even though an extensive search operation was conducted
until the evening of 10 December 1945, when weather conditions
deteriorated to the point where further efforts became unduly
hazardous. Sufficient aircraft and surface vessels were utilized
to satisfactorily cover those areas in which survivors of Flight
19 could be presumed to be located.
One search aircraft was lost during the operation. A PBM patrol
plane which was launched at approximately 7:30 p.m., 5 December
1945, to search for the missing TBM's. This aircraft was never
seen nor heard from after take-off. Based upon a report from a
merchant ship off Fort Lauderdale which sighted a "burst
of flame, apparently an explosion, and passed through on oil slick
at a time and place which matched the presumed location of the
PBM, it is believed this aircraft exploded at sea and sank at
approximately 28.59 N; 80.25 W. No trace of the plane or its crew
was ever found.
The Operational Archives Branch, Naval History & Heritage Command has placed the
Board of Investigation convened at NAS Miami to inquire into the loss of the 5 TBM Avengers in Flight 19 and the PBM
aircraft on microfilm reel, NRS 1983-37. To order a duplicate copy of this film for the fees indicated on the NHHC fee
schedule, please complete the duplication
order form and send a check or money order for the appropriate
amount, made payable to
DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY,
Operational Archives Branch, NHHC,
805 Kidder Breese Street, SE, Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060.
Additional Information: Kusche, Larry. The Disappearance
of Flight 19. New York: Harper & Row, 1980.