Phantom Plane Crashes

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PHANTOM PLANE CRASHES are a relatively recent phenomenon, but there have been several cases reported. The scenario usually goes something like this: Witnesses see a plane going down, often in flames. They hear the crash and feel the ground shake as the plane impacts. Sometimes smoke and flames are seen, and witnesses can smell spilled fuel. Upon investigation, however, no sign of a crash is evident.

Not only is no wreckage ever found, but no record of a missing or delayed flight is cataloged. So what are these people experiencing?

Here are several of these mysterious reports from around the country.


People in Westbrook, Connecticut were amazed Wednesday morning, January 15, 1997 when they heard that a single-engine plane dive toward the waters of Long Island Sound... and then vanish. According to the newspaper The Day, "The Coast Guard, state Department of Environmental Protection, two rescue helicopters, fire departments from Westbrook, Old Saybrook, Madison, and Clinton, and some marine patrols and private boats searched 100 square miles after a man reported he had seen a plane dive into the water.

"Daniel Bowes of Meetinghouse Lane was having a cup of coffee at about 7:30 a.m. at West Beach on Salt Island Road when he saw a plane flying low over the water, according to Ralph Buck, a captain of the Westbrook Fire Department.

He told authorities it looked as if the plane took a nose dive, though he didn't see a splash, Buck said. No airport in the area reported any planes missing, according to state police Lt. Cliff M'Sadoques."

At 4 p.m., the Coast Guard called off the search. No trace of any aircraft was found. (Source: UFO Roundup, Vol. 2, No 3; January 19, 1997)


Three women in the Ovando, Montana, area, about 50 miles northeast of Missoula, reported seeing an airplane trailing smoke, and falling from it were objects looking like parachutes. A ranchwoman told officers she saw a "board-like object" fall from the plane. Sheriff Ed Barrow and a deputy, despite falling temperatures and four feet of snow, made a ground search, joined by a ski-equipped plane which flew over the designated area, but nothing was found.

Two days later, there was a new hope when a boy living near Ovando reported an explosion he had seen on a hillside near his home. He described it as a "big explosion" with red and yellow flames. The time and general location given by the boy agrees with the stories told by the three women, officers said. Malmstrom AFB officials at Great Falls and Civilian Aeronautics Administration authorities all agreed that no planes, military, commercial, or private were missing.

On Feb. 18, Carl Schirmer, coordinator of the Montana search and rescue team announced, "There is nothing warranting any further search. The Sheriff went up where the disturbance was reported to be seen and could not find a thing." (Source: C.R.I.F.O. ORBIT Newsletter, Vol. 3, No. 1 - April 6, 1956)


"Butler County, Ohio, deputies discontinued a search yesterday afternoon for a plane, which reportedly had crashed in Reily Township near Imhoff and Indian Creek Roads late Wednesday night," said this newspaper report. "Deputies said an amateur radio operator heard what he thought was a distress call from a plane believed to be flying from Oxford to Cincinnati about 11 p.m.

"About 1:45 a.m. yesterday, George Mosley, 1203 Azel Avenue, Hamilton, his son and two other boys became separated in the same area while coon hunting. During the separation the boys said they saw a white flash in the sky at treetop level, then heard screaming and a crash. Airports in Hamilton and Butler County had no record of any small craft filing a flight plan during those hours. Deputies used a plane and walked the area in search of a downed plane Wednesday night until fog set in on the Reily area.

The search was continued yesterday morning and discontinued after nothing was found." (Source: The Cincinnati Post, August 13, 1976)

Next page: The Ghost Plane Incident


Nov. 18, 1955. The first reports told of extensive search parties combing the mountainous region of Dark Hollow, Pennsylvania, looking for a plane believed crashed. The search began after Dale Murphy, civil defense coordinator of Cumberland County, said he received reports from ten GOC members of either hearing or seeing a plane, "probably in trouble," flying about 1,000 feet.

One spotter said she saw it go out of sight behind a hill, then heard something like an explosion. However, checks with various air control agencies failed to turn up any reports of either a plane missing or in trouble.

Air-sea rescue planes were dispatched by Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts to aid ground crews in the search. The planes were requested after two flares were reported over a deep ravine in Dark Hollow. But the aerial search by the Air Force and the Civil Air Patrol along with nearly 300 firemen, police, civil defense workers, and volunteers found no trace of a crashed plane. But the persistence of flares renewed the searchers efforts.

On the 20th, yellow flares were reported at 1:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. At 9:30 that night Murphy ordered sirens blown on all fire equipment in the region. Fifteen minutes later, another flare arched into the sky. Finally, on the 22nd Nov., the search was halted, and the "ghost plane" became a legend.

(Source: C.R.I.F.O. ORBIT Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 10 - Jan. 6, 1956)


On November 29, 1996, the day after Thanksgiving, a Miami Township, Ohio, resident was unloading groceries from his car. As he walked into his house, something disruptive happened. "The ground shook, and my house vibrated," commented the gentleman during an interview from his living room three weeks afterward.

"It sounded like two concrete slabs crashing together. I could feel the shock of it. My windows and shades even rattled for about thirty seconds. I'd say that the sound shook the house between seven-thirty and eight," the witness added. "About a half-hour or so later, the Franklin Police Department showed up checking around for an airplane crash."

Later that same night, a visit to the Franklin Police Department to inquire about the Franklin search with Lieutenant Massey revealed some conflicting information. "I believe your witness is mistaken," Massey said. "Our search and rescue operation didn't begin until 9:07 p.m., which was in response to the county-wide advisement of a possible plane down in the area."

The search and rescue mission was enormous, and was conducted by several police agencies from the Warren and Montgomery County areas. The search began at 8:49 p.m. when the Miami Township police headquarters received a telephone call from the FAA Flight Service Station located at the Dayton International Airport. Apparently, Rescue Coordination Services advised the Miami Township department of the detection of an ELT beacon (Emergency Locator Transmission), which had originated from an area two miles west of Dayton General Airport.

Strangely, the ELT signal was not received locally, as would be expected, but rather was detected by orbiting satellite.

Once the rescue operation was enacted, the search crews raced into an area west -- and then later south -- of the Wright Brothers/South Dayton General Airport. The reasoning behind the initial change in the search locations is that the ELT signal was evidently changing position, appearing first approximately 15 miles to the northwest of the Wright-Brothers Airport, and then was strangely tracked to a distance of over two miles west of the airport.

At 9:17 p.m., Springboro and Miamisburg units on foot began to detect the profuse smell of hot burning rubber. Strangely, a third location on State Route 741 is also where a second area resident complained of an explosive sound heard, also between 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. No physical evidence is known to have been recovered that would indicate there was an aircraft emergency resulting in a crash, as no known debris has been found.

The entire state of affairs regarding the mystery ELT signal, loud booming and crashing sounds heard by independent witnesses from two locations, the visual observation of an object with one red light, the uncertain chain of events at Post 83, the radar track announced to the police agencies by the Dayton International Airport, the smell of burning rubber, the subsequent denial of certain reporting procedures by the DIA which were later found to have occurred, the lack of log entries maintained by DIA operators, the subsequent inquiries as to how the calls were handled by C.A.P., and the involvement of Langley in announcing this to Flight Services are various issues that remain unresolved in this tangled, complicated drama. (Source: Kenny Young)