Time Travel

The Disappearing Plane: A Case Of Time Travel, Or Something Else?

What strange anomalies of space and time could account for the brief disappearance of an entire commercial airliner?

In the late 1960s, or perhaps the early 1970s, a bizarre situation is said to have occurred involving a (now defunct) National Airlines 727 during its approach to Miami International Airport. According to the tale, all was normal as the plane and its passengers drew closer to MIA – until, without warning, it completely vanished from radar, and all radio communications ceased.

Ground crews understandably went into a panic.

A plane going off radar could mean only one of a handful of things. An electrical problem interfering with communications. Maybe someone flicked a switch by accident. Or, worse yet, the plane could have crashed.

Ground control sent out an emergency, ordering any other pilots in the sky to look for the missing 727, either in flight or smoldering on the ground below. They sent rescue teams to its last-known location, preparing for the grim inevitability.

But none of that happened. A full 10 minutes later, the plane astonishingly reappeared in the exact same location it had been. Nothing had changed, and no one on board – not the passengers, not the flight attendants, not the pilots – noticed anything strange at all.

Not anything, until they landed and discovered that their watches – and every other “time indicator” on board the aircraft – had fallen exactly 10 minutes behind.

For A Moment, The Plane “Did Not Exist”

On March 24, 1975, this story would appear as a brief mention in the Deseret News newspaper, as part of a multi-issue series involving the Bermuda Triangle, this one titled “Other seas, other mysteries.”

“By way of an explanation one of the air control staff said to one of the pilots, ‘Man, for 10 minutes you just did not exist.’” – The Deseret News, March 24, 1975

Reportedly, the plane’s crew had done a “time check” not 20 minutes prior, and they’d found no issue with the on-board clocks. The plane had simply ceased to exist during its approach to Miami, only to return 10 minutes later.

The event, to this day, remains unexplained.

No Time To Blink

A commercial airliner with a red and blue stripe
Image: abdallahh/Flickr via CC by 2.0

Author and pilot Martin Caidin wrote about this vanishing Boeing 727 in his book Ghosts of the Air: True Stories of Aerial Hauntings, published in 1994. It is, as far as I can tell, the origin of most of the information regarding this incident.

Along with the general story retold above, he added more than a few interesting details, information he said he’d learned from people at the scene, FAA officials, and others who had researched the incident themselves.

After the plane had reappeared, while those in the control tower went from panic to utter confusion, the pilot of the Twilight-Zoned 727 acted perfectly calm. The landing continued as normal, as if nothing strange had happened at all. Neither he nor the others on board had noticed any break in time – or any anomaly – whatsoever.

When they did finally land – and this is when things became clearer – the people on board were taken back by the sheer interest everyone on the ground was showing them, to the point where, as Caidin wrote, “Federal investigators and officials of National couldn’t get into that jetliner fast enough.”

Of course, once they learned they had disappeared, and that their watches were lagging, they too joined in the confusion. Most strikingly of all, they were informed that not only had they disappeared from the air, but during their time “away,” other planes had flown through their exact position.

But where had that Boeing 727 gone off to during those 10 minutes?

What Really Happened?

An airport runway as seen from inside
Image: Samuel Sosina/Unsplash

It’s always hard to say with stories like this.

Similar events have occurred in the past, if we are to believe them. As I mentioned in my post regarding strange CERN claims, in November of 2009 an Airbus allegedly vanished and teleported 5,500 miles away from its previous location (I’m sure that remains unverified), possibly due to what some called a “time wave.”

And let’s not forget China’s good old time travel tunnel, which caused the times on drivers’ smartphones to fall behind one full hour as they traversed the tunnel. This was possibly due to a nearby faulty phone transmitter. Perhaps, in a similar way, a kind of strange electromagnetic interference was involved in our plane, here.

Details for this story, after all, are scarce. There are no witness reports, no flight number, no verifiable records. At least, none that I could personally find online. To his credit, in his book, Martin Caidin addressed these points two ways, one explicitly, and one that I inferred while reading.

He stressed how reluctant pilots are in general to share information with news outlets or tell their stories, unless they’re speaking to fellow pilots. This, as you can imagine, goes doubly for stories involving ghosts or time travel. I can’t speak to the culture of air flight – the closest I’ll ever get to being a pilot are the ten or so hours I’ve clocked in Microsoft Flight Simulator. But it sounds about right.

“Believe what you will out there,” Caidin wrote, “This is the way it happened.”

The other possibility – the bigger reason a story like this may not have too much solid information backing it – are those investigators who were so eager to get on board the plane after it landed and “take control of the situation.” In the book, Caidin goes on to provide corroborating “evidence,” other vanishing planes and situations that governments may have wanted to keep quiet.

Boarding that strange plane in Miami, were their intentions to investigate, or to cover up?

As for where the plane actually went – I have no idea. But I have started to notice some eerie consistencies among these tales of disappearing and time traveling airplanes. I’ll get back to you on that one.

I’d also recommend Caidin’s book. It’s pretty interesting, from what little I’ve read so far. I’d recommend it, and you can expect a short review some time in the near future.

Changing Tales

Over the years, the story of the Boeing 727 as told has changed somewhat, especially online. For example, variations of this story will have different dates – 1960s, 1970s, 1969, 1971. The location, as well, changes – sometimes it’s Miami, sometimes, as in certain variations I’ve seen, the event occurs over an airport in Washington, D.C.

This is a hallmark of a changing urban legend, something along the lines of what they call Chinese whispers. The story, while interesting, is amorphous and difficult to pin down, and the most concrete information we have seems to be from Caidin’s research. Once a story hits the Internet, it has a tendency to evolve.

But that never means a story is necessarily false. We are in Stranger Dimensions, after all. Could it be that such an event actually did occur, but was swept under the rug, so to speak, only to live on in the form of a mysterious urban legend? Did a plane really vanish over Miami in the late 1960s, only to reappear 10 minutes later? What do you believe?


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.