Vanished Planes: The Loss of the Star Tiger and Star Ariel in the Bermuda Triangle
Welcome aboard! On this Weird Wednesday we’re headed into the unknown.
On Jan 30, 1948, a British South American Airways passenger plane called the Star Tiger took off from the island of Santa Maria in the Azores, into a growing storm. It was bound for Bermuda with 31 people aboard. It never made it.
Almost exactly a year later, on Jan 17, 1949, another BSSA passenger plane called the Star Ariel departed Bermuda bound for Kingston, Jamaica. This time there was no storm, but the 20 people on board were never seen again. Both planes had vanished into the Bermuda Triangle.
(Okay, so actually that depends on where you draw your triangle: the Tiger was heading southwest toward Bermuda and may have vanished before it got into the Triangle proper, but that doesn’t make for a good legend.)
Both planes were Avro Tudor IVs, which was a post-war design based on a WWII bomber. They were pressurized, but not exactly built for comfort, and the routes they were flying were dangerous: long, slow journeys over empty ocean with no landmarks to help orient them. In fact, the planes were named Stars because that was their method of way-finding: celestial navigation.
There are plausible explanations for the loss of the first plane, the Star Tiger. Besides the weather, there might have been a fire from a faulty heater. Chillingly, communication with the pilots also hinted at a terrible mistake-in-the-making. Because of the strong headwinds, the Star Tiger was flying very low, at 2,000 feet. But in their radio communications, the pilots always reported themselves at the more common flight level of 20,000 feet. Not only does an altitude of only 2,000 feet give you very little room to respond when something goes wrong with the plane, but it’s possible the pilots actually forgot they were flying so low, and simply flew into the ocean while descending. (This is called controlled flight into terrain and thinking you are at a higher altitude than you are is a major cause of it.)
The Star Ariel, however, was a normal flight. The weather was fine. The flight altitude was 18,000 feet. The only problems were transitory radio issues. And yet the plane vanished. Neither flight sent a distress call (that was received, anyway) and no wreckage was ever found.
Obviously, there are logical reasons that planes go missing over the ocean, and Tudors in particular. (There were 38 Tudor planes manufactured, and seven of them crashed.) But on Weird Wednesdays we do not look for logic! We’re here for Bermuda Triangle writing prompts. And here they are:
- Curse this trip! So the Tudors were not the most aerodynamic of planes, and their pressurization was problematic; in fact, after the Star Ariel disappeared, the rest of the Tudor IV’s were flown as unpressurized cargo planes. But one could posit a more interesting explanation: a curse. Possible targets of the hex could be the airline, the Tudor line of planes (maybe because they are patterned after warplanes), the two specific planes themselves, and/or the people on them. It could also be that someone brought a cursed object onboard in their luggage. Too bad the airports don’t screen for those.
- They look like they’re from outer space! This is probably the most popular Bermuda Triangle theory out there (pun intended). The outer space warning (“Don’t come after me. They look like they’re from outer space!”) was a later addition to the story of the disappearance of Flight 19, which was five US Navy planes on an exercise in the Bermuda Triangle in 1945. For aliens, the Triangle could be a hunting ground, a favorite galactical vacation destination, a flying saucer race course, or a science lab. Perhaps aliens are hiding an undersea factory (possibly in the sunken city/state of Atlantis) or concealing something else that no human can be allowed to see. Or it could be benevolent: if the planes were fated to crash, maybe aliens rescued the passengers and crew and took them off-world.
- Time Travel Troubles in the Triangle. Maybe the planes are just…late. Like really late. If the Triangle is wibbly-wobbly as far as time, which is a common theory, then maybe the flights will land exactly 100 years later. Of course, they could also be super early: perhaps the passengers reached their destinations in a time far before airports (or even Homo Sapiens) were a thing.
- What lies beneath. My personal favorite Triangle theory is sea monsters. While it is true that oceanic creatures would be a more plausible explanation for ships going missing, rather than planes flying several thousand feet above the water, there’s no reason a sea monster can’t have wings. Or magic, or power over the winds, or pyrokinesis, etc.
- The undiscovered country. Maybe the planes actually just crashed. But maybe it’s not the crashes themselves that make the Bermuda Triangle so freaky (because in reality, planes and ships don’t go missing in the Triangle any more than they do anywhere else)— maybe the reason that the Triangle unsettles people so much is that something weird happens there after you crash. Perhaps you end up in limbo, or a time loop, or in a city beneath the waves. You could get reincarnated as someone always doomed to die in a mishap at sea. Maybe you become a sea monster that wants to eat planes.
Thanks for choosing Weird Wednesday Airlines: we hope you’ll fly with us again some time!
If you like mysterious tales of the sea, you can read my story “The Lifeboat” in Seaside Gothic, Issue 4. Cousins looking to scatter their grandfather’s ashes make an unsettling discovery in a sea cave.