Nathan enjoys researching forgotten and unusual historical and paranormal events.
Reports of haunted aircraft, ghost planes, and spectral crews have been around since the early days of man's attempts to fly. Since there have long been tales of ghost ships and hauntings of the sea, it was perhaps inevitable that airplanes would create their own stories as more and more aviators took to the air.
These ghostly tales would spike upward during times of conflict and early death such as the two World Wars. Crashes of passenger planes with the resulting loss of life will often lead to reports of hauntings at the crash sites. When there is a traumatic sudden death like a crash, often it seems like the victims return to the crashsite, perhaps not realizing they are dead.
There is something sterile about hurtling through space in an aluminum tube, which somewhat depersonalizes air travel. But when those planes land and overnight at mostly deserted airports, strange things are sometimes seen. Ghostly lights are witnessed on aircraft which have had all the lights turned off, overheads pop open and strange noises are heard by cleaning crews and maintenance, and worse of all, sometimes someone or something is still aboard long after the last passenger has departed.
Numerous airports are also claimed to be haunted. Ghostly pilots, crew, and passengers have been seen in airports around the world, heading for flights that have long departed. Sometimes the friendly skies may not be so friendly.
An Allegheny DC-9
On September 9, 1969, Allegheny Airlines Flight 853, a DC-9 was involved in a mid-air collision with another aircraft over Fairland, Indiana. Flt. 853 was heading from Cincinnati to Indianapolis, and had picked up an extra 38 passengers from a delayed TWA flight. The other plane was a small Piper PA-28 piloted by a student pilot finishing up his certification.
The collision happened when Flt. 853 was descending toward Indianapolis. Captain James Elrod of Flt. 853 apparently never saw the Piper which was cruising at3,500 ft, and the pilot in the small plane, Bob Carey had likely looked away in that crucial moment to adjust something on the aircraft. Neither pilot has the chance to alter course to avoid collision. Both planes were destroyed and all 83 aboard died. The DC-9 crashed into a field next to a mobile home park.
The rescue crews tried to find bodies but eventually they just made a mound over the crash site to bury the wreckage. Recently a TV crew went to the field where the plane crashed and picked up some strange EVP's including one after an investigator had exclaimed “ maybe they don't know they are dead”, whereupon a voice on the tape inquired "did we crash?".
The Ghosts of Eastern Flight 401
The most famous haunting regarding aircraft travel is undoubtedly the reports of ghostly activity which followed the crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 in the Everglades on Dec. 29 1972. The aircraft was a Lockheed L-1011 (N310EA), known as a Tri-Star. The Captain of Flt. 401 was Bob Loft who perished in the accident. There were 101 people that were killed in the crash including Flight engineer Don Repo. The First Officer, and two of the ten Stewardesses perished as well.
It was a horrific accident which was caused by the crew being distracted by an issue with the landing gear. Somehow the autopilot was bumped and turned off, and the plane descended into the swamp. Afterwords strange rumors began to swirl in airline circles that Captain Loft and Flight Engineer Repo were being seen repeatedly on Eastern Tri-Star aircraft just like Flight 401. The airline was hardly enthused and tried to quash the stories, but the sightings continued.
On two different occasions passengers in the first class cabin spoke to the flight attendant about an unresponsive and ill looking pilot sitting next to them. When the stewardess went to speak to the pilot, he vanished before their eyes in front of her and numerous passengers.
An Eastern Airlines Vice-president pre-boarded a L-1011 aircraft and spotted a captain sitting in first class. He sat with the pilot and began holding a conversation with him, before it slowly dawned on him that he was speaking with Captain Loft (whom he had known). The captain disappeared while the Vice-president's voice faltered and panic set in.
One crew while in flight from Miami heard a knocking in the “hell-hole”, a space under the cockpit where the landing gear was, and where Don Repo was when Flt. 401 crashed. The crew very reluctantly open the entry door....to see Repo himself staring up at them. Must of made for a frantic last leg of that flight
And so it went with Captain Loft and Flight Engineer Repo making over twenty appearances on Eastern's Tri-Star fleet. There were even a couple of reports of the two stewardesses who perished making appearances. It dawned on Eastern executives that replacement parts from N310EA, had been used on other Tri-star aircraft notably N318EA. Those were the planes that were the source of all the sightings. Eastern personnel noted that the replacement parts were quickly and quietly taken off the planes, and the sightings stopped. It was also interesting that First Officer Albert Stockstill who had died in the crash never made an appearance, only Bob Loft and Don Repo.
There is a possibly related story to the Eastern Tri-star hauntings which has been reported more recently. Late at night near the old Eastern Airlines ticket counter in Miami airport, a number of custodians and other workers at the airport have reported a pilot standing at the counter, and then turning, walking to the end of the counter and then right through a wall! The wall in question was once the entryway to the old Eastern gates. Whether it was Bob Loft or another unknown Captain in unknown.
An airline that ceased flying in 1999 had a haunted aircraft in it's fleet. Constellation International Airline, a charter airline from Belgium used a number of Airbus A320's. One in particular OO-COL had a strange story attached to it. A flight attendant became ill before a scheduled departure and had to be replaced. The airline had her go home to rest and recover. Unfortunately the flight attendant was in a car crash on the way home and was killed. After that OO-COL seemed to always have issues and problems.
Even worse, the flight attendants working the flights began to hear a voice whispering in their ear and sometimes a scream coming from the galley which they insisted was the deceased coworker. Numerous flight attendants heard the voice before the airline went out of business.
Aerolineas Argentinas once had a 747-200 in it's fleet that also had a crewmember who seemingly enjoyed her work so much, that she returned after her passing to continue it. LV-MLO was the aircraft which flew with the airline from 1979 to 2000.
It's said that a flight attendant who was terminally ill, kept working as long as she could, and spent her last work shifts on this plane. Afterwords maintenance and aircraft cleaners began to hear noises when no one was aboard, and a few saw a flight attendant walking down the aisle. In the middle of the night..on an empty plane.
It got to the point that maintenance workers were reluctant to do their work on the aircraft due to tools that would vanish, weird noises in the cabin when no one was aboard, and the occasional sighting of someone that shouldn’t have been there. Eventually LV-MLO left the fleet and was sent to an aircraft graveyard.
A maintenance crew was sent to remove the engine to sent it elsewhere. As they began work they kept hearing noises coming from inside the plane. The door was closed so they couldn't get inside, so they got a crane to lift them to the windows to have a look. They saw a flight attendant walking down the aisle in the abandoned aircraft! LV-MLO still sits in place in the boneyard today.
This is just an intro to hauntings of the air, so next time you're in a airport late, or have an overnight flight, pay close attention to the people around you. Perhaps one of them is a visitor from elsewhere.
Patrolman sees 'ghost' on airplane in Mexico City
Fuller J. (2013)- The Ghost of Flight 401 : Amazon Digital Services
William Michael Anthony on June 05, 2019:
The vice president in question was former astronaut Frank Borman.
Nathan M (author) from Tucson on March 18, 2015:
Thanks Pollyanna Jones. Yes the book on the Ghost of flight 401 was good. The TV movie was pretty creepy as well.
Pollyanna Jones from United Kingdom on March 18, 2015:
I enjoyed your article. There really is something about aviation that inspires such tales. I remember reading the book about Flight 401; it was absolutely fascinating. Upvoted and shared!