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Chuck A. Villanueva
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ON THIS DAY: 5 December 1945, 75 year Anniversary of The Mystery of Flight 19

December 5, 2020 · in Aviation · · 34 Comments

It is a beautiful warm fall bright shiny day. A fine Navy day for flying. Lt Charles C Taylor was tasked as the training flight instructor for Flight 19. At 28 years old, 2 tours of combat in the Pacific, Lt Taylor had 2500 hours flight experience.

As instructor of the flight, his duty was to make sure the students flew the navigational assignment. In this case, they were assigned Navigation Problem No. 1.

Specifically, it required they fly from Fort Lauderdale NAS at 91 degrees T for 56 miles to Chicken and Hen Shoals. For 20 minutes they would participate in low level bombing practice there on an old hulk. Then they would proceed at 91 T degrees for 67 miles to Great Stirrup Cay. Here they would turn northwest to 346 degrees T for 73 miles. They would cross the huge island of Grand Bahama. Then, with Great Sale Cay off their starboard wing, they would turn southwest on a course of 241 degrees T for 120 miles. This would take them back to Fort Lauderdale. The entire flight time should be around 2 hours and 15 minutes.

The briefing was routine. The flight number was given as 19. Flight 18 was flying the same training practice just about 20 minutes ahead of them. Other flights were over the Bahamas or off the coast that day. From both Fort Lauderdale and Miami NAS, just 20 miles south, there were lots of Avengers in the air. This was hardly isolated flying. In fact, it was standard for squadrons to keep their radios tuned low so their inner-squadron chatter wouldn’t intrude on others. Visibility was about 10 to 12 miles, so each flight would fly in its own individual funnel of reality.

There were 5 aircraft in the flight, 4 -1C's and a TBM-3D, all GM built Avengers, Lt Taylor was assigned FT-28, TBM-3D , BuNo 23307, The other side numbers, FT-3 BuNo 45714, flown by Ens Joseph Bossi, USNR, FT-36 BuNo 46094, Capt EJ Powers USMC, FT-81 BuNo 46325, 2nd LT Forrest J Gerber, USMCR and FT-117 BuNo 73209, Capt George W. Stivers, USMC.

The flight took off at approximately 2:08PM in the afternoon. One of the students flying the lead as Lt Taylor would fly in a tracking position to observe, evaluate and grade each of the students when taking turns taking the lead after each leg of the flight. The first leg to Chicken and Hens Shoals where they would perform low level bombing runs on an old hulk went on without incident. They arrived on time made their practice runs and around 2:41PM headed on their 2nd leg to Great Stirrup Cay, another student flying the lead. At about 3:40 PM they would see the Grand Bahama ahead of them. About this time, Lt Robert Cox leading another flight in FT-74 overhears a dialog from Capt Powers and Lt Taylor, of confusion, Lt Cox informs the tower at Ft Lauderdale and also tries to advise LT Taylor. To no avail. The control tower can't seem to raise anyone in the flight. Only Cox was the only pilot to communicate with Flight 19. For Cox to be able to hear them at all meant the flight was near the Florida coast. But as he is relaying this info to Ft Lauderdale and the other stations along the coast to try to make contact. Cox finally has contact with Taylor and ask him to turn on his ZBX which is a homing device in FT-28 and that his IFF is on. That way Ft Lauderdale can guide the flight back home. But it seems Taylor is convinced he is down by the Keys, but the comms between the flight and the land bases suggest they are farther north of course and just simply head west to land, find MIami and go left and be home in 20 minutes. But as the afternoon goes into dusk soon into night time things start to south in a hurry. 2 PBM Mariners are launched from Banana River as they were already scheduled for a training flight now a search mission. The transmission from the flight to the tower is getting weaker as they try to get Taylor fly at 270. Which is the standard op when you get lost, it is a for sure way to make landfall. Dialog between the pilots try to convince Taylor to fly west. The compass is not working just spinning. For some reason when the sun was up he couldn't see it? Powers finally asserted his rank and assumed command of Taylor and started to lead the flight west. But around 6:43 Pm Taylor is calling Bossi's call sign "Fox Tare 3" but faint, as Port Everglades tries to raise FT-3 but too no avail. After 7:04PM there is no more communication. There are aircraft searching everywhere. Then one of the Martin Mariner Dumbos vanishes with all 13 men aboard to add to the 14 already missing. Which may have exploded, as a ship the SS Gaines Mills saw a fireball in the sky in the approximate area when the Mariner stopped communicating. They sailed to the spot of debris and aviation fuel but no survivors.

It was around 8th grade or so when I became fascinated with the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle and the lost ships and aircraft. Ships then reappearing with no one on board. Having read an article in National Geographic (subscription I got with my allowance when I was 5 years old, and I still have them all up till the mid 90's). So picking up some books along the way until I lost interest in it when you realize there are some stories are just way out there.

This little venture was suggested by our dear friend David-Leigh Smith, who asked 5 fellow modelers to build each one of the Avenger of Flight 19, and then also the Mariner as well. So I accepted to build one and I chose FT-28, flown by Lt Charles Taylor, we also have Louis Gardner, Tom Bebout, Gary Sausmikat and Paul Barber who will all present their amazing Avengers as well. So not only to honor those men who lost their lives in that rather mysterious flight and the Mariner. To bring a little light to the Bermuda Triangle. The movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind touched on the mystery at the opening. Though really not accurate but that's Hollywood, using 5 Tri Color Avengers in place of the GSB paint scheme. What would've been nice was if they had a Mariner, or even substitute a Catalina as probably locating an intact Martin Mariner was not possible though I believe there is one at Pima. · on youtube

My Avenger is the Hobby Boss TBM-3 kit

I had the Accurate Miniatures kit from the mid 90's but it was the TBF-1 which would not work for FT-28. So I opted to use the HB kit and wow what a nice kit it is. Very intense in the box, kind like the wow factor when the AM Avengers first came out. The HB kit allows you to fold the wing as an option, but the interior is incredible, and it fits. There is a lot going on in there. I am in the middle of assembling a pair of B-26's, as good as they are, the HB Avenger is rather busy.

The ball turret is fantastic, but you need a masking set to do this plane. Lots of glass on this baby.

Even the rear compartment is very well done and detailed.

Test fit test fit test fit before mating that fuselage halves.

Most of the Avengers stateside had their stinger gun removed, They still kept their turret gun. The fine details are well executed. Don't have to add rivets. Sometimes it can be over engineered and at to complexity to the model. In this case it pays off. The AM kit is still very good now in Academy and Italeri boxings. But still the fit is tight, the only issue I ran into is the wingspars are a bit larger than the slit openings in the fuselage to allow them to slip through. Almost to much pressure to easily break the kit if your not careful. Then try to pry it apart was not fun either. I used the Flight 19 decal set for the markings, thanks to Louis for them to build FT-28. Eduard's Zoom set for the cockpit. Mission Models Glossy Sea Blue for the overall GSB scheme. To achieve a bit of blotchiness on the scheme was to first a coat of Future to lay down the decals. Then a semi gloss to seal them. Then Flat Clear coat on the leading edges of the wings, and very top surfaces to show fading, some chipping for the final finish. So I hope you like the story, sit back for more amazing Avengers. And one incredible Mariner.

Merry Christmas


Fly Navy

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34 responses

  1. Chuck, this is a fine way to remember what was probably the main event that started the whole Bermuda Triangle theory. This catastrophic chain of events was the first one I read as a young boy concerning the unexplained events that are known in that area of the sea. Thumbs up!

  2. This is a very interesting subject, Chuck.
    And what a beautiful build to remember this day.

  3. Thanks John, a rather unusual day for the Navy.

  4. The story of Flight 19 has always facinated me. It sparked my interest in the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle and the Alaska Triangle. I think the mystery of Flight 19 will only be solved when the wreckage of the missing Avengers are found. Needless to say this Avenger is a masterpiece! Well done Chuck!

    • Thanks Morne, it was for me as well, I know some stories and accounts had some embellishments as we have also read about this incident and the many different version that are about. But the Triangle mystery on it's own dates back to the days of Columbus when the first explorers started their trips to the New World. Flight 19 was so significant that it really brought attention to the Bermuda/Devils Triangle. And as you mentioned some mysterious incidents in Alaska and the Sargasso Sea.

  5. WOW I forgot how cool that Encounters scene was. The sandstorm...reminded me of Them!
    Spielberg was a genius.
    Great model and idea.

    • Thanks Bill, that opening sequence on Close Encounters was just the beginning of one heck of a ride of a movie. The only other movie since then that had that kind've shock effect was Saving Private Ryan now that was intense.

  6. From the "Triangle"...

    Awesome presentation Chuck! Thanks for sharing it. I was fascinated with missing aircraft in the Bermuda Triangle when I first heard of them as a pre-teen, because my brother was a mid teen at the time and reading all sorts of "strange mysteries" books and such. I picked up interest by my association with him of course. Big brother helped me in my addiction to styrene by buying kits for me, and I became enamored with military aircraft, particularly WW2, so the Missing Flight of Avengers and the loss of the PBM stood out in my mind because they were WW2 types. Also, it did not hurt having NAS Bermuda as part of my life growing up- watching P-3's coming and going on patrol. (once I get through the last 2 weeks of school, I will post one in 1/144 I just finished.) Then follow that up with Close Encounters and that opening scene, it became burned in my memory, and as result I have one of the Accurate Miniatures Flight 19 boxings. Maybe I will get going on that this Christmas finally!

    Sadly, I think the loss of the people in these missing aircraft is diminished at times in the excitement of the "mystery of the unexplained" and spooky storytelling. I think it is great for you to emphasize the names of the people who were lost without a trace and left loved ones behind. What is more poignant is that men in this flight who had served in theater in wartime, were lost in training, away from the guns and bombs.

    Nice job on the kit and thanks for the presentation- I just saw it this morning, brought back a lot of memories.

    Dan from BERMUDA.

    • Hi Dan, must be quite interesting living in a region with some unusual and unique activity. But then for one like me who see Bermuda as an exotic vacation destination, that I have yet to experience, like going to Hawaii. But you are correct, the loss of life seems to be overshadowed, though not the Navy, they moved mountains to look for those men, its the one sure thing I know regardless if peace or in combat was about lives and safety including the enemy. Yes losing or damaged equipment is serious, but if a life is also taken or severely injured, it becomes a big deal in the Navy. And I am sure in all the other services as well.


      from sunny So. Cal

  7. Nice job on this kit Chuck, as has come to be expected of your talent. I'd forgotten about that scene in the movie. Pretty awesome.

    All of you guys have done excellent here. Hats off to the group!

    Bravo Zulu!

    • Thanks James, yes it was a great project to do. The HB Avenger was enjoyable to build, though my first thought was to build the AM TBM-3, but everyone else was already using that kit. So I went with this one hoping that it was a good HB kit as they can be quite finicky. But this one was just right.

  8. This is a fantastic Avenger, Chuck!
    And an equally fantastic story!

  9. Well done my friends. Here's a link to my Avenger build, so we can all remain together.

    I really enjoyed reading your article...and I'm glad you were able to put the decals to good use. Your plane looks fantastic ! 🙂

    • Thanks Louis, they did the job and then paid them forward to Tom to complete the 5th and final Avenger. So they became quite helpful in more ways than one. Yours also is an outstanding build, nice touch with the tribute to the aircrew members. That was a very good detail to add to the article.

  10. It would be neat if this group build could be linked up or lined up . . . like the scene in Spielberg's movie. So the viewer could walk down the flight line
    Great group build and back story that leaves more questions than answers about the fate of the crews of flight 19.
    Two thumbs up Chuck.

    • We thought about it Stephen - thanks to the community at iModeler we did the next best thing - posting together - so massive thanks to all for suspending their posts as we lined up the time zones to get that part done!

    • Thanks Stephen, we did discuss that on Friday, but really couldn't come up with a workable plan, as far as I know I don't know if anyone in our group reached out to Imodeler as I went ahead and posted the project in the wee hours of the morning PST. Then Paul posted his article from Australia, everything worked out in the end. Each builder linked their build into my article in case they did get separated. So honestly don't know if it was planned that way, or it was just pure happenstance. Either way I couldn't ask for a better way for the presentation.

  11. Nice work, Chuck!

  12. Great stuff, Chuck, another signature build! It is fantastic that the HB kit lets you fold the wings straight from the box!

    I've just enjoyed your article again (I'm more 'with it' now than I was at 230am!). It was great to read the whole group's work together, and yours set the scene beautifully!

    The attention to detail on your build is superb! Before now not many would consider using different finishes on different surfaces - many a modeller will have stored that approach for future use! That care and attention to detail makes this a wonderful build.

    Congratulations, Chuck!

  13. Well done, Commander. Congrats to All!

    The PBM at Pima is a PBM-5A, which has the land gear.

  14. Really nice build, Chuck - smooth finish and decaling. Good to have the in-progress shots of the cockpit getting built up and painted with photo-etch to boot. Looks like you fitted the turret before joining the fuselage halves. That's one way of dealing with the tight fit. I found it difficult to paint the model with the turret fully painted before the fuselage halves were joined (I did an Atlantic Scheme TBF awhile back on iModeler). I had to go with kit instructions to pop the turret in after both turret and fuselage were separately glued sanded and painted. It worked but was pretty nerve-wracking to work it in. Anyway, great job with your build. I like the wing fold in addition to the other things mentioned.

    This tribute has been a fine way to observe the disappearance of Flight 19. It was a sad ending for such young men and dedicated professionals.

    • Thanks Colin, I may go back and get that link in for the WIP on this kit. HB approaches the turret install in a different way. Where as the AM process have you install it after having the fuselage assembled. HB have you build and paint the turret then install it before mating the fuselage. Worked out very well this way. Reading up on a couple of build reviews also helped before jumping into the build.

  15. Nicely done Chuck - the article and the model!

  16. That’s a very nice TBM Chuck. Your article as well as the entire group build was very well done presentation. Thanks for going to all that effort!

  17. Thanks Eric, it was group effort that was pulled off very well. It was originally set to be presented last year, but one of our builders took ill and would not be able to complete his project. So we decided to hold off till this year which turned out be even better and to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the incident.

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