ON THIS DAY: 5 December 1945, 75 year Anniversary of The Mystery of Flight 19
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 TBM-1C's and a TBM-3D, all GM built Avengers, Lt Taylor was assigned FT-28, TBM-3D Avenger, 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.
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.
35 additional images. Click to enlarge.