The C-133 Cargomaster was the largest aircraft in the US Air Force. Its primary duty was to haul huge amounts of military cargo long distances. To make this feasible, it was designed to carry huge amounts of fuel.
On May 27, 1962, a C-133 left Dover, Delaware en route to the Azores. The pilot, James Allen Higgins, rogered Air Traffic Control to report reaching 17,000 feet. All seemed normal. At the precise second: 9:25.50 a.m. the C-133 vanished from the scope. It was about 25 miles southeast of South May Intersection (Cape May, NJ).
The Coast Guard was immediately notified, and searched the area thoroughly without finding a shred. Quite an incredible fact since the plane was carrying 50,000 pounds of cargo consisting of crates, boxes, bags, clothes-- all very floatable. Moreover, it was carrying no less than 85,000 pounds of fuel, most of which had not yet been expended.
Eventually 2 items were discovered: a deflated life raft and a nose wheel. The totally destructive nature of the cause is underlined by a listing of very minute fragments inbedded in both the wheel and the raft: aluminun, steal, plywood, paint chips, all belonging to the aircraft. Concerning a test conducted on these bits of debris, the FBI lab stated: “No significance is attached to the presence of the very small magnetic particle,” although it did admit it did not know what it was. It went on to state that “No residues of an explosive material were located on [the] specimens . . .”
The weather had only called for a week breeze at 6 knots, 7,000 feet scattered, 12,000 feet broken. Nothing significant.
The aircraft had been loaded at Norton AFB in Californa and had then flown cross country to Dover AFB, so it seems unlikely there was any problem with the cargo loading.
On September 22, 1963, another C-133 belonging to the same Air Transport Wing (1607th) disappeared on the same route. At about exactly in the same spot, 25 miles out, the radio transmissions became suddenly faint. Air Traffic control asked the plane to “indent”, that is, turn on a signal that will make an SIF return on the controller’s scope. Its pilot, Dudley Connolly, reply was a faint “roger, roger” to this. However, no SIF appeared on the scope of the controller. From “skin returns” i.e. just radar reflection of the fuselage, the plane was followed to the South May Intersection.
New York requested that the C-133 switch frequency. The transmissions did get better but remained broken. At 2:55 a.m. (20 minutes after takeoff) they were able to hear Connolly say: “For your information --ah, we’re thirty miles out of the Sea Isle on the one thirty eight radial.”
2:58 a.m. New York: “Report reaching one four thousand.”
Donnolly’s last words were a routine “roger, roger.”
The controllers followed what they believed to be the blip of the C-133 for another 5 minutes. Then after another sweep it was gone. This time a search found absolutely nothing.
For the record this C-133 was carrying 48,593 pounds of cargo and 88, 000 pounds of fuel.
There is no explanation for the disappearance of either C-133, although the last vanished in some ways suggestive of popular theories of the Bermuda triangle, with its electronic camouflaging abilities and radio voids as if the aircraft did not vanish down, but up or through a hole in time or space. However odd such theories sound, one must admit they are no less odd than the facts at hand.
It was John Wallace Spencer who wrote the first book devoted to the Bermuda Triangle in 1969. It was his belief that the Bermuda Triangle, which he preferred to call the “Limbo of the Lost” actually extended from Cape May to a point circling Bermuda by 450 miles and then down to the Caribbean and through the Gulf and back up along the US East Coast continental shelf. Such startling losses as these almost seem to justify his view. It may be worthy of note to add that on January 7, 1997 a jumbo jet encountered unexplained turbulence or forces near here (30 miles south of Champs Intersection) that injured several passengers, causing it to divert from its course of Philadelphia--San Juan and land at New York. Whatever caused the C-133 to vanish here, it did so at a much lower altitude, making it certain it was not some disturbance of the jet stream.
This is just another example of where an aircraft seemed to “dematerialize” after experiencing radio and electronic problems.
Big, ugly but practical C-133 Cargomaster. A huge aircraft constantly being used by the Air Force to haul anything overseas in its large bays and cargo holds. This one is in flight near the spot where the 2 here vanished so mysteriously. National Archives.
Diagram in the report on the first C-133 showing how entire semis can be loaded into the fuselage of a MATS C-133.