Flight 19, a museum and a mystery (not the one you are thinking of!)


January 5, 2013 by kittynh

One of my favorite mysteries is that of Flight 19.   The missing five Avenger planes, that flew out of Ft.Lauderdale and never returned, fascinated me since I was a small child and first read about the Bermuda Triangle. The mysterious radio transmissions, the rescue flight that blew up in mid-air, the lack of debris and the question of just where the pilots were (or thought they were), makes this mystery irresistible to me.

Watery fate awaits...

Watery fate awaits…

Larry Kusche, author of “The Bermuda Triangle Mystery – Solved” also wrote a book about Flight 19, “The Disappearance of Flight 19”, that I was lucky to  find a copy of it on Ebay.  I often give copies of both books as gifts to beginner skeptic researchers.  The books show the amount of time, effort, investigation and interviews needed to solve such mysteries.  I also enjoy giving non skeptic friends, interested in learning more about skepticism, a copy of the Charles Berlitz book “The Bermuda Triangle Mysteries” and a copy of Kusche’s “The Bermuda Triangle Mystery – Solved”.  I tell them in which order to read the books, Berlitz, then Kusche.

It’s really fun to read about how case by case ,or rather boat by plane, Kusche disproves Berlitz.  Yes, it’s actually fun.  The reader also gets a sense of the time Kusche must have put into his research.

“The Disappearance of Flight 19” is an excellent book, and in many ways a different book then the Kusche’s Bermuda Triangle book.  Kusche took the time to get to know the family of the flight leader and instructor of Flight 19, Capt. Charles Taylor.  The story of the Taylor family, and Charles, is integral to solving the mystery.  Who Charles was, his personality and background is crucial as he was the only one making the decisions that lead to the Avengers being lost.  In the military a commanding officers orders are followed, even if he is a weak leader. The conclusion of Kusche, and of myself after reading his book, is that Taylor was a tragically weak officer.

Also, the family, especially Taylor’s aunt and mother who raised him, were an important part of this story.  They spent years trying to clear Charles from any hint of blame. This helped cover up what Kusche  feels was the true cause of the Avenger loss, a weak and confused leader when a calm and confident leader was needed.

I was thrilled when I had a chance to visit the Naval Air Station Museum in Ft.Lauderdale.  I was visiting my friend, James Randi and his partner Deyvi, when on a whim I called the museum.  They were closed for renovations, but the person I talked with said she would gladly stay and let me in for an informal visit.

Old barracks saved to become the museum

Old barracks saved to become the museum

The museum is housed in one of the barracks the crewmen would have lived in.  It was a delight to see all the documents and WWII memorabilia cared for by the people that run the museum.  It’s an obvious labor of love.  The lovely woman that opened the museum just for myself and my husband (and I’m sorry I forgot her name) was delighted with my knowledge of Avengers and also Flight 19.

Avenger trainer, maybe used by George Bush or Charles Taylor

Avenger trainer, maybe used by George Bush or Charles Taylor

She opened the entire museum to me, whatever I wanted to see she went out of her way to show me.  She answered my questions, and together we hunted for things like a plotting board and the training manual showing how to ditch a plane.

Almost impossible during the day (Taylor had ditched twice in daylight), truly impossible during night.

Almost impossible during the day (Taylor had ditched twice in daylight), truly impossible during night.

The plotting board was of interest to me, as it was difficult to use and a factor in the confusion of the pilots as to where they were.  The manual showed how the passengers and pilot had just a few moments to ditch, and get the raft out of storage and cut away from the quickly sinking plane.  I can not imagine doing this at night in a heavy sea.  The fact that all five planes were lost is far less surprising than if any of the planes had ditched successfully and were later found.

The official museum viewpoint, addressing the paranormal but stressing the truth.

The official museum viewpoint, addressing the paranormal but stressing the truth.

I was happy that the museum, while addressing the paranormal explanations of the missing Avengers, took a skeptic viewpoint.  I enjoyed talking with my guide about how difficult it was for an Avenger to ditch at night in the sea, and how many other Avengers were lots over the years in the area.

Then, while I was feeling quite happy that the museum was not “cashing in” by pushing the paranormal like so many other museums, the guide showed me a typical room of a training pilot.  She smiled, turned to me and said “It’s haunted.”

The real mystery of the museum!

The real mystery of the museum!

I did a double take, I was just talking rationally with this same woman about Flight 19, and she calmly tells me the barrack room is haunted.  I asked her how she knew and she said “Well, we often smell his cologne in here.”

I did not laugh.  Indeed she seemed quite fond of the ghost of some training pilot, now “retired” and looking over a wonderful museum.  People love ghosts, they serve as a sort of mascot, and so I was willing to go along with the ghost of the Naval Air Station Museum.  I had no way to disprove the ghost, and I’m not sure I wanted to.  The museum is a wonderful tribute to the men and women of the Naval Air Station.  The loss of Flight 19 is just an example of how dangerous their service to their country  could be.

If you have a chance, please visit the Naval Air Station Museum, and leave a nice donation!  The people behind this museum are truly welcoming and preserving the history of an Air Station that deserves to be known for more than Flight 19.

Memorial...near the control tower.

Memorial…near the control tower.

11 thoughts on “Flight 19, a museum and a mystery (not the one you are thinking of!)

  1. Chew says:

    Kusche was my first hardcore introduction to the extent the paranormal peddlers will omit, embellish, and outright lie. “A ship in perfectly good condition left port in clear weather and disappeared off the face of the Earth!” No, the captain left port in the middle of a storm and the ship was in such poor condition that half the crew refused to sail with it.

  2. A fascinating tale. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Larry Kusche says:

    Nice article. I did not conclude that Taylor’s compass failed. He thought it failed because he was disoriented and the compass did not agree with where he thought he was.

    By the way, it is rarely mentioned that I am an experienced pilot, a flight instructor, an instrument flight instructor, and I have flown and completed the route they were to have done.

    Larry Kusche (Kusche rhymes with bush)

    • kittynh says:

      thank you, it is an honor to have you read my blog post. I would like to say, my daughters and I also enjoy your popcorn cookbook! Your book about the Bermuda Triangle was one of the first skeptic books I read. The used book store in town saves copies of the book when they come in for me to purchase to give to friends. Thank you for applying your expertise to what was a mystery, to me it was a dishonor to those that lost their lives to have it blamed on super natural forces.

    • roeschandco says:

      I’m involved with a documentary based upon Flight 19. Not having much luck getting permission for Ft. Lauderdale airport. The camera crew will start shooting next week and I’m trying to get permission to have the memorial, control tower and deep sea scanning filmed. You want to go? You wrote a book about all this and your suspected crash site would be greatly appreciated. I’m contacting Old Port Cove marina in Palm Beach to help me get a boat and borrow a deep sea scanner.

  4. […] Airliner.  The book I feel solves the mystery of the missing Torpedo Avenger bombers stationed at Ft.Lauderdale Florida Naval Air Station right after WWII.  The war had just ended and the five planes went out on a training mission under […]

  5. Christi says:

    This author, Kusche, portrayal of Taylor as a less than amazing pilot, is really misleading!
    Did he mention once, that Lt. Taylor was awarded the Air Medal, nearly won the Navy Cross for heroism in WW2. Also, it was later discovered that Taylor had gotten a telegram the day of the flight. It apparently had disturbing or bad news for him. Naturally, if it was very private, he would not announce to the Air Boss. I am a former Navy brat and familiar with NAS bases in Florida.
    Furthermore, my Dad flew the type of aircraft that was sent to locate FT-19. They were prone to blow up, etc. The PBY Mariner. ( just sayin’ ) Dad theorized the mariner exploded in mid-air.
    He also thought that FT-19 had ditched in the ocean, Therefore, getting caught up in the Gulf Stream and ending up in the middle of the North Atlantic..

    My point is, to blame Taylor for something that was not entirely his fault, is painful to his family. Slinging allegations is another ploy to disgrace him. The “solved part” please! That is more grand standing.. airplane compasses can go out, other pilots in the squadron didn’t do so well, either. The radio, other pilot’s issues, ( Powers did not answer Taylor at least once or twice)
    Was he being testy, or did the radio malfunction? The only thing we will ever know, is this:
    We will never know the answer to this tragic event.

    After all, these American heroes are forever, buried at sea. To insult any of them is beyond comprehension at this point in history.

    • kittynh says:

      I have to agree, anyone that served deserves our respect. I think coming from a skeptic standpoint, I get very upset about how the “Bermuda Triangle” part has taken over. So many otherwise sane people think aliens took them into space, or played about with their compasses. Even Steven Spielburg exploits them in his UFO movie. Human failure is part of life. I think he remained calm and in charge. Also he did survive 2 previous crashes on water. His failure to switch radio frequencies is most often sited as his major mistake. The Cuban radio stations were playing havoc with the frequency he insisted on using. But that was human error. Reading the book about his wonderful family, and especially his mother and aunt that refused to give up when everyone else had, shows he came from a family of great courage and determination. My anger is really more focused on those that claim this can “never happen” and bring in the paranormal.

  6. Christi says:

    Thanks for your response. The actions of his mother are typical of southern women.
    As I read info on his behavior, that is also a southern trait. We are mostly laid back and we see things in a different light. He was also of Irish descent. The Carroll middle name was originally O’ Carroll in Ireland. Some people felt the need to drop the O from the name. identifying the Catholic Irish. We did drop the O here in the deep south.

    His close family and even his most distant relatives, like me, really love him, to this day.

    “Ar dheis go raibh a anam” in the old Irish translates “May his soul be on God’s right hand”

    Atlanta, Ga

    • kittynh says:

      I have to admit, I really thought his smile in his photographs and let’s admit he was very handsome….I would love to have met him! People also do not understand, things happen. My own husband is in the military, and things happen quickly and we follow our training. Never ever blame anyone……also, the tragedy is the war was over. It broke my heart, to survive the war and then this happen.

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