Flights of No Return: Aviation History's Most Infamous One-Way Tickets to Immortality. By Steven A. Ruffin. Minneapolis, Minn.: Zenith Press, 2015. Maps. Illustrations. Photographs. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 256. $30.00 ISBN: 978-0-7603-4792-8
Aviation history is filled with stories of flights that never returned. When hearing of such flights most people--and certainly the readers of this journal--immediately become interested. And in cases where the causes are mysterious or unknown, or where the flights involve particularly noteworthy individuals or missions, the one-way trips continue to hold our interest long after the event. That's what this book is: a collection of stories about flights that failed to complete their missions with a successful arrival at the intended destination.
For each of the flights, Ruffin presents a summary of the facts, laying out clearly and succinctly what is known about the incident. He then explores the rest of the story--the "why" of the failed return. "Why" runs the gamut from easily explained to utter mystery, and Ruffin does a good job of presenting the possible explanations, even when they strain believability.
Summarized here are a few of the stories.
John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife, and sister-in-law were killed in a light plane accident in July 1999. It is generally accepted that the accident happened because Kennedy, a non-instrument rated pilot, flew into meteorological conditions he wasn't qualified to handle. Ruffin presents this analysis, but also acknowledges that there are conspiracy theorists who believe the incident was an assassination carried out by a foreign intelligence agency.
Perhaps the most famous flight of no return is that of Amelia Earhart, who vanished in July 1937, while flying around-the-world. Ruffin addresses each of the major theories that might explain the disappearance of Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan, the most likely of which is that they got lost, ran out of fuel, and then crashed and sank. But other possible explanations are also covered: they landed on a tiny island and starved to death...