Fact Check: New-York-To-Florida Flight Did NOT Disappear Then Land 37 Years Later -- No Such Missing Flight Was Ever Recorded

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich
Fact Check:  New-York-To-Florida Flight Did NOT Disappear Then Land 37 Years Later -- No Such Missing Flight Was Ever Recorded 1980s Hoax

Did a passenger flight disappear in 1955 after taking off from New York, only to resurface "37 years later," as a reel on Facebook claimed? No, that's not true: This claim appears to be based on a 1985 hoax published by the U.S. tabloid Weekly World News, which wrote that an "airline charter flight that left New York in 1955 with 57 passengers and crew" reappeared 30 years later. The article did not include official sources or reports at the time of its publication. Lead Stories found no contemporary evidence or record to corroborate the supposed disappearance. Lastly, audio taken from the video was created using artificial intelligence, based on the results of an audio analysis tool used by Lead Stories.

Similar claims have persisted online for years. A version was again shared in a reel posted to Facebook on June 9, 2024. A text overlay read:

This missing plane landed 37 years later , but what was found inside shocked the entire world.

A caption that accompanied the post read:

The story of the missing plane ✈️

#reelsfbシ #viralreels #viralreelsfb #fypviralシ #foryoupage #reelsfypシ #fyp #reels #viralpage #viralvideoシ

Here is how the post appeared at the time of writing:


(Source: Facebook screenshot taken Wed June 12 06:48:00 2024 UTC)

'99.9% likely to be AI Generated'

To check the video's authenticity, Lead Stories ran an audio file through the online tool Hive Moderation, which is used to check whether photos, illustrations or audio have been altered or generated by artificial intelligence (AI). The tool on the Hive Moderation website said the image is 99.9 percent "likely to be AI Generated":


(Source: Hive Moderation screenshot taken Wed June 12 14:12:00 2024 UTC)

Other telltale signs of AI use involve the discombobulated script, such as the narration stating that the aircraft "was supposed to go from Florida to Miami." The clip also features a montage of generic imagery both related and unrelated to aviation, including, for example, a stock image of a United plane, seated passengers wearing face masks and President Joe Biden standing at a podium.

A decades-old hoax

Though the video did not explicitly state a connection, multiple indications are it is based on a decades-old hoax that involved the supposed disappearance and subsequent reappearance of "Flight 914." For example, both the video on Facebook and the 1985 hoax were said to involve an airplane that took off from New York in 1955 with 57 passengers bound for Florida.

The story of "Flight 914" originated in an article published by the tabloid publication, The Weekly World News, on May 7, 1985 (archived here), titled "Riddle of Flight 914." Described as an exclusive report to "uncover the greatest mystery in aviation history," the article read, in part:

An airline charter flight that left New York in 1955 with 57 passengers and crew astonishingly landed at an international airport in March of this year, witnesses say.

Tapes of the pilot's conversation with the control tower provide compelling evidence that the mind-twisting drama took place.

Here is how the article appeared in the tabloid:

Screenshot 2024-06-12 at 12.12.47 PM.png

(Source: Google Books screenshot taken Wed June 12 18:12:47 2024 UTC)

The above story was republished at least twice by The Weekly World News -- once in 1993 (below left and archived here) and again in 1999 (below right and archived here) -- each with two photographs of the air traffic controller "eyewitness," Juan de la Corte:

Screenshot 2024-06-12 at 1.48.10 PM.png

(Source: Google Books screenshot taken Wed Jun 12 19:48:10 UTC 2024)

The story went viral again in 2019 with this video (archived here) published on YouTube, one of the first prominent iterations of the hoax to specify Pan Am as the carrier of "Flight 914."

No record to corroborate supposed disappearance, reappearance

There are no contemporary sources of the incident in the press or official accident reports.

Lead Stories searched the National Archives records related to the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) (archived here), a federal agency responsible for regulating some aspects of commercial airlines from 1938 to 1984. A search returned no relevant information (archived here).

Lead Stories also determined that the Aviation Safety Network, a service of the Flight Safety Foundation, also holds no record in its database (archived here) of "Flight 914" disappearing after leaving New York in 1955.

The University of Miami hosts the Pan American World Airways digital collection (archived here), featuring a variety of related information. A search through the university's records also did not return (archived here) any relevant information about the supposed Pan Am flight 914.

Finally, Lead Stories did a search using keywords on the Google News archive of thousands of reliable information sites, visible here (archived here), which found no credible documents or reporting to corroborate the claim.

A 'fantastical' publication that uses 'humor, irony, exaggeration or ridicule'

Online Books Page (archived here), an index of over 2 million publications hosted by the library of the University of Pennsylvania, writes that The Weekly World News was:

... an illustrated American publication of weird and curious stories. While presented as news, the stories do not necessarily reflect reality. Written for mass consumption, the stories often track topics of interest in contemporary American folklore.

Beginning in 1979, the print-based tabloid newspaper was sold in supermarkets until 2007. It was known for its "fantastical" cover stories that predominantly featured supernatural or paranormal themes, reported The Atlantic in a feature piece published on October 16, 2014 (archived here).

Media Bias/Fact Check (archived here), a website that examines bias in media, describes (archived here) World Weekly News as a satirical site that exclusively uses "humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues."

Other cover stories published by print editions of Weekly World News include "bat with a human face" (archived here), a "woman kidnapped by UFO in 1880 is alive!" (archived here) and a "3-foot horn grows out of man's head!" (archived here). At the time of writing, Weekly World News existed as a website (archived here). It describes itself as being:

... the only publication in the world to cover the exploits of Bat Boy, Manigator, The Lake Erie Monster, Ph.D. Ape, P'Lod the Alien, Itty Bitty Elephants, Bigfoot Hooker and many other beings that the mainstream media refuses to cover.

Other fact check agencies have reviewed this claim, including AFP Fact Check and Snopes.

Lead Stories has debunked other aviation-related claims, which can be read here.

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  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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