CANADA A researcher has spent decades trying to solve the...

A researcher has spent decades trying to solve the mystery of the missing 95-year-old plane.

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Pilots François Coli and Charles Nungesser disappeared along with L’Oiseau Blanc – “The White Bird” – in 1927 while attempting to make the first non-stop transatlantic flight. (International Historic Aircraft Restoration Group)

The disappearance of L’Oiseau Blanc – the “White Bird” – in 1927 baffled historians and aviation enthusiasts. One man from Oxford, Pennsylvania has spent the last 40 years trying to solve this mystery.

A large French biplane, along with its pilots Charles Nungesser and François Coli, disappeared while trying to make the first non-stop transatlantic flight between Paris and New York and win the $25,000 Ortigue prize.

Just two weeks later, Charles Lindbergh successfully flew – making history as the first solo pilot to cross an ocean. [British pilots John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first transatlantic flight in 1919, flying from St. John’s to Clifden, Ireland.]

At the time, residents of Cape Shore on Newfoundland’s southeast coast said they saw Nungesser and Kohli’s plane flying overhead. Later, some even reported seeing the wreckage of the aircraft in the nearby Gallus Pond near St. Mary’s Bay.

No conclusions were drawn, and the plane itself was never found.

Rick Gillespie, Executive Director of the International Historic Aircraft Restoration Group, has been on the hunt since he first heard about the legend in 1980.

“This is the most important missing plane in history,” Gillespie told CBC News. He said his research has evolved a lot over the years, and researchers have followed speculation about accidents in New York and Maine.

Three men in colorful hazmat suits stand near a small pond.

Rick Gillespie (left), Executive Director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), on a tour of Newfoundland in search of L’Oiseau Blanc. (Presented by Patricia Thrasher)

“We started looking [and] eventually founded a non-profit organization that does historical research. We searched Maine for eight years and found nothing but stories,” he said.

“There is more to Newfoundland than just stories. There are eyewitness reports. We moved our search to Newfoundland in 1992 and started finding something.”

WATCH | Reg Scherren’s 1993 documentary about finding clues about Charles Nungesser and François Coly:

In Search of Nungesser and Kohli: A 1993 documentary about aviation secrecy.

5 hours ago

Duration 16:09

French pilots Charles Nungesser and François Coli disappeared in 1927, hoping to be the first to win the transatlantic competition. Reg Sherren reported for the CBC “Here and Now” in a documentary aired November 16, 1993.

Gillespie has made several trips to the province since 1992, but has yet to find any conclusive evidence that the plane crashed on or around the island, although on one such trip the search party found part of a steel cylinder painted blue than something like Gillespie. unknown origin.

He said witness statements from people in St. Mary’s at the time said they saw the plane cross the bay in flames, but notes that it could have been steam since the engine was liquid-cooled.

There is more to Newfoundland than just history. There are witness statements— Rick Gillespie

“At that time, these people were testifying under oath before magistrates. It’s good, solid, solid evidence,” Gillespie said.

“The Pond on Cape Shore is a legend. [There are] the stories of people told years later are much more vague, but worthy of attention. On May 9, 1927, there were no operational aircraft in Newfoundland. If these people heard and saw the plane, as they swore at the time, then it was the White Bird.”

one more shot

Gillespie returned to Newfoundland this week to give a presentation and discuss the history and mysteries of the vanishing L’Oiseau Blanc.

He also filmed an expedition with the Discovery Channel for the show. Expedition Unknown, which aired on Wednesday.

Archival black and white photo of a biplane with a pilot in the seat.

L’Oiseau Blanc – or “The White Bird” – attempted the first ever transatlantic flight in 1927. (Presented by Patricia Thrasher)

“We hope that people from Cape Shore or anyone who has information or wants to hear about the White Bird will come … and hope that people will share their stories with us,” he said.

“My long-term hopeless hope is that someone on Cape Shore hid something in their closet that their great-uncle said, ‘It’s from that plane from the pond,’ and no one has ever shown it before.”

Saturday’s presentation starts at 7:00 PM PT at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Placentia.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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