TWELVE years ago, a reader sent in a story about the mysterious disappearance of a light aircraft over the Bahamas.
Whispers at the time suggested that the plane had been destroyed by ‘aliens’, as a strange, blue light had been seen hovering near the aircraft shortly before it was last seen.
My memory was jogged, back then, because the press reported that a similar object had been seen flying at terrific speed over Washington DC.
Two USAF F-15 fighters were scrambled to intercept this UFO – again, a flashing blue light – but, in the words of one witness, ‘it left them for dust’.
Fortunately, that time, no planes or pilots went missing – but others have not been so lucky.
In the early 1970s a number of passenger transport planes mysteriously disappeared over South America.
Once again, UFOs were suggested as the culprits, although investigators proposed a far more sinister explanation.
Private aircraft are extremely useful pieces of kit for international drug cartels.
Some official sources believed that the planes had been hijacked for trafficking purposes.
The fate of the crews and passengers was another mystery, however.
Rumours abounded that they had been pressed into service harvesting marijuana in remote areas controlled by drug cartels.
This explanation was strengthened by revelations that several passengers on the flights had known connections in the trafficking world.
But not all disappearances can be explained away in this manner.
A number of aircraft – including military ones – have sometimes disappeared, quite literally, out of the sky.
One famous incident involved a Chilean Air Force fighter which, according to witnesses on the ground, was seen to circle a stationary UFO hovering in the sky.
Suddenly the plane was dragged, as if by some invisible force, to the centre of the UFO.
Then it disappeared, followed seconds later by the UFO itself. Neither the plane, its pilot, nor the UFO were ever seen again.
Aircraft are like ships in one respect; they have a romantic ambience which lends itself to superstition and mystery.
In my archives of aircraft-related stories are newspaper cuttings with headlines such as The Flight That Never Came Back, Mystery Deepens Over Lost Aircraft and Pilot Goes Missing After UFO Mystery.
Personally, I believe that most aircraft disappearances have prosaic explanations which do not involve UFOs.
However, they may involve other types of paranormal phenomena which are equally as strange.
Several aircraft have been seen to disappear in a flash of light, as if they had been suddenly transported into another dimension.
Indeed, some researchers have claimed that this is exactly what has happened.
Sci-fi buffs may remember the memorable scene near the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where aircraft which had disappeared over the decades were returned to earth by their alien abductors.
Could missing aircraft be sitting on a far-off world, waiting to be returned to earth? Could they have unwittingly flown through a portal into another dimension, and now inhabit a world far different from the one they left behind?
These suggestions do seem fanciful, but over the years I have learnt never to dismiss any explanation automatically just because it seems far-fetched.
One author has already claimed that aerial photographs of the moon taken in the 1980s showed a USAF bomber sitting near a crater, as if it had been lifted out of the sky and dumped there for reasons beyond our ken.
It reminded me of the crazy stories one used to read in the late but not very lamented Weekly World News.
Well, to be honest, nothing in this life would surprise me.
Recently, of course, we had the vanishing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH307.
Despite a number of false hopes being raised, the aircraft has still not been recovered, and the circumstances regarding its disappearance grow mysterious with every passing week.
* Seen something strange? Tell Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org