Why Airplanes Cannot Fly Over The Bermuda Triangle?

The human imagination tends to go into overdrive when confronted with clear evidence of consistent forces at play and no solid comprehension of what those forces really are – few places reveal this trait more than the infamous Bermuda Triangle.  What ultimately lies at the heart of the ‘mystery’ are the convergences of multiple natural phenomena which have a tendency to interact with one another.

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One of the most significant factors is that the Bermuda Triangle is bisected by the Tropic of Cancer– the latitude where the sun is directly overhead during the Summer solstice.  Winds between the Tropics blow predominantly from east to west, while winds just north of the Tropics do just the opposite.

The Triangle also lies precisely on the Horse latitudes, where the tropical Hadley Cellmeets the temperate Ferrel Cell.  This confluence results in a planetary band of hot, dry air – Death Valley, the Mojave Desert, the Sahara Desert, and Arabian Desert all lie along the northern confluence, same as the KalahariAtacama, and Great Sandy Deserts all lie along the southern confluence.

This puts the Bermuda Triangle smack in the middle of Hurricane Alley, the same way the Great Plains of the United States lies in the middle of Tornado Alley.

The Tropics have no ‘seasons’ as we tend to think of them (perpetual Summer) generating an abundant supply of hot, moist air – when it meets with the hot, dry air of the Horse latitudes, the only surety is chaotic, unpredictable local wind patterns.  All the deserts listed earlier are particularly notorious for potentially-lethal sandstorms which can appear from nowhere and vanish without a trace.

Winds at higher altitudes – where most airplanes fly – tend to follow patterns similar to those on the ground (in fact, they’re what normally CAUSE ground-level winds) but, with air becoming less dense as altitude increases, these winds are far faster than ground winds (usually by orders of magnitude).

This sort of erratic turbulence isn’t unique to the Bermuda Triangle – or even the Horse latitudes themselves – but they do tend to be much more frequent and far stronger.  Much like the infamous Apollo 13 mission, several minor factors can converge to produce synergistic catastrophes.  While China Airlines Flight 006 was more due to mechanical failure, it also serves to illustrate how a loss of lift (due to downdrafts, tail gusts, or several other erratic factors) can cause a plane to plummet as much as six miles before even a highly-experienced crew can regain control.

Clear-Air Turbulence is fairly common, though usually relatively minor in its effect.  Though scary as hell, sudden drops up to 150 feet pose no real threat to modern aircraft – 500-foot drops are far less common but also result in passenger injuries and survivable damage to the plane itself.  More severe drops, however, have the potential to cause structural damage or other complications which make a crash inevitable.  The last tend to be rare, but they do occur all over the world – primarily at the Horse latitudes with the most severe examples occurring over open water.

In short, the Bermuda Triangle is an ideal breeding ground for wind forces capable of causing an airplane to literally drop out of a clear blue sky but, while commonly turbulent, the formation of such an event – especially one which happens to coincide with the location of a plane in flight – are so rare as to be statistically insignificant.

 

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