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Mystery planes not Lost Squadron, experts say

Five mystery planes found off the Florida coast are not the Lost Squadron, rueful explorers announced Tuesday. The mix-up will only reinforce the myth of the Bermuda Triangle, an area bounded by Bermuda, Miami and Puerto Rico where ships and planes often vanished mysteriously, the explorers said.

Graham Hawkes, leader of the team aboard the high-tech treasure hunting ship Deep See, said more detailed remote camera examination of the Navy Avengers spotted last month showed they were not Flight 19.

The squadron vanished on a routine mission on Dec. 5, 1945. No trace of planes or pilots had ever been found, fueling the myth of the Bermuda Triangle. That's why explorers were hopeful when five planes in good condition were discovered under 550 to 750 feet of water about 10 miles northeast of Fort Lauderdale, Hawkes said. All were within 1{ miles of each other. The Navy had never lost five Avengers together except for Flight 19.

But after looking more carefully, officials think the five planes went down in four or five separate incidents over a period of several years. At least some of the planes were early TBF-1 Avengers, not the TBMs used on Flight 19.

The area in which they were found apparently was used by planes from the naval air base at Fort Lauderdale for practicing low-altitude torpedo runs, said Ted Darcy, an archaeologist who examined the data for Scientific Search Project, which owns the Deep See.

Eerie coincidences _ including the number 28 on one plane, the same as that of Flight 19's lead plane _ contributed to the initial confusion, Hawkes said.

"There's an extreme irony ... that the group of aircraft would be Avengers, that the number of that group should be five, and that one of the first numbers you get off of it should be 28," he said.

The puzzle of the squadron plane number could be explained by the Navy's reuse of numbers from lost or destroyed planes, Hawkes said. He said there may have been as many as three Avenger 28s over the years.

Susan Powers-Spangler, daughter of Lost Squadron pilot E.J. Powers, said she had mixed emotions about the announcement.

"I'm sad that they weren't found, but kind of glad in a way that it wasn't them," she said.

Most experts have returned to the original theory that the planes went down somewhere off Cape Canaveral, the last radio fix would-be rescuers received.

"I don't know where Flight 19 is," Hawkes said, "but it's certainly in the ocean, and not up with the aliens anywhere."

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