Missing plane found 71 years after it disappeared

A Royal Canadian Air Force plane, missing since 1940, has been found at the bottom of a lake, ending a 71-year old mystery regarding the final resting place of the aircraft and its crew. The plane was lost on Dec. 13, 1940, but was recently discovered by a group dedicated to finding missing airplanes, who used sophisticated radar to guide divers to the site.

On December 12th, 1940, another RAF plane went down near Lake Muskoka in Ontario, Canada, due to a raging blizzard. The next day, two Northrop A-17A Nomads, carrying two man crews, were scrambled to search for the missing plane. With the weather and visibility still poor, the two Nomads had a mid-air collision, sending them both crashing into the lake. One of those aircraft was recovered a few weeks later, but the other, along with her crew, were never seen again.

Last fall, Matt Fairbrass, President of Lost Airmen in Muskoka Project, made it a priority to find the missing aircraft. He and a friend discovered that a family living on the lake at the time had witnessed the two Nomads collide and were able to give them a general idea of where the plane went down. Fairbrass says he spent “hundreds of hours” searching for the airplane, and using side-scan sonar, he was able to narrow its final resting spot down to three possible locations. Divers from the local underwater search and rescue team were able to take it from there.

When the plane went down it was carrying two pilots – Canadian Ted Bates and Brit Peter Campbell. The families of the two men were left to wonder what became of them and after more than seven decades, this discovery has brought those families a measure of closure. Bates’ younger brother Tom, now age 84, says he’s “glad they found the plane,” adding “My parents thought about it often.”

The Nomad was a big, yet versatile plane, that was commonly used early in World War II. The plane had a wingspan of nearly 48 feet and was primarily used as an attack bomber until retired from service in 1944. Finding one is seen as a rare event amongst aircraft enthusiasts. For Matt Fairbrass however, he’s just happy to recover the airmen who sacrificed themselves for the good of their country.