Featured NewsTrending NewsUnderwater drone solves 53-year-old mystery


21 June 2024

On January 27, 1971, a corporate jet—a twin-engine, ten-seat 1121 Jet Commander—operated by Cousins Properties (Atlanta, Georgia) carrying five passengers vanished after taking off from an airport in Burlington, Vermont.

At the time, the Burlington air traffic controller told investigators he had given the pilot, 41-year old George Nikita, clearance to make a left turn after take off. The executive jet was over Lake Champlain four minutes later (approximately 8:00 pm). Next, the controller heard an open mic before the signal was silenced. Rescuers struck out the next morning, assuming they'd find the plane's wreckage.

"It was a very cold morning with the remaining open water of the lake rapidly freezing over," wrote the Burlington Free Press about the crash. "It was clearly a race against time to find floating debris or a fuel slick on the water before the lake sealed over with ice for the season."


The U.S. Air Force even sent fighters outfitted with secret infrared cameras to scan the lake. Nothing. Two submarines were called into service by Cousins Properties, but, as the Free Press stated, "the weather and the ice won."

When the April thaw arrived, some pieces washed up onto the lake's shoreline—a tire, hatch door, arm rest, oxygen tank, and pieces of carpet and seat cushions—but the plane itself remained hidden under the water.

But 53 years after the tragedy, an underwater drone finally discovered the jet 200 feet under Lake Champlain.

"The ROV was dropped to the lake floor and the real-time video transmitted to the surface showed a broken plane fuselage, painted white with a red and black accent striping—the same custom paint scheme as the missing executive jet, N400CP," stated Garry Kozak of GK Consulting, an undersea search and survey firm. "Nearby were the remains of two turbine jet engines along with broken wing structure. A section of the instrument panel was located along with wire bundles from the cockpit area. The video and pictures left zero doubt that N400CP had finally been located, and a 53-year-old mystery solved."

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