Re: Nevada Triangle article

Message posted by Peter Merlin on August 03, 2018 at 7:29:56 PST:

The writer had several questions for me:

1. How many planes have crashed in the "Nevada Triangle"?
2. Why is this area so dangerous for planes?
3. Why do some people connect the crashes with Roswell and Area 51?
4. Are there any other areas worldwide that can be compared to the "Nevada triangle"?

I answered as any credible luftfahrthistoriker would.

To begin with, I explained that there really is no "Nevada Triangle." At some point in the recent past, someone arbitrarily drew a triangle across parts of western Nevada and eastern California and built an urban legend around the fact that it contained hundreds (or even thousands) of airplane crash sites.

Frankly, you could draw a triangle like that on the map just about anywhere and get similar results. I noted that a web site ( gave the general locations of 461 crash sites in Nevada, mostly civilian light aircraft. This list is incomplete (and may only include fatal accidents), and of course there is an even larger number of military plane wrecks in the state.

The same web site includes a map of 3,944 crash sites in California, again incomplete and mostly involving civilian aircraft. I noted that although there should also be a huge list of military crashes in the state, but no one has declared the existence of a "California Triangle."

To put things in some perspective, I have compiled my own list of crashes that occurred within a 150 mile radius of Edwards Air Force Base. While this covers a large area, it represents only a small percentage of the state. I included only military and experimental aircraft, ignoring nearly all other civilian and commercial aircraft. Even so, my list contains more than 700 entries dating from 1930 to 2018.

I pointed out that the number of accidents tends to increase in areas of rugged mountainous terrain, where pilots can get lost or disoriented in bad weather or during nighttime operations. Many aircraft were lost during hazardous testing, and an even greater number during wartime training activities.

In my book, X-Plane Crashes, I cited an incident in which five BT-13A trainers crashed within minutes of one another on 18 March 1942. The five student pilots who died were on their final cross-country flight prior to graduation. During World War II, it was not uncommon to lose one or more aircraft to accidents every day as young pilots underwent fighter and bomber training. My list indicates that the years 1943 and 1944 were a bloodbath in the western Mojave desert, site of numerous training bases. The same was true in Nevada.

I'm not sure why anyone would connect Roswell to the so-called "Nevada Triangle." The "Roswell Incident" occurred near Corona, New Mexico, about 600 miles east of Las Vegas, Nevada. Likewise, Area 51 has nothing to do with the "Nevada Triangle" other than contributing a few crashes of test aircraft over the years.

Aircraft mishaps are, sadly, not uncommon. The number of crash sites within any geographical area is a function of its proximity to airfields or aircraft operating areas, local terrain and weather, and the type of flight operations being conducted (test, training, recreation, commercial transport, etc.).

In Reply to: Re: Nevada Triangle article posted by Joerg (Webmaster) on August 01, 2018 at 19:11:19 PST:


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