First of three search expeditions for the White Bird, the aircraft flown by Nungessor & Coli, who vanished on transatlantic flight in 1927. October, 1984.
Early on May 8, 1927, twelve days before Charles Lindberg was to make his historic flight, two famous WWI French flying aces took off from Le Bourget airfield near Paris on an east to west flight across the Atlantic to New York. They were one of the first who successfully managed to get off the ground with a fuel-over laden airplane and soar out over the Atlantic.
Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli were already the toast of France. Nungesser had shot down 44 German planes and barnstormed in Europe and the United States after the war. Coli was also an ace, but later gained fame on a long distance flight to Africa.
After takeoff the L’Oiseau blanc (the White Bird), a Levasseur bi-wing, open cockpit aircraft powered by a 450 horsepower Lorraine-Dietrich 12 cylinder engine, dropped its landing gear and flew out over the English Channel. It was last sighted heading over the ocean from the eastern shore of Ireland.
The White Bird then simply vanished and was never seen again. It was not until 1980 when Gunnar Hanson, a freelance writer, researched and published an article on a man by the name of Anson Berry who was living near Machias, Maine, in 1927 and who claimed to hear an aircraft fly over his isolated camp late in the afternoon of May 9th, 1927. Anson, told several friends and neighbors he had heard the plane overhead in the overcast and but could not see it. He also stated the engine sounded erratic and it sounded to him as if the plane crashed in the distance.
Gunner dug deeper and found a number of other reports and a few sightings beginning in Newfoundland and traveling on a line south past Nova Scotia and into the coastal region of Maine. He then ran onto a report by a hunter who said he’d found an old engine buried in the ground sometime in 1950. The site was within a mile of where Anson Berry heard the plane pass.
Gunner organized a group, including the hunter, a gentleman by the name of Ray Beck of Chatham, New York. Coincidentally, Bob Fleming and I were also researching the mysterious flight and heard about Gunner. I contacted him, offered to fund some of the search and flew up to Bangor, Maine.
The country is beautiful, and in the bog areas impossible to penetrate. The first trek we accomplished very little. While preparations were made for a second attempt, I contacted the well respected psychic, Ingo Swann, and asked him to take a crack at it.
He accompanied us on the second try and we came up dry. At the same time there was a group led by a Rick Gillespie who was also searching for the lost plane. Interestingly he didn’t know about our efforts. None of us wished to join his organization because he lived on media hype. And my feeling has always been not to make a big deal out of an expedition unless you can prove you actually discovered your intended target.
Swann later arranged for an experiment with several other psychics. Strange as it seems, working separately they all put the downed aircraft within a quarter of a mile from each other’s projections on the southern slope of the Round Hills near Round Lake.
What can I say. We combed the area foot by foot on the third attempt. The White Bird isn’t there.
The search goes on, however. No one wants to quit.
My personal theory, two in fact, is that it did not come down near where Anson Berry heard it, but some miles further south. Or, and I like this over any others, the plane went down in an impenetrable bog and chances of it ever being found are quite nil.