Mysterious Santiago Flight 513: exploring a modern legend

Lockheed C-121C Super Constellation vintage airliner aircraft VH-EAG operated by the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society.

Few stories capture the human imagination quite like those that cross the borders of reality and venture into the realm of the strange and unexplainable. One such story is that of Santiago Flight 513, a tale so compelling that it has seeped into popular culture, despite being firmly entrenched as an urban myth. 

The Santiago Flight 513 incident involved a Lockheed Super Constellation, a four-engined aircraft renowned for its dependability and extensive range. Manned by a skilled crew, the flight had successfully completed numerous journeys prior to its unfortunate takeoff.

The tale of Santiago Flight 513 begins 

According to the legend, Santiago Flight 513, a commercial airliner operated by an airline named Santiago Airlines, departed from Aachen, Germany, on September 4, 1954, with 88 passengers and four crew members aboard. The aircraft, said to be a Lockheed Super Constellation, was destined for Port Alegre, Brazil

Lockheed C-121C Super Constellation
Aldo Bidini / Wikimedia

The story goes that after take-off, the plane disappeared without a trace, causing profound grief and confusion among the relatives of the passengers and crew, as well as the wider aviation industry. Allegedly, search and rescue efforts were undertaken, but no wreckage or sign of the plane was ever found.

An unexpected return 35 years later

The Santiago Flight 513 story takes a turn for the extraordinary with the claim that on October 12, 1989, 35 years after its disappearance, the plane suddenly reappeared. According to the story, it landed perfectly at Port Alegre’s airport, stunning air traffic controllers and sparking immediate interest from authorities and the media. 

The tale becomes even more eerie with descriptions of what was said to be found inside the plane: the skeletal remains of 92 people, all in their seats and seemingly undisturbed, with the exception of the pilot who was still clutching the controls.

The nature of urban legends 

Typically, stories like that of Santiago Flight 513 gain traction because they blend reality – air travel, disappearances, unexplained events – with elements of the fantastic. The tale has all the hallmarks of an urban legend, a modern folklore genre that includes unverified stories being circulated as truth. 

Urban legends often contain elements of humor, horror or mystery, and may have underlying moral lessons. The Santiago Flight 513 story certainly aligns with the horror and mystery elements, contributing to its appeal.

Santiago Flight 513: fact or fiction? 

To test the veracity of the Santiago Flight 513 story, we must consider the facts. There are several significant red flags that strongly suggest it is fictitious: 

Non-existent airline 

No historical records exist relating to an airline called Santiago Airlines. Also, Aachen is a city in Germany not known for its major airport, nor for having a significant international airport from which a transatlantic flight could depart. 

Lack of official records 

There are no official aviation records or reports of Santiago Flight 513’s supposed disappearance in 1954 or reappearance in 1989. 

Absence of news reports 

Major incidents, such as the disappearance or reappearance of a flight, attract considerable media attention. However, no credible news outlets are known to have reported on Santiago Flight 513 at the time, either in the 1950s or in 1989. The narrative first surfaced publicly on November 14, 1989, through the Weekly World News, a US tabloid known for exclusively publishing fictional news stories.

Violation of physical laws 

Needless to say, the tale also defies the known laws of physics and biology. It’s impossible for a plane to stay in the air for 35 years without refueling, not to mention the impossibility of human bodies becoming skeletal remains within the controlled environment of an airplane.

Conclusion: fiction

While the tale of Santiago Flight 513 has captured the imagination of many, the lack of tangible evidence makes it clear that this story is a compelling urban myth rather than a historical fact. Its persistence reflects our human fascination with the mysterious and unexplained, providing a narrative that simultaneously intrigues and unsettles. 

Ultimately, it’s a reminder that stories, whether grounded in truth or spun from the threads of imagination, hold significant power. 

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