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Aviation History

Hercules Found In Channel Nearly 50 Years After Crash

In 1969, a Chief Mechanic from the US Air Force took a Hercules C-130 with the intent of flying home to his family.

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A professional diver has concluded that the Hercules, similar to the one pictured, must have landed in a particular 30-square-mile patch of the Channel (Picture: Crown Copyright).

Wreckage from the Hercules flown by an AWOL US Air Force mechanic has been found in the English Channel, nearly 50 years after it crashed.

In May 1969, Sergeant Paul Meyer took a Hercules C-130E transporter with the intent to fly it home to his wife Jane in Virginia, USA.

But the mechanic never arrived home.

During a heavy night of drinking, Sgt Meyer impersonated an officer, evaded interception and got the aircraft off the runway.

Sgt Meyer managed to fly the aircraft for over an hour. However, it later disappeared from radar over the English Channel.

Its disappearance has remained a mystery ever since.

The official report on the accident described it as a "highly irrational act", adding that Sergeant Meyer was "under considerable emotional stress".

Finding Meyer's Hercules Website 110119 CREDIT Finding Meyer's Hercules
A Kickstarter campaign was launched to help carry out the ongoing searches for the wreckage. (Picture: Kickstarter).

Now local fishermen and Deeper Dorset, a group that searches for remains of aircraft and ships, have uncovered the wreckage.

On the Deeper Dorset website, they speculated that "something wasn't quite right" with the disappearance saying it is why they got involved in the first place.

Professional diver Grahame Knott led the searches and from the information he acquired, he was able to narrow down his initial 100-square-mile search zone to five target areas in a 30-square-mile patch of sea in the English Channel.

The crew often spent 16 hours at a time at sea, scanning the seabed with their sonar equipment- a tricky fate, especially as many parts of aircraft still remain from both world wars on the seabed.

Over a nine-month period, they headed out into the Channel 21 times and, on their last scheduled search day in 2018, the team found something.

Sonar equipment alerted them to an item and a camera was lowered, revealing an aluminium object and a wheel.

"Then we spotted a wheel sticking out the sand, then a section of wing with rivets, it just got bigger and bigger," Mr Knott told the BBC.

It means Sergeant Meyer’s family might get answers to a question that has dogged them ever since – did Sergeant Meyer crash, or was the plane shot down?

The Vietnam veteran had worked as a mechanic on board planes but after he took off, military jets were scrambled to track him. It is possible they shot him down to prevent him from crashing into a populated area.  

His stepson, Henry, remembers him fondly:

"Paul was a patriot and loved his country - it seems he just loved his family more," he said.

"This may or may not find an answer to what happened, but we are so gratified and it'll give our family some closure.

"It means so much that people haven't forgotten Paul."

The team will now carry out extensive investigations to uncover the truth of the disappearance of Sgt Meyer.