Vintage private jet flying over forest, symbolizing the 1971 disappearance mystery solved after 53 years.

Mystery of 1971 Private Jet Disappearance Solved After 53 Years

The mystery of a private jet that vanished on a cold, snowy night in 1971 with five people on board has finally been solved. The wreckage was discovered at the bottom of Lake Champlain, bringing closure to the families of the victims after more than five decades of uncertainty.

Key Takeaways

  • A private jet carrying five people disappeared on January 27, 1971, after taking off from Burlington International Airport.
  • The wreckage was found at the bottom of Lake Champlain by Garry Kozak and his team.
  • The discovery brings closure to the families of the victims, who had been searching for answers for over 50 years.

The Disappearance

On January 27, 1971, a private jet took off from Burlington International Airport in Vermont, bound for Providence, Rhode Island. The plane was carrying two crew members and three employees from Cousin’s Properties, an Atlanta-based development company. The passengers were George Nikita, Donald Myers, Frank Wilder, Richard Kirby Windsor, and Robert Ransom Williams III. Shortly after takeoff, the jet vanished, and despite multiple searches, no trace of the aircraft or its occupants was found.

The Discovery

The breakthrough came when Garry Kozak, an expert in underwater searches, located the wreckage at the bottom of Lake Champlain, near Juniper Island. Kozak and his team used remote-operated vehicles and high-resolution imaging technology to identify the remains of the 10-seat Jet Commander aircraft. The discovery included a broken fuselage, an instrument panel, wing structures, and an engine, all matching the description of the missing plane.

The Search Efforts

Kozak had been searching for the plane for years, analyzing previous scans of the lake and looking for odd shapes underwater. His persistence paid off over Memorial Day weekend when he finally located the wreckage. The news was withheld until the families of the victims were informed. Kozak credited his team and the contributions of many others over the years for the successful discovery.

Family Reactions

The discovery has brought a mix of emotions to the families of the victims. Kristina Coffey, the daughter of pilot George Nikita, expressed relief and gratitude. Frank Wilder’s son, also named Frank Wilder, shared similar sentiments, feeling both shock and disbelief. Barbara Nikita, the niece and goddaughter of George, described the discovery as a source of closure, despite the emotional turmoil it has caused.

Next Steps

The exact location of the wreckage will remain confidential to protect the site. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating to confirm the identity of the plane. The families are now considering holding a memorial to honor their loved ones. The question of whether to salvage the aircraft remains undecided, as it would require significant resources.

The discovery of the long-lost jet not only solves a decades-old mystery but also provides a sense of peace to the families who have waited so long for answers.


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