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There are plenty of stories of phantom trains, phantom boats and phantom cars.  But one of the most remarkable sights to see must a phantom plane, especially when the plane is question isn’t one normally gracing our skies often.  Such is the case of the phantom bomber seen over Derbyshire and a new series of reports have been reported in the local newspaper, the Derby Telegraph.


The trigger for the new series of reports came from a local couple called Richard and Helen.  The two were in their car near Rowsley around 2:30 on the afternoon of August 3rd.  Richard, a 52-year-old business advisor, said he saw a plane that looked like a Lancaster bomber flying so low that it seemed as if it would crash.  He had his car window open and the plane looked close enough to touch but there was no sound at all.  The couple braced themselves for the inevitable explosion but nothing was heard.

B-24 Liberator

B-24 Liberator – By Camera Operator: MIKE HAGGERTY [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Another sighting came from a witness who knew what he was seeing.  George Furnace is 88 and lives in the St Mary’s Nursing Home in Ednaston.  He spent three years as RAF ground crew and knew what he saw when he looked from his bedroom window.  He heard a deafening noise but no-one else seemed to hear it.  The plane flew very low, as it was inevitable that it was going to crash.  George was of the opinion that it was a Liberator, rather than a Lancaster.  This was an American-made plane with four props used during WWII by the RAF.  One is still on show in RAF Hendon’s museum.

Finally, golfer Richard Burley from Mickleover also reported to the newspaper that he had seen the plane fly low over the county.  He had been travelling along the A52 from Buxton to Derby at around 3pm that afternoon.  He saw the plane travelling south-west in the sky over Brailsford at a very low altitude.  In his opinion it was like a Lancaster but smaller, had camouflage colouring and an antennae at the front.

Previous sightings

Sightings of the phantom plane date back to at least the mid-1990s.  In April 1995, a retired postman was shocked when a plane blocked out the sun by flying 40-60 feet above his head yet could hear no sound.  He could see the propellers running but heard no sound and it vanished into a field.

The Dakota (UK) or Skytrain (US)

The Dakota (UK) or Skytrain (US) – By Adrian Pingstone (Arpingstone) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The plane or planes are seen as far north as Sheffield and all around the Peak District.  One report went straight to the police because the witnesses were so sure that a plane had crashed.  In March 1997, the plane appeared to crash over moorland near Longdendale Valley and over 100 volunteers and police searched the area, but never found a trace.  The area itself is said to be the haunt of a pilot from either a crashed Dakota transport or an F-13 that crashed in 1946.

Finally, a sighting on the Sheffield Road, Hathersage saw two witnesses see the aircraft appear before them.  It was gaining height then vanished and as the witnesses drove along, they searched for it.  Worried it had crashed into the field, they looked but found no trace.  One of the witnesses said he thought it was a WWII Dakota plane in a khaki green colour.  Checking with people in the village resulted in no-one having heard the plane and this made the witnesses realise that they too had heard no sound.


There have been plane crashes in the area that could account for the phantom plane due to its importance in the World War II period.  One such crash was of a B29 bomber in 1945 where a Captain Landon T Tranner and his crew perished.  Another one, this time a Royal Canadian Lancaster, saw the death of its crew when it crashed into Bleaklow Hill and both a Superfortress and a Dakota are both listed as having crashed into the area.  As recently as 1993, a private Hawker Hunter crashed into Broomhead Moor during a storm.

Ladybower Reservoir is another hotspot for plane crashes due to its prominence as a bomber testing ground during the war.  A Lancaster crashed here in a training flight in 1945, killing six crew and another, a Dakota, crashed here in July of the same year killing eight.  The area itself has reports of the phantom bomber overhead as well as phantom balls of fire, as if from the resulting crashes.

By Bzuk (here) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Some say that the planes fly because the ghostly crew’s bodies were never recovered and cannot rest.  For others, perhaps their dedication to their cause was so strong that they continued to serve even after death and patrol our skies today, seeking out danger and protecting us.