In 1945, though, planes flying over water had to depend on knowing their starting point, how long and fast they had flown, and in what direction. If a pilot made a mistake with any of these figures, he was lost. Over the ocean there were no landmarks to set him right.
Apparently Taylor had become confused at some point in the flight. He was an experienced pilot, but hadn't spent a lot of time flying east toward the Bahamas which was where he was going on that day. For some reason Taylor apparently thought the flight had started out in the wrong direction and had headed south toward the Florida Keys, instead of east. This thought was to color his decisions throughout the rest of the flight with deadly results.
The more Taylor took his flight north to try to get out of the Keys, the further out to sea the Avengers actually traveled. As time went on, snatches of transmissions were picked up on the mainland indicating the other Flight 19 pilots were trying to get Taylor to change course. "If we would just fly west," one student told another, "we would get home." He was right.
By 4:45 P.M. it was obvious to the people on the ground that Taylor was hopelessly lost. He was urged to turn control of the flight over to one of his students, but apparently he didn't. As it grew dark, communications deteriorated. From the few words that did get through it was apparent Taylor was still flying north and east, the wrong directions.
At 5:50 P.M. the ComGulf Sea Frontier Evaluation Center managed get a fix on Flight 19's weakening signals. It was apparently east of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. By then communications were so poor that this information could not be passed to the lost planes.
At 6:20 a Dumbo Flying Boat was dispatched to try and find Flight 19 and guide it back. Within the hour two more planes, Martin Mariners, joined the search. Hope was rapidly fading for Flight 19 by then. The weather was getting rough and the Avengers were very low on fuel.
The two Martin Mariners were supposed to rendezvous at the search zone. The second one, designated Training 49, never showed up.