Boston natives and best friends Dan Futrell and Isaac Stoner always shared an interest in missing planes and uninvestigated plane crashes. Eventually, this fascination blossomed into a plan to see if they could actually locate the black box recordings from a notable crashed flight themselves.

The pair decided to take a trip to Bolivia in an attempt to recover the flight recording from Eastern Airlines Flight 980, which crashed in 1985. They knew it would be tough, but they were determined to make it work.

Two friends from Boston, Isaac Stoner and Dan Futrell, had long been fascinated with missing planes when they dreamt up a plan to recover a black box recording from a notable uninvestigated plane crash.

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After consulting Wikipedia and Google Maps, they determined that they could probably realistically hike the 20,000 foot summit of Bolivia’s Mount Illimani to try and recover the black box from Eastern Airlines flight 980, which crashed in 1985 en route from Paraguay to Florida.

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The pair spent a number of months training in Boston (where the elevation is only 19 feet above sea level) by sleeping in a Hypoxico altitude simulating tent. Once they were convinced they could handle to oxygen levels on the mountain, they finalized their plans to travel to Bolivia.

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Soon after they arrived to Bolivia, they began to hike Mt. Illimani, and spent the first night just past the tree line. Dan and Isaac wanted to be well rested when they took on the snowy, icier parts of the peak.

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Even before they had climbed very high, they began to find pieces of the airplane’s debris that had been washed down the mountainside by runoff from the melting snow.

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As they climbed higher, the pieces of debris the pair encountered got bigger, and they knew they were on the right track.

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Because Isaac and Dan were the first people to truly investigate the crash, they were also the first people to come across remains of some of the 29 passengers who died on board. They ended up digging six shallow graves in total and marked the GPS coordinates of each.

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As they climbed further up the mountain, they entered the peak’s icier terrain and their journey slowed down considerably. They wanted to make sure they did this part as safely as possible, rather than as quickly as possible.

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In the various cracks and craters in the ice and snow, the pair continued to find debris from the plane crash, and they realized that they had to focus their efforts on locating the elusive black box, which would hopefully contain the plane’s recording device.

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Eventually they spotted some orange metal (modern day black boxes are actually orange instead of black so that they’re easier to locate in the event of a crash) as well as what appeared to be magnetic tape. They were convinced they’d finally found it! 

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The black box was in several pieces and they spent a long time gathering and examining each of them. The wires attached to one of the pieces of metal confirmed that they had in fact located the plane’s voice recorder, which they hoped would shed light on the decades-old crash.

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Having gotten what they came for, Dan and Isaac climbed back down the mountain and returned to Boston. However, when they tried to give the black box the National Transportation Safety Board, they were informed that they’d violated international law and the government would need Bolivia’s consent before examining the device!

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Having hit this stumbling block, the friends decided to share their story on the popular internet aggregation site Reddit, and soon after they did, actual news programs began to pick up the story and request interviews with Isaac and Dan.

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The increased attention for the crash and their story actually helped expedite the process with the NTSB and the Bolivian government. A few months after their initial inquiries, the friends were informed that the U.S. authorities had gotten clearance to examine the black box.

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Isaac and Dan officially handed over all the remnants of the black box to the NTSB, and an attempt to recover data from the device will soon be made. Because of these two friends’ enthusiastic interest, we soon might finally discover what happened when Eastern 980 crashed that day back in 1985.

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Not everyone could turn a passionate interest into such a remarkable journey like that! Hopefully, Dan and Issac’s work pays off, and we learn more about why the plane crashed.

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