I stole a Thunderbird from New Jericho early in the game and used it to carry my forces to the mission titled “The Gift” where I rescue a pilot from a Synedrion Haven. She carts us off in her Manticore and afterwards the Air to Air combat tutorial starts.
My Thunderbird was replaced with this new Manticore.
Currently it’s explained that the aircraft you arrived in is swallowed up by a sinkhole but only if you have hints enabled. Not sure if it has been patched to correct if you disabled hints yet but it is known some story information isn’t given when hints are disabled
Funny. I had the exact same disappointing experience on my first play. Really soured things right away.
Last I checked though it did give an in-game explanation once the mission started now. Good enough to just reload your autosave and switch aircraft, wasting a few days in game. Better than nothing but still pretty disappointing for those encountering it the first time. That’s this game in a nutshell though. Get F’d first time, learn, sleep through it the subsequent times.