Thursday, 28 June 2012
Here is a front page article sent to me by Jayne Specht from Oskaloosa. She is a wealth of knowledge on aviation matters during the 1960s as she worked in the industry. She also has many newspaper clippings and articles from the decade and she sent me this one. I have had to scan it through in two parts but it briefly outlines the hijacking (not the complete article I'm afraid) and also shows a picture of N70775 pre its tragic destruction less than year later. Apologies for the poor quality in advance.
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
We're not sure what newspaper it came from specifically but it certainly is a Denver paper. A trillion thanks to Phyllis Jane Specht for sending this to me and bringing it to Duane's attention.
Monday, 25 June 2012
I remember walking into the Hyvee Store in Unionville and speaking to a young man there called Gus Richardson whose mouth dropped open when he heard my New Zealand accent (it must have sounded alien I'm sure to this young man); we talked briefly. I had a strange feeling that this young man, a citizen of Unionville, would no doubt react in the same way his ancestors had if Flight 11 happened all over again tomorrow. That's the kind of people Unionville has from what I saw...plain decent folk.
At any rate a really memorable town that I'm sure hasn't changed a heck of a lot since those dark days of May 1962.
Robert F. Six was in Paris, France when he heard of the crash of Flight 11. He and wife Audrey Meadows immediately headed to Unionville to be at the scene of the crash and to assist in any way possible. Captain Gray was one of Robert Six's favourite and longest-serving pilots. It was rumoured that Mr Six has travelled to the crash site just to see that Captain Gray wasn't blamed for the disaster in any way.
In fact Mr Six was often bugged by Flight 11 for many years after it happened; Continental was like a big family back in 1962 and it was a sudden and awful loss for all who worked for the airline.
The first Friday I was a bit jetlagged and bewildered to be in the USA; the heat was intense as I had just left winter in New Zealand. After meeting the Allen's and Kuhn's at Duane Crawford's beautiful home in Unionville I climbed into Ron Cook's truck (he is the gentleman who found the wreckage of N70775 the morning following its untimely plunge to earth) and we headed out along the UU highway before veering left onto a much smaller road before coming upon a farmhouse with children playing in the front yard. Opposite the house was a chained up rust-coloured gate; an ancient weather-worn barn stood to the right at a little distance off.
We slowly drove down a track into the field that seemed to go for miles. And then we came to a line of trees (after being jolted to the ceiling by the ruts in the road). That is the "infamous" tree line that can be seen in some of the pictures to do with Flight 11. Just to the north of that treeline was where Flight 11and its passengers and crew had come to their final resting place.
I hopped out of the tuck into long grass. I was told to look out for ticks as they bite and burrow into your skin and cause infection and death eventually if not treated quickly. My mouth must have dropped open a fair bit as we don't have anything poisonous in New Zealand really.
And then Ronnie Cook with tears in his eyes explained to the Kuhn and Allen family and myself (with Duane Crawford present) what he had seen in the early hours of May 23rd 1962 as he came upon the huge badly broken (yet still integrally intact) fuselage of the Boeing 707 that had had 45 souls aboard.
I stood there with a completely unusual feeling of peace, of serenity. The field where Flight 11 crashed was as calm and peaceful as a mill pond. Only a few birds sung here and there and a warm breeze rustled the long grass.
We all walked down to near a bright green bush where the cockpit section of Flight 11 has lain 50 years ago. I stood there going through a roller coaster of emotions. I felt a bit guilty; I hadn't lost anyone on this flight but of course I am as connected to it as anyone else really.
The field itself is long grass and the crash site has been overgrown by blackberry bushes and a single bright green bush. The grass is coarse and full of ticks and bugs. At the actual spot I could just imagine in my head what it must have been like for Ron Cook to come across that 707; for the investigators in their 1960s suits and thick-rimmed glasses; for the FBI men with their slick suits and Ford Thunderbird keys clenched in their sweaty palms; wondering what the heck had happened here; for the many young men who carried bodies from what had been the pristine cocktail-evening style cabin of N70775; the grim and curious faces of locals perched on the bank opposite the plane; the press who had gathered like storm clouds; the police and local law enforcement who had a gargantuan task on their hands.
Finally I was at the place where 50 years ago 45 people lost their lives. I was as close as I will ever get in my life to the spot that has so fascinated me; the flight that caught my attention and lead to this blog, the flight that bugged me from the early 2000s till now. In my own life I felt no peace till this moment standing on the crash site. It was as if I had completed a journey, not so much for myself, but for those who had lost their lives in what was America's first-ever sabotage of a jetliner on a commercial flight; the time when America lost her aviation innocence during the golden years of the jet age.
Sunday, 24 June 2012
Wednesday, 20 June 2012
It merely details who I am, what has happened in Unionville and the efforts subsequently in recent times.
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Sunday, 10 June 2012
Saturday, 9 June 2012
I feel that as he was the only non-American on board Flight 11 that his family would especially like to see the place where their relative died and also the town that cared for the victims and their families in the aftermath of the crash. I think they deserve to know the efforts that have been put into the memorial and 50th anniversary service, not to mention this blog.
I shall have this message translated into Japanese as well in case the family are only Japanese-speaking people now residing back in Japan.
There is a splendid book about the history of Continental Airlines under the leadership of Robert F. Six. The title is Maverick and the author is Robert J. Serling. It makes for a very entertaining read and gives us an insight into Continental in the 1960s. It is sadly out of print but Amazon has second hand copies.
Thursday, 7 June 2012
Sunday, 3 June 2012
Just a small point of interest for those who may have been curious.
It had over 11,000 hours on the clock when it crashed making it (in 3 years) a reasonably hard-worked aeroplane at the time.
Perhaps a tree that Missouri is famous for? Or something to do with Washington State where the Boeing 707 was made? It's up to the families to decide and I'm sure whatever is chosen will be more than fitting for the site.
Saturday, 2 June 2012
1) a baby and its mother got off the plane as the baby needed changing.
2) the stairs were placed back into the plane to allow two late passengers to board; Doty and Fraley.
3) Stella Berry wasn't meant to be crew on the flight. She replaced a sick friend of hers who had to go off duty.
4) the 707, N70775, had been hijacked previously and shot at. Damage was patched over I believe from a previous accident report detailing the hijacking at El Paso,TX.
5) second officer Roger Allen's mother was born in the area the plane came down in.
6) a gentleman just missed the flight.
7) flight 11 just missed ploughing into two houses.
8) one of the deceased passengers' sister used to play cards with Mrs Fraley, the bomber's girlfriend.
9) there had been thunderstorms in the area which led people to initially suspect that flight 11 may have flown into a tornado.
10) the crew were found with oxygen masks on, emergency checklists out, landing gear down and locked indicating an emergency descent was initiated. The crew would not have had time to issue a mayday I believe as they had their hands full from the moment of the explosion. Some of the flight attendants were also found strapped in which would indicate they were well aware of the initial explosion and emergency descent and had instinctively gone to their crew seats.
11) The FBI investigator was W. Mark Felt, who later went on to become the whistleblower for the infamous Watergate scandal involving President Richard F. Nixon.
Friday, 1 June 2012
Also if you do feel there's something you don't want up there I'd be more than happy to take it down and I would respect your wishes naturally.