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Thursday, 28 June 2012

N70773 Sister Ship to N70775 (Flight 11) crash at Kansas City in 1965

On July 1st 1965 N70773, the sister aircraft to N70775 that operated Flight 11 was lost when it landed at Kansas City Downtown Airport in heavy rain and hydroplaned. It hit a blast mound at the end of the runway and ended up on airport perimeter road broken into three major pieces. Of the 66 passengers and crew aboard nobody died. However the Flight number was Flight 12 and it was operating the reverse of Flight 11 (i.e. Los Angeles-Kansas City-Chicago). This particular aircraft was delivered just before N70775 and was part of an original "batch" of Boeing 707-124s to end up at Continental.

N70775 Hijacking in El Paso, Texas in 1961

As many people know N70775 that operated Flight 11 had been hijacked the year prior and was badly damaged by FBI bullets in an attempt to stop it from being flown to Cuba as per the hijackers demands. Despite it ending well many of the hijacked passengers and crew were shaken up and not surprisingly there was a hefty bill for repair of the Boeing 707. It subsequently returned to service after Boeing and Continental engineers performed repair work. A number of bullets had pierced the fuselage and cabin floor and broken a window.

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

Duane Crawford's notes on Tom Duley, former Continental Airlines gate agent

This echoes a previous post on this blog which I shared with you all from Tim Duley. If you can recollect it was his father who was the gate agent at Chicago O'Hare Airport the night Flight 11 departed. He was the last person to see any of the passengers or crew alive on the ground (with the exception of those who saw Takehiko Nakano who of course died shortly after being pulled from the wreckage). This is another rendition of Tom Duley's account of that evening (Tom was Tim's father, Tim contacted me). It is taken from PC Happenings which is "Putnam County Happening" where Mr Duane Crawford resides and writes columns for the Unionville Republican Newspaper there in Missouri. It is as follows:

"In my last PC Happenings, I mentioned Tim Duley as being a pilot for Jet Blue Airways and coming to the Remembrance Service from California to represent his late father.  About a year ago he emailed this account of his father, Tom Duley, who was an employee for Continental Airlines for 23 years.  He wrote the following on June 13, 2011 to Tom Bolster, who was also on gate duty that night.  “Tom Duley worked the ticket counter and gates (mostly gates).  He mentioned Continental Flight 11 to me numerous times.  Here are the details.  A man (Thomas Doty) bought an insurance policy for a huge amount from one of the insurance counters in the terminal at O’Hara Airport in Chicago.
“In those days, there was no airport security.  It was like a bus terminal.  Passengers just walked to and through the gates and boarded their flights.  He told me that Flight 11’s tragedy was the reason for the increased airport security.
“He related that the insurance counters then would call the gate to tell him or other gate employees the name of the passenger buying a large insurance policy. He said that with that information they would not have allowed the passenger to board.  For some reason, the insurance counter did not call the gate that night.  The passengers (Thomas Doty and Geneva Fraley) arrived at the gate after they had already closed the flight and pulled the air-stairs (no jet-bridges in those days) away from the plane.
“But in those days, customer service was important, and though the aircraft doors were already closed, my father was required to move the air-stairs back to Flight 11 to let Doty and his friend aboard.
“Dad mentioned Captain Fred Gray many times, and he told me that he was a great pilot.  Also, he stated that after Doty was aboard the forward flight attendant gave him a cup of coffee and said, ‘Have a good night Tom!’  The door was then closed.  He was the last person to speak personally to a member of the crew.
“Dad said that the movie “Airport” was based on Flight 11; however, the real Flight 11 was a terrible tragedy.  This flight and Dad’s role weighed heavily on him for the rest of his life. 
“My father married my mother, a Continental flight attendant and former registered nurse (RN).  In those days flight attendants were forced to quit if they married or became pregnant.  She went back to nursing.
“Dad continued his career with continental and eventually became a ticket counter supervisor in Denver, Colorado.  He passed away in 2003.
“I wish my father was still alive to see the great work Unionville citizens have done to remember the crew and passengers of Flight 11.”
Ralph Boester also worked the gate at O’Hare Airport on May 22, 1962.  An employee with Hewlett-Packard, he has verified what Tom Duley had said.  He also added other interesting information, which I’ll describe at another time." 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Poem from a Denver Newspaper

The following is a poem written by Captain Richard S. Grigsby who flew for Continental Airlines at the time of the crash of Flight 11. Captain Grigsby wrote the poem and dedicated it to Captain Gray. The two were great friends apparently.

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.

The poem is as follows:

I wrote the following poem for Capt. Fred Gray (pilot of the bombed Continental airliner) on the occasion of his 50th birthday. Would you print this as a eulogy for the finest pilot to ever take the controls of an airplane?


The big jet starts to roll reluctantly,
For flight ahead is long and there is fuel
Which must be burdened, else
It cannot be.
That cunning will be victor in the duel
With Time and Space.
What power it takes to lift away from ground-
To blast such heavy burden into flight!
A thousand banshees couldn't wail the sound,
A thousand winged horses match the might of this great bird!
Her climb is rapid, now that speed is gained.
She flashes upward, forward, winning free;
But still the awful power must be sustained
To lift her into Nature's rarest sea
Far, in the sky.
At top o'climb, the battle all but won,
She settles down, her only labor just
To cruise a close companion to the sun.
Before she drops her power to "idle thrust",
Descends the other side.


Capt. Continental Air Lines

Monday, 25 June 2012

Unionville, Missouri

I just want to say that my impressions of the town of Unionville, Missouri are etched into my memory forever. I only hope to return shortly to see it and its wonderful citizens again. In 1962 this town and its people reacted with dignity, tact and swiftness to do a grim task of not only identifying and examining those who died aboard Flight 11 but also offered lodgings, hospitality and local knowledge to those who came to investigate the crash and the criminal side to it. There was a thankless task performed by high school students too; body recovery. Something that you wouldn't dream of placing on young men today was placed upon those boys over fifty years ago.

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. 

Pale Moon Restaurant, Centerville, Iowa - "Mr Six sat there"

A lady at the Pale Moon Restaurant who I believe owns or co-owns or once owned this establishment just outside of Centerville, Iowa was kind enough to pull me aside during the Friday evening that we dined there (myself with the Crawford's and several families) and point out that Mr Robert F. Six, President and CEO of Continental Airlines had dined at the restaurant FIFTY years ago following the crash of Flight 11. In fact the Pale Moon had to open its doors on a Sunday to accommodate a vast array of FBI, Crash investigators AND Continental Airlines executives who wanted hot cooked meals and a beer or two. I was utterly stunned to learn that the restaurant we were dining at had served those kind of people and was now, 50 years later, serving the relatives of those who had died in that crash. Absolutely astounding information.

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.

My experience at the crash site

It has taken me some time to muster up the emotional stamina to write about my visit to the crash site. The first one was May 25th (Friday) with the Allen and Kuhn families. The second was the Saturday following the memorial service with a large number of the families including the Gray family (Captain of Flight 11).

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

Articles via AP

There are a HOST of news web sites such as Fox, ABC, CBS, MSNBC etc who have picked up on Alan Zagier's story from the Associated Press about Flight 11's remembrance service last month. It has erupted onto search engines and media websites with intensity. I have provided a couple of links in the two previous posts but any Google News search should bring this up for you.

Missourian Article

Associated Press Nationwide Coverage Article by Alan Zagier

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Japanese Message

For those of your curious about the Japanese blog post up there it is a translation for any relatives of Takehiko Nakano. We were thinking that perhaps his family might not have any living English speakers in it and if they're ever Googling about him they will have more chance of finding this blog if that post is in Japanese.

It merely details who I am, what has happened in Unionville and the efforts subsequently in recent times.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012







Saturday, 9 June 2012

News Items, News Articles or photos

If any of the families wish to have any news items or articles or photos placed up here on this blog to do with your loved ones from Flight 11 or from the 2010 or 2012 memorial services or your own archives then please do not hesitate to contact me ( and they shall be uploaded or linked accordingly with the utmost respect.

Stella Ann Berry remembered: Memorial honors victims of 1962 plane crash : Tomah Journal

Stella Ann Berry remembered: Memorial honors victims of 1962 plane crash : Tomah Journal

Takehiko Nakano, Japanese engineer aboard Flight 11

There have been renewed calls to try to locate the family of the 27 year old Japanese engineer student who was killed aboard Flight 11. His name was Takehiko Nakano and he was the sole survivor of the crash initially before dying in a hospital in Centerville, Iowa about 90 minutes after being rescued from the main fuselage. 

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

A special thank you

I would like to say a very special thank you to Mr Duane & Kay Crawford and their family for inviting me to the USA to attend the 50th anniversary memorial and for getting the memorial there in the town square. Other particular thanks to Maribeth Dehaven for her efforts and to those locals who have never forgotten flight 11. Also to Ron Cook of Unionville. This is the man who found the wreckage of Flight 11 in the wee-small hours of 23rd May 1962 and who showed so much compassion to the families of those who came for the 50th memorial service. He also shared with me a great deal of local history which was utterly fascinating. He will leave a lasting impression on me. I am deeply grateful to the families who could make it to Unionville too; I was deeply touched by what I was privvy to during that weekend and I shan't forget our fleeting meetings for the rest of my life. You folks have been through so much and it was just a nice way of seeing those who had seen this blog and given flight 11 the remembrance it so deserves. For a New Zealand based aviation blogger it truly has been a remarkable twist of events that finally led me to flight 11 and Unionville. I will continue to closely monitor events connected to Flight 11 and will continue to stay in touch. In regards to the blog it will be updated as necessary. I can be contacted at

Sunday, 3 June 2012

June 16th, 1959

For anyone interested N70775, the accident aircraft that operated Flight 11 was manufactured on June 16th 1959 (the day it rolled off the final assembly line).

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.

Civil Aeronautics Board Accident Report. Released 1st August, 1962

Tree at Crash Site

One of the Flight 11 families wishes to place a tree at the crash site to honour those who were lost that night in 1962; I think this is an excellent idea and I'd be delighted to hear more about this as plans progress for it.

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

Twists and turns of flight 11

Over the years I've had this blog I have come across some unusual details regarding flight 11. Some of you may know them,others not.
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, who was travelling with Doty. 
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

Speech from 50th anniversary memorial service

Here is the speech I delivered at the 50th anniversary memorial service in Unionville, MO on 26th May

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen

I stand here before you today in somewhat of an unprepared state. Certainly not for lack of words or of being in the United States of America, but for actually finding myself here, in Unionville, just a tad over 50 years since the crash of a Boeing 707 operating as Continental Airlines Flight 11 from Chicago to Kansas City.
I am unprepared also because I had no idea that I should make such a huge impact upon something that was so far removed from my part of the world and from what I had expected.
I am, to put it bluntly, an aviation enthusiast; someone who loves the smell, sight and sound of aircraft. During the late 1990s I had been given a one-hundred dollar coffee-table book about flying in the 1960s; the golden age of the jet-era. In it were dozens of photos of the Boeing 707 jetliner. It was and remains my favourite aircraft type.
I wanted to know more about Continental’s “Golden Jets”; the 707s that flew domestic routes for what was then one of America’s most prestigious and well-managed airlines. It was while surfing the internet for a school project in the early 2000s that I came across a typewritten Civil Aeronautics Board report on the sabotage of Flight 11.
I pondered over this report for the next few years or so, mystified by a lack of anything else about it. Then my research led to a startling fact; this was the first ever sabotage of a jetliner on American soil. I became further intrigued by the sketchiness of the details and the absolute lack of information. I was curious about Unionville and what had happened to it since it made headlines in 1962, twenty-four years before I was born.
There appeared, for one reason or another, to be more to find out about Flight 11 and a 60s-era typewritten accident report wasn’t enough. It soon became clear that there was no memorial to the crash despite its overwhelming historical significance and the tragic details of how it happened.
Now virtually every plane crash in the States has some kind of memorial; right back to the early days of aviation. I wondered what had happened to the families of the passengers and crew who were aboard that night; where were they now and why had this crash been so utterly forgotten. It seemed like a bad dream to me that nothing had been done to represent Flight 11’s passing over rural Missouri 50 years ago as it came to an untimely, unnecessary and callously planned end near where we stand today.
In 2007, hoping to find out further information as to what had happened I put up a blog about the crash. I had not even expected a single post or reply, thinking perhaps that most folks had forgotten. When emails and posts on the blog started coming in I was initially stunned. Then in 2008 when Duane Crawford contacted me about the push for a memorial I started to realize I had come across something much more poignant than a mere plane crash.
What had been initially an historical inquiry became a close connection with Flight 11 as I continued to hear from countless people connected with the flight in some way; people who had lost someone who was aboard, those who had seen the destruction first-hand and those who were here to offer support in the aftermath of May 22nd.
The push for a memorial and recognition of what happened here 50 years ago finally came to fruition in 2010. It has brought together a community of townsfolk and a wider community of those who have had to live with the grief of losing their loved ones aboard Flight 11. For those who worked at Continental at the time it weighed heavily on their minds too.  
When Captain Gray and his crew and the passengers in their care boarded Flight 11 on what I’m sure must have seemed an ordinary May night, nobody could have foreseen the terror and catastrophe that was to occur aboard a short time later. In fact 45 minutes after takeoff from Chicago, a lifetime of total disbelief for the people of this community and a lifetime of loss and grief for the relatives of those aboard, had begun.
Those expecting to see their loved ones at the airport or at home later that night never had that right; it was taken from then by the act of one man.   
Unionville never asked for what happened here 50 years ago but rose to the occasion and has chosen to honour that with this memorial and the efforts put into this anniversary.  
I had never dreamed that my blog would assist in seeing a memorial come about and in re-igniting awareness of Flight 11.
This is all about the families now though folks; not the blog or the historical importance; families come first and need to be recognized for what they have endured since their lives were irreversibly interrupted at approximately 9:17pm on May 22nd, 1962.  
I only hope that I have given the families some sort of a voice to say that you haven’t been forgotten, that people still care, that what happened here will never be forgotten.  

KOMU Columbia item


If any families wish for photos to be added or removed please email me directly @ If you have photos you'd like put up on the blog I'd be happy to do that as my internet is now working again.

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.

KTVO 50th memorial coverage

Putnam County Historical Society Flight 11 wreckage

More families of Flight 11, 50th anniversary memorial.

The Horn Family with me in the middle

 The Gray Family with myself and Duane Crawford

The Hamilton Family with myself

Mrs Ruth Lang (Gach) with myself

Ron Cook (who found the crash site) and Duane Crawford (who without we would never have achieved so much to do with Flight 11). And there's a very jet-lagged tired me in the middle

The Crash Site of Continental Airlines Flight 11

The entrance to the field

An old barn along the way to the crash site

Leading down along the road to the crash site

Leading down along the road to the crash site

The crash site. The small light-green bush right of centre marks the spot where the cockpit of the 707 began and the fuselage stretched back towards us and to the right in the picture.

The crash site. 

Allen family & the man in the middle with light blue jeans on is Ron Cook who was 17 when he and his Father came across the crash site in the early hours of the morning of the 23rd May 1962. Ron remembers it as if it were yesterday. 

Press and families

To the left-hand side of the crash site. The gentleman in the picture is Duane Crawford, local historian. 

The Press

Families at the site. 

The tree-line to the left of the site where many parked their cars in 1962. A road continues past this line to Lake Thunderhead (man-made and not there in 1962). It was this road that reporters, curio-seekers and initial assistance came through)

More of the tree line

Road leading up to the track to the crash site. 

Road leading up to the track to the crash site.

Entrance to crash site track

From Lake Thunderhead looking back up towards the crash site. The site now sits on a sort of peninsula between two fingers of the lake. See crash co-ordinates post and google earth to see what I mean here. 

Treeline of crash site visible to the right of the picture extending back up the hill. 

Treeline of crash site visible to the right of the picture extending back up the hill. 

Just over this brow was the nose of the crashed 707 followed by the rest of the main fuselage minus the tail section which was found in pieces near Cincinnati, Iowa. 

Flight 11 50th anniversary memorial service. Unionville, Missouri

Allen Family (second officer/flight engineer)

Mrs J Horn (passenger widow)

Gray Family member (Captain)

 Allen Family member (second officer/flight engineer)

 Allen Family member (second officer/flight engineer)

Daughter of Robert C. Gach (passenger) 

Maureen Riordan (Hamilton) (passenger)

Berry/Grene family members (Stewardess/passenger) 

 Berry/Grene family members (Stewardess/passenger) 

The Berry Family (stewardess)

 The Berry Family (stewardess)

Horn Family (passenger)