Thursday, December 31, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Ricky Nelson, December 31, 1985

Ricky Nelson managed the unthinkable in popular culture.  A Fifties teen icon, he survived the changing tastes of viewers and music listeners to return to musical respectability.  Ricky had stared  on radio and television in his family’s popular comedy “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett;” simultaneously moved into recording, becoming one of the top pop music recorders of the late 1950s and early 1960s; then moved into major motion pictures, costarring with John Wayne and Dean Martin.  His recording career languished as tastes changed, though he staged one last Top Ten charge with the critically-well received “Garden Party” in 1972.  His career fell into obscurity throughout the 1970s, but started to rebound with a renewed interest in the rockabilly sound in the mid-1980s.

Roma Eco-Ethno Workshop Studio: Clothing and Tradition With A Purpose

This isn’t in my ordinary line of posts. But, I wake up every day 'Abu al Banat' -- I am the father of daughters -- and so I do pay attention to clothes.  My daughter Cassidy did a successful fashion project a few years back to raise money for autism awareness.   So, when I came across an interesting project in the context of one of my colleague’s work on the Roma, and it involved both making public goods and fashion, I wanted to share.

Often marginalized groups are viewed as just the subject of handouts, but it can be a really great project to see them leveraging their traditions to help themselves. This is an example of that in the context of the Roma; a Slovenian Roma community has come up with Amulet, a project about sustainable fashion using Roma traditions (what they call a “Roma eco-ethno workshop studio”). The group reuses and recycles materials, and members of vulnerable groups (principally Roma) produce the clothing and accessories. The inclusive workshop studio offers job opportunities for members of the Roma community as well as other members of society and provides a multicultural work environment, and is supported by grants from EEA/Norway. If you’re intrigued, they’ve got more details here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Roberto Clemente, December 31, 1972

Roberto Clemente’s Hall of Fame career with the Pittsburgh Pirates spanned 18 seasons.  Starting in right field for most of his career, Clemente hit .317 and had 3,000 hits with 240 homeruns and twelve Gold Gloves for defensive play.  He was also named MVP by the sportswriters in 1966 and played for two World Series champions (1960 and 1971). 
            Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico, also had a philanthropic heart, and it was that heart that had him riding in a Douglas DC-7CF bound for Managua, Nicaragua.  Managua was at the epicenter of a magnitude 6.2 earthquake on December 23, 1972, which killed 5,000 and also left over 60% of the 400,000 residents of the city homeless.    Clemente had been in Managua at the beginning of December, and the baseball star had organized three previous relief flights since December 23.  This one was the fourth.

Friday, December 25, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Quentin Roosevelt, July 14 1918

Quentin Roosevelt was the fourth and youngest son of President Theodore Roosevelt.  The Roosevelts were a modern celebrity family, the first First Family to occupy the White House amidst the pop of flashbulbs and the turning of newsreels.  They were made a larger-than-life, vigorous family because of the larger-than-life image of the pater familias, who had charged San Juan Hill, tamed crime in New York, built a Navy and learned to wrestle wolves (all before he was forty).  
Born during his father’s meteoric rise in American politics – from the time of his birth until his fourth birthday, TR would be Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Colonel of US Volunteers (the Rough Riders), Governor of New York, Vice President, and President of the United States – young Quentin literally grew up in the White House.  In 1915 Quentin joined a voluntary officer-training program organized by TR’s longtime friend Major-General Leonard Wood (the program was the forerunner of the modern ROTC). Quentin took aviation training and in 1917, with the organization of the AEF, dropped out of Harvard and along with his brothers Teddy and Archie, went to Europe and the Great War. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Paul Jeffreys, December 21, 1988

Paul Jeffreys was the original bassist for Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, the English progressive rock band from out of London.  Though often overshadowed by the media-annoying behavior of Harley, Cockney Rebel was one of the defining progressive sounds coming out of the 1970s.  In addition to playing with Cockney Rebel, Paul also played for several other progressive sound groups including Be Bop Delux, Chartreuse, Electric Eels, and The One Pacific. Paul had joined with Adrian Large to form The One Pacific in 1984, as much to satisfy what Large termed “mutual therapy” as anything else. 
            Jeffreys and his wife Rachel Jones were both on  Pan Am Flight 103, flying from Heathrow in London to JFK International in New York.  The flight, also named “Clipper Maid of the Seas” was a first-generation Boeing 747 carrying 243 passengers and 16 crew.  The craft took off from Heathrow at 1804 hours GMT (6:04 PM).  Approximate 57 minutes into the flight, a suitcase bomb that had been smuggled into the craft through the luggage transfer system detonated.  The plane, passing over Lockerbie, Scotland, crashed to earth killing all 259 persons on board plus eleven persons on the ground in Lockerbie.  Responsibility for the attack was ascribed to Libyan terrorists, with separate claims being initially made by  the “Guardians of the Islamic Revolution” and by a group calling itself “Islamic Jihad.” 

Friday, December 18, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Two Pioneers from 1912

April 3 1912: Calbraith Perry Rodgers 
Cal Rodgers was the first person to buy a private airplane and the first American to make a transcontinental flight across North America, from September 17-November 5 1911.  Rodgers was competing for a $50,000 prize offered by yellow journalist publisher William Randolph Hearst for the first transcontinental flight in under 30 days. 
            Rodgers had purchased a Wright EX biplane, A smaller version of the Wright “B” which was the first Wright craft that resembled “conventional” craft –short nose, long tail, and bearing a passing resemblance to the Curtiss JN “Jenny,” though the Wright EX was still a “pusher” with the prop mounted behind the wings.  Arriving in Pasadena at the end of his transcontinental flight, Rodgers and his spouse decided to stay in southern California. 
            On April 3, 1912, Rodgers was flying his second craft—a Wright “B” – when he flew into a flock of seagulls. The birds so fouled the controls that Rodgers could not regain control and he crashed in the surf just short of his landing destination – oddly enough, where he had landed to complete his transcontinental flight.  Cal Wright was the first aviator killed by a bird.

July 1, 1912Harriet Quimby, Woman of Speed and Daring
Well, 1912 was a bad year for aviation pioneers in the U.S. On July 1, Harriet Quimby died in a plane.  She was the first American woman to be licensed as a pilot.  She was also a noted author and screenplay writer. Two weeks after Cal Rodgers’ death, on April 16, Quimby had became the first woman to fly solo across the English Channel.  In July, along with aviator William Willard, she was flying in an air show near Boston, over Dorchester Bay. The two fell out of their Blériot biplane and tumbled 1,000 feet to their death, which is an aviation mishap but not a plane crash. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Glenn Miller, December 15, 1944

Glenn Miller was the greatest and most innovative arranger and composer of the Swing Era, inventing the popular “big band” and popularizing such enduring standards as “Pennsylvania 6-500,” “Moonlight Serenade,” and “In the Mood,”  among his many hits.  Miller also was awarded the first-ever “Gold Record” for outstanding sales, from RCA for the 1942 hit “Chattanooga Choo-Choo.”    Glenn Miller was lost while flying over the English Channel to join up with his Army Air Force Band in Paris, to perform for troops stationed in the recently liberated city. The plane he was traveling in was UC-64A Noorduyn Norseman, a bush plane usually equipped with floats, designed to take off and land on unimproved surfaces.  After leaving the RAF base at Twinwood Farm in Bedfordshire, the plane disappeared over the English Channel.  Rumors persist as to the source of his demise, but a popular theory holds that returning British night bombers, following the convention of emptying their bomb bays over the Channel on the return flight from Germany, dropped their bombs on his plane.  Miller, his pilot and the aircraft were never recovered. Noted actor and World War II bomber pilot Jimmy Stewart portrayed Miller in the semibiographical film The Glenn Miller Story.

Monday, December 14, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Steve Kaplan, December 14 2003

Steve Kaplan rings in the ears of hundreds of millions of people around the world.  Kaplan composed the music for Wheel of Fortune and the remake of Jeopardy! that went on the air in 1984.   He also worked as a composer on numerous motion pictures and was a member of the progressive/new age rock group Zazan.  On December 14 2003, Kaplan was flying to Rancho Cucamonga to rehearse a winter concert with a high school jazz ensemble.  Kaplan was an experienced flyer with 600 hours in the air and he was instrument rated for his craft, the Cessna 421C.  His instrument-aided effort to land at Cable Airport in Upand, California, resulted in a fatal collision with a house.  According to the NTSB factual report of the accident, Kaplan had attempted an initial landing, come back around, and then
attempted a second landing when he crashed into a residence.  Despite the assertion at a memorial website to Kaplan that a structural failure of a propeller contributed to the accident, the NTSB factual and probable cause reports give no indication of structural or mechanical failure.  The official report instead reports “pilot disorientation” in the overcast skies that day:

The airplane impacted a residence during a missed approach. After completing the en route portion of the instrument flight, a controller cleared the pilot to proceed direct to the initial approach fix for the global positioning satellite (GPS) approach to the airport. After being cleared for the approach, the airplane continued on a course to the east and at altitudes consistent with flying the GPS published approach procedure. Radar data indicated that at the missed approach point at the minimum descent altitude of 2,000 feet msl, the airplane made a turn to the left, changing course in a northerly direction toward rapidly rising mountainous terrain. The published missed approach specified a climbing right turn to 4,000 feet, and noted that circling north of the airport was not allowed. Remaining in a slight left turn, the airplane climbed to 3,300 feet msl over the duration of 1 minute 9 seconds. The controller advised the pilot that he was flying off course toward mountainous terrain and instructed him to make an immediate left turn heading in a southbound direction. The airplane descended to 3,200 feet msl and made a left turn in a southerly direction. The airplane continued to descend to 2,100 feet msl and the pilot read back the instructions that the controller gave him. The airplane then climbed to 3,300 feet, with an indicated ground speed of 35 knots, and began a sharp left turn. It then descended to impact with a house. At no time during the approach did the pilot indicate that he was experiencing difficulty navigating or request assistance. An examination of the airplane revealed no evidence a mechanical malfunction or failures prior to impact; however, both the cockpit and instrument panel sustained severe thermal damage, precluding any detailed examinations.

Friday, December 11, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: The University of Evansville Basketball Team, December 13 1977

You must understand that the plane crash was more than just a horrible snuffing out of a large number of young lives. The university basketball team had great meaning for the whole Evansville community—the city even more than the school. When the Aces won the first of their five NCAA Division II titles in 1959, Evansville was in an economic and spiritual depression, and anybody will tell you that the city's resurgence began then. Soon, the social fabric of the town revolved about the Aces' schedule and fortunes.  Frank Deford, 1978

Evansville, Indiana, is a small, proud industrial river city with a troubled economic history.  Down the Ohio River from Louisville and Cincinnati, Evansville’s economic woes started with ongoing recession in the 1950s.  But there had always been one bright light – University of Evansville basketball. As Time Magazine would later recount, “The Purple Aces were the pride and passion of Evansville, Ind. Home games were often sold out. Season tickets to the best seats were so hard to come by that diehard fans fought over them in divorce settlements, and for good reason.” A division II powerhouse, Evansville had dominated men’s hoops in the division winning five national titles (1959, 1960, 1964, 1965, and 1971) in thirteen seasons from 1959 to 1971.  Legendary head coach Arad McCutchan coached Evansville from 1946-1977, winning 514 games and claiming fourteen Indiana State conference titles.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Memphis State's Rex Dockery, December 12, 1983

“Rex Dockery, offensive coordinator Chris Faros, defensive back Charles Greenhill and pilot Glenn Jones were all killed in a plane crash in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., en route to an all-star banquet. It was the darkest moment in Tiger football annals.” 

Dockery, coming off a successful season, was going to speak at an all-star banquet.  Accompanied by Faros and Greenhill and Tigers’ booster Glenn Jones, Dockery flew in Jones’ plane to Lawrenceburg.

Monday, December 7, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Otis Redding and the Bar-Keys, December 10 1967

Otis Redding and the Bar-Keys were taking a daytime flight, headed for Madison, Wisconsin for a performance.  The “King of Soul Singers” and the Bar-Keys were traveling from Cleveland to Madison, the next stop on his winter tour. The aircraft, a Beech H18, carried a pilot and six passengers.  Pilot Richard Frasier of Macon was a 26 year old flight instructor with about 1,300 hours of total flying experience, including 118 hours in the Beech. In addition to Redding, thje crash killed his manager and four of the five members of the Bar-Keys: Jimmy King, 18, Ronnie Caldwell, 18, Phalon Jones, 18, and Carl Cunningham, 17. 
At about 3:30PM, while on final approach, the aircraft crashed into Lake Monona, three miles short of the airport. Weather conditions were foggy.   Of the seven persons on

Friday, November 27, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Iowa State Women’s Cross Country, November 27, 1985

The Iowa State University’s women's cross-country suffered a tragic blow when several team members perished when their flight crashed returning home in Des Moines, Iowa. Reports and eye witnesses recounted the plane clipped the top of tree and began to rip apart before bursting into flames and landing in a residential neighborhood in western Des Moines. All seven bodies on board were recovered which included four team members, a coach, a trainer and the pilot.
The flight was one of three returning from the NCAA national championship meet in Milwaukee where the team finished in second place.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Patsy Cline, March 5, 1963

Rollercoaster” does not come near enough to describing the life of legendary singer Patsy Cline. Growing up in poverty, reaching fame and fortune in her twenties, near bankrupt before the age of 30 only to have her career revitalized and on top the music world when it came to a sudden end in the eastern woods of Tennessee.

Cline grew up in Virginia and had to leave school at the age of 15 to help support her family when her father abandoned the family. She sang where ever she could, whether it was a local talent show or a high school dance.

It looked like Cline finally achieved success in 1957 after appearing on Arthur Godfrey's "Talent Scouts" show. Singing “Walking After Midnight,” the song became a hit and Cline a star. But her success was short lived and a few years later, facing bankruptcy, Cline signed a deal with Decca and recorded “I Fall to Pieces” and “Crazy” two of her biggest hits (“Crazy” was penned by outlaw country legend Willie Nelson).

Friday, November 20, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Rev. Grady Nutt, November 23 1982

There’s a whole lot of nuthin’ in west Texas.  People in west Texas are real proud of their nuthin’. They put up barbwire fences to keep your somethin’ off’n their nuthin’. Grady Nutt

Grady Nutt was a Southern Baptist minister who had turned comedian and inspirational writer.  Born and raised in Amarillo, Nutt was a graduate of Baylor University and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He left the ministry to lecture and write.  Nutt made his way onto the national stage with appearances on the Mike Douglas Show in the late 1960s, and later as a regular on the Nashville-based comedy-variety show Hee-Haw.  His down-home, faith based message combined with gentle humor about rural, southern life. He recorded six musical and comedic albums and wrote five books including the best-selling Being Me. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: ASA 2311 John Tower, Davis Love, Jr., Sonny Carter, April 5 1991

On April 5, a day after the fatal crash involving Senator John Heinz, an EMB-120RT “Brasilia” departed Brunswick, Georgia with 23 passengers and crew. On board the flight were former Texas US Senator John Tower; NASA space shuttle astronaut Sonny Carter; and professional golfer and legendary instructor Davis Love, Jr.  The Brasilia was the backbone of ASA’s commuter service, a 30-passenger jet with an 800-mile range, powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW-118 turboprops with a top cruising speed of 345 mph.  According to the NTSB investigation:

Friday, November 13, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Marshall Thundering Herd

The crash of Southern Airways Flight 932 on November 14 1970 is now well-established in the popular culture.  The 2006 feature film We Are Marshall raised awareness of this crash, with some degree of artistic license expected of Hollywood.  On the evening of November 14 1970, a Southern Airways DC-9 departed Kinston, North Carolina, carrying five crew and 70 passengers including 37 members of the Marshall football team. Weather conditions were wet, with fog on the night of the 14th.  The flight approached in the dark at just after 7:30 PM.  On approach, the DC-9 crashed short of the runway, striking trees and cartwheeling before erupting into flames.  All 75 persons aboard perished. 

                  The conclusion of the National Transportation Safety Board investigation was that the flight crew followed improper procedure that led directly to the crash, including the use

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: California Polytechnic State University Football Team, October 29 1960

The Cal-Poly crash gets lost amidst the scope of the Marshall tragedy which occurred in Huntington in November 1970.  However, a decade before the Marshall tragedy, another college football team was in plane crash. Sixteen players, the student manager, and a team booster died in the crash. 
             The New York Times   reported the crash as the first known crash in the US involving a sporting team. It was the first major crash involving any sports team in the world since the 1958 crash of a British European Airways flight in Munich that killed 23, including eight members of the Manchester United football (soccer) club.  The consequence of the crash was a tremendous debate about air safety in the United States and a fundamental change in takeoff procedures to ensure that such an event would not happen again under the same circumstances.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Aeronautic Political Assassinations?

 A variety of significant political leaders from around the globe have been involved in fatal plane crashes over the last century. The nine crashes listed below all involve heads of state or heads of government who died in airplane crashes. Sabotage or assassination is either involved or strongly suspected in almost all of these cases.  All but one crash took place in Africa or Asia.
            March 17 1957: Ramon Magsaysay, President of the Philippines, was campaigning on the island of Cebu. Returning to Manila from Cebu City, his C-47 disappeared, and Magsaysay and 25 of the other 26 persons on board died.  The craft crashed into Mount Manunggal after midnight, allowing only journalist Nestor Mata to escape the burning wreckage. 
            March 29, 1959: Barthélémy Boganda, presumptive president of the Central African Republic, was flying to Bangui for Berberati when the craft he was traveling on exploded in mid-air.  Whether it was shot down is unclear, but the former priest was among the more charismatic and popular African nationalist leaders who helped usher in self-determination for colonial Africa.  Many conspiracy theories abound regarding his death, and there were journalistic reports at the time that explosive traces were found in the wreckage.
September 17, 1961: Dag Hammarskjöld, the second United Nations Secretary-General, was flying to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in an effort to negotiate a cease-fire after fighting erupted involving UN peacekeepers.  Flying into Ndola, Zambia, Hammarskjöld’s aircraft crashed, killing everyone on board.  The official explanation for the crash is that the pilot made too-low an approach, though unproven allegations persist that either a bombing or assassination-hijacking occurred. 
             December 4, 1980: Lumbrales Francisco Manuel de Sá Carneiro, the Prime Minister of Portugal and founder in 1974 of Partido Popular Democrático / Partido Social-Democrata, was killed when his plane crash leaving the airport in Camarate, north of Lisbon, on a campaign trip for his preferred presidential candidate, Antonio Soares Carneiro.  Though officially termed anaccident, a parliamentary inquiry in 1995 concluded the crash was the result of “sinister elements.” In 2001, Luis Filipe Rocha made a film about the incident, “Camarate”, which explores the inconsistencies and troubling ambiguities of the investigation of the incident. 
            July 31, 1981: Omar Torrijos, Panamanian general and the effective ruler of the isthmus nation from 1968 until his death, was killed when his de Haviland seaplane, a DHC-6 “Otter,” exploded in flight.  While assassination was not proven, it was long intimated.  For example, in 1991, Manuel Noriega, an eventual successor to Torrijos in 1983, claimed at his trial in US district court that US intelligence interests were behind Torrijos’ death; but, his effort to produce evidence to support his claim was quashed by the court under the Classified Information Procedures Act.
            October 19, 1986: Samora Machel, the first president of Mozambique who led the effort for national independence, was killed when his Russian-made Tupolev Tu-134 crashed in the Lembombo Moutains, just across the South African border from Mozambique and Swaziland.  The plane was on approach to the Mozambique capital city of Maputo.  Three  separate reports on the accident exist: from the South African apartheid regime in power at the time; the Soviet Union, as manufacturer of the crashed aircraft; and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).  The report of the white South African government concluded that pilot error was at work, as the flight crew “failed to follow procedural requirements for an instrument let-down approach, but continued to descend under visual flight rules” though the weather conditions – darkness, cloud cover – merited caution.  The report of the Soviet delegation criticized the South Africans for subjectivity and accused the South Africans of conspiring with Israeli intelligence to emit a false landing beacon to distract the plane – which conflicts with the South African conclusion that the plane “ignored” a ground warning proximity alarm.  The release of documents by the TRC in 1998 revealed that the white South African government was actively exploring means to displace Machel and his government in Mozambique.
            August 17, 1988: Mohammed Zia ul-Hag, President of Pakistan and Chief of Staff of the Army, and Arnold Raphel, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan died when the C-130 Hercules transport they were traveling started to behave erratically and nosedived toward the ground before exploding, just after departing the airport in Bahawalpur, Pakistan.    Numerous rumors persist as to the source of the explosion, none of which are proven to this day, but the usual suspect – opposition political and religious groups, suicide bombers, foreign intelligence agencies, and even the Pakistan Army – are rumored to be involved. 
            April 6, 1994: Cyprien Ntaryamira, president of Burundi, and Juvenal Habyarimana, president of Rwanda, both died when the private Falcon 50 of President Habyarimana  shot down by a missile while on approach to the Kigali airport.  Ntaryamira, a Hutu, had been president for just two months when the assassination occurred; he had risen to power from his post as agriculture secretary.  He was flying with fellow Hutu and Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, who had come to power in 1973 after leading a coup.  The plane wreckage landed in the president’s backyard.  The assassination exploded latent ethnic tensions between Tutsi and Hutu and led to the subsequent Rwandan genocide. 
            February 26, 2004: Boris Trajkovski, president of Macedonia and eight of his party died in a controlled collision with terrain in southern Bosnia.  Trajkovski was en route to Mostar when his aircraft crashed in fog and rain into a mountain. Conspiracy theories abound surrounding the crash, the death of the eight persons on the flight, and the rescue attempt.  However, official conclusions from U.S., NATO, Bosnian, and Macedonian investigators all point to flight crew error.  Other conferees had canceled plans to attend the conference based on the horrid weather. Similar weather conditions were associated with the 1996 crash of U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown’s 737 near Cilipi in Croatia.

Friday, October 30, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: John Denver, October 12 1997

John Denver was born in Roswell, New Mexico, where his father was an Air Force flight instructor. He started playing guitar at age 12, and in 1964 he dropped out of Texas Tech to start a music career. John changed his last name from Deutschendorf to Denver to make his name fit on a club marquee.  In 1965 he joined the Chad Mitchell Trio, leaving three years later to pursue a solo career. He emerged as a musical talent when he wrote “Leaving on a Jet Plane” in 1967.  The song was initially recorded by the Mitchell Trio, but emerged as a major hit in 1969 when Peter, Paul, and Mary covered the song and it went to #1 on the Billboard charts.  The song continued to be a cover favorite, having been recorded by numerous jazz, rock, pop, country, and hip-hop artists, plus Frank Sinatra.

His first album, Rhymes and Reasons, was released in 1969 and included his recording of “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Two additional albums followed in 1970 (Whose Garden Was This? and Take Me to Tomorrow), but it was in 1971 that his album Poems, Prayers, and Promises which contained his breakout hit “Take Me Home, Country Roads”

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: A Tale of Three Governors

Earl Snell
October 28, 1947: Governor Earl Snell (R-OR) and Oregon Secretary of state Robert S. Farrell Jr., and senate president Marshall E. Cornett died when their plane crashed on the way to go bird hunting in rural Oregon. Pilot Cliff Hogue encountered stormy weather and crashed near Klamath Falls, Oregon, killing all four men.  On January 25, 1962, Governor Donald Nutter (R-MT) is killed when the C-47 Skytrain he is flying on encountered a destructive snow storm north of Helena.  Hurricane-force winds tore the wings from the craft, which crashed into Wolf Creek Canyon, killing both Nutter and all of his party.  Nutter was a decorated flyer who had won the Distinguished Flying Cross during World War II. And, on April 19, 1993, Governor George Mickelson (R-S.D.) was returning from Ohio on a state-owned Mitsubishi MU-2B-60 when an engine failed (the propeller broke) and the plane crashed into a grain silo near Zwingle, Iowa, killing all eight persons on board.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: The Jake Lamotta Coincidence

On October 27, 1949 middleweight fighter and former WBA champion Marcel Cerdan was flying to Spain to fight Jake LaMotta (the “Raging Bull”).  Cerdan had lost the title to LaMotta earlier that year.  The Air France Constellationhe was aboard crashed off the Azores, killing all passengers and crew.  On September 2, 1998 SwissAir flght 111, an MD-11, crashed off Nova Scotia killing 229 persons, including LaMotta’s son, 49-year-old Joseph LaMotta.   The younger LaMotta was flying to Geneva to negotiate European distribution of the Jake LaMotta tomato sauce brand.  The SwissAir crash was a result of faulty wiring in the wide-body craft, and the elder LaMotta sued Swissair and Boeing for $50 million.

Monday, October 26, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Payne Stewart, October 25, 1999

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.” John 3:8

October 25 1999: Six men boarded the Lear 35 at Orlando International – golfer Payne Stewart, and his agents Van Arden and Robert Fraley, plus Stewart’s golf course designer-partner Bruce Borland and two pilots.  The flight was supposed to go from Orlando, to Dallas, and then on to Houston. For the owner of the jet, US Open Champion Payne Stewart, this was business combined with more business, scouting out a possible golf course site in Dallas and then going on to Houston to play in the Tour Championship.  At age 42, Stewart was at the top of his game and on top of the world.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Jeff Burkett, October 24, 1947

Jeff Burkett, the rookie punter for the Chicago Cardinals, was one of 53 people who died when United Air Lines flight 608, a DC-6, exploded over Bryce Canyon, Utah. The flight was headed from Los Angeles to Chicago. During a fuel transfer the overflow leaked and was ignited by the cabin heater combustion air intake scoop. When the cabin heater came on, an explosion and fire destroyed the plane killing all 53 aboard. The Civil Aeronautics Board blamed both design flaws and the failure of the crew in training and performance. Burkett was in LA because the Cardinals were playing the Los Angeles Rams.  The rookie punter from out of LSU had suffered an appendicitis attack and missed both the game (lost by Chicago) and the team flight home.  At the time he was the league’s leading punter, averaging 47.4 yard per kick. The Cardinals nonetheless went on to win the NFL title behind the play of former Maxwell Award winner Charley Trippi (UGA), who also took over the punting.

Friday, October 23, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: US Senator Paul Wellstone, October 25 2002:

Paul Wellstone always blazed his own path.  A former championship wrestler, who grew in northern Virginia, he had wrestled at UNC, taking a BA and also a Ph.D. in political science.  In 1969 he moved to Minnesota, taking a faculty position at Carleton College and becoming as well known for his liberal activism as for his scholarship (he had written a well-received book, How the Rural Poor Got Power, published in 1978).  In 1990, Wellstone challenged incumbent Republican Senator Rudy Boschwitz for the US Senate seat from Minnesota, defeating the incumbent by 37,000 ballots despite being outspent by almost $5 million. 

Writing on Wellstone after the young senator’s emergence in 1991, Michael Barone observed that Wellstone wasrepresentative of a still-lively impulse in American politics, the spirit of student protest that blazed out in the late 1960s and, on some campuses at least, lives on in embers.  Wellstone himself is a Rip Van Winkle, the spirit of Woodstock 1969 come back to earth.  As a “rock the boat” professor at Carleton College, he taught nothing but the politics of protest and appeared at faculty meetings only when he was leading a group of students to protest something or the other.