Friday, January 29, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: Three U.S. Lawmakers From the New Deal Era

May 6 1935, Bronson Cutting
August 31, 1940: Ernest Lundeen
October 7 1962: Clement Miller

The First Senator to Crash: Bronson Cutting
The crash of the TWA Sky Chief on at 2:30AM on May 6 1935 was a disaster by any measure.  An aircraft flying for the airline associated with the worst passenger crash to date – that of Knute Rockne four years earlier – runs out of gas in the fog in the early hours of a spring day,  desperately seeking an emergency landing strip.  The story, as told by the New York Times, sounds so familiar:
Out of fuel and desperately groping through a dense fog for a landing place, a twin-motored Transcontinental & Western Air liner crashed early today at the edge of a pasture here and killed United States Senator Bronson M. Cutting, the two pilots and a woman passenger. All the other nine passengers, including a baby, were injured.

The aircraft went down about fifteen miles short of an emergency grass strip in Kirksville.  TWA hoped that the plane could make Kirksville after it was waved off from Kansas City because of impenetrable fog.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: Oklahoma State Men’s Basketball, January 27, 2001

Sports team tragedies grip the nation, and in January of 2001, the nation mourned after a plane carrying members of the Oklahoma State University men’s basketball team perished in a snowy field in Strasburg, Colorado.
On a Saturday evening in unfavorable weather conditions, the Beechcraft Super King Air 200 twin-engine plane took off from the Jefferson County Airport, but less than 20 minutes in the air, the plane disappeared from the radar screen and was never heard from again. A few hours later, the plane’s remains were found scattered in a field.

#CollisionWithFame: The Kennedys Of Massachusetts – And Beyond

"When the bus or the plane rolled or flew through the night, they sang songs of their own composition about Mr Nixon and the Republicans in chorus."

--Theodore H. White, in The Making of the President, 1960

Any discussion of celebrity catastrophe invariably leads to the Kennedy family.  The first family of Massachusetts politics is large, its members are physically-active and often risk-seeking, and the family seems to encounter more than its share of tragedy. Indeed, an entire cottage industry exists that surrounds the study of the Kennedy and Fitzgerald families and the alleged “Kennedy Curse.”  Rather than feed the myth of curse, we choose to accept a more plausible explanation that is consistent with our general thesis about celebrity air tragedy – (1) that in a large group, the probability of multiple bad things happening is greater; (2) the media pays more attention to tragedies of high-profile people; and (3) active, risk-seeking people are more likely to have accidents. The Kennedy family meets these conditions, so it is not surprising that four fatal air crashes involve members of the Kennedy family. 

            The first and most notable tragedy is the August 12 1944 death of Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., eldest son of Ambassador Joseph Kennedy and his wife Rose Fitzgerald.  In a clan of charismatic siblings, Joe was the leader.  He had been groomed for greatness by his parents, the eldest offspring of a family formed from the union of two great Boston Irish political families from the marriage of Joe Sr. (son of Massachusetts legislator P. J. Kennedy) to Rose (daughter of Boston mayor John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald).   Joe was born in 1925, attended the Choate School and then Harvard, graduating in 1938.  After a year at the London School of Economics and two years at Harvard Law, Kennedy joined the Navy after America’s entry into World War II. Kennedy trained to fly the naval variant of the Liberator, the PBY4-1, on anti-submarine duty over the North Atlantic. While based in England, he and his sister Kathleen (“Kick”) fell into a circle of dashing, expatriate Americans who ran in a tight social circle with notable English gentry, and which only further added to the luster of his reputation and the growth of his confidence. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: Joe Dan Petty, January 8, 2000

Joe Dan Petty (born in 1947) was bassist for the southern rock group Grinderswitch, a band he had formed with Dru Lombar and Larry Howard in Macon during the mid 1970s. Grinderswitch toured with a variety of Southern rock groups including the Allman Brothers, the Charlie Daniels Band, and the Marshall Tucker Band before disbanding in 1982. Petty was also a member of the road crew of the Allman Brothers Band.  On January 8 2000, the plane Petty was flying departed Macon and collided with trees and burst into flames when the engine lost power. Petty had about 80 hours of flight time and was flying under fair skies conditions. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: Amy Johnson, January 5, 1941

Amy Johnson was the English Amelia Earhart. She jumped into the headlines and hearts of Great Britain when at age 26 she flew solo from Britain to Australia, becoming the first aviatrix to do so.  The aircraft she used for the flight, a deHavilland Gipsey Moth, is on display at the Science Museum in London.
Johnson, born in Hull, took a BA degree at Sheffield. Bored with teaching and other professional ventures including shorthand typing, she took up flying in 1928. With just 16 hours instruction, by July 1928 she had her license through the London Aeroplane Club; her ground engineer license by December of that year; and a full navigation certificate soon after, making her the female pioneer.   Johnson made international headlines in 1930 when she soloed to Australia.