Tuesday, March 29, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: Knute Rocke, March 31 1931

Knute Rockne’s influence over college football is widely known.  In thirteen years as head coach at Notre Dame, his teams went 105-12-5 with five undefeated, untied seasons and won mythical college National Championships in 1919, 1920, 1924, 1927, 1929, and 1930. Rockne’s untimely death at 43 in an airplane crash is often forgotten.  In the spring of 1931, Rockne was traveling west from Kansas City to Los Angeles on TWA flight 599, a Fokker F-10A Tri-motor produced by the innovative Dutch designer Anthony Fokker.  Despite legend that the plane went down in a storm near Bazaar, Kansas, subsequent investigation revealed that the wood-laminate construction led to one of the wings separating in flight, leading directly to the crash.  The unfavorable publicity very nearly drove TWA out of business and compelled the Department of Commerce to order all Fokker tri-motors removed from service in the US.  Fokker never fully recovered from the unfavorable publicity.   Knute Rockne crash doomed the craft’s commercial future.

Friday, March 25, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: Cold Warriors Yuri Gagarin and Francis Gary Powers

March 27 1968: Yuri Gagarin

Pleasant, easy-going and of a humble birth, Yuri Gagarin was chosen over the more polished Gherman Titov to be the first man launched into space.  On April 12, 1961, Gagarin was the first human being to leave the planet, flying in Vostok 3KA-2. On his return he was briefly a deputy in the Supreme Soviet before
  On March 27 1968, Gagarin and a flight instructor returning to the Soviet space program to work on a reusable space craft – a space shuttle.  He would eventually become deputy training director of the Soviet space program.  boarded a MiG-15UTI for a training flight—Gagarin was requalifying as a fighter pilot.  The subsequent events are unclear. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: Reba McEntire Band (“The Crazy Eight”), March 16, 1991

Before Reba McEntire made name in movies and television, she had shaken up country music.  Coming out of a celebrated ranching and rodeo family from near Chockie, Oklahoma, Reba got her start in music singing with her siblings.  In 1974 she dropped out of Southeastern Oklahoma State to pursue a solo career in Nashville after country singer Red Steagall heard her sing the national anthem at a rodeo.  Over the next fifteen years she charged the gates of Nashville, stepping out of the bouffant and beehives of old Nashville while not fully aligning with the outlaw country sound of Waylon and Willie.  By 1990 her effort to fuse R&B and rock into country was criticized by traditionalists, but also pointed the way for the next generation of country stars.
            On March 15 1991, Reba McEntire and her band were in San Diego to play a private concert for a group of IBM executives at the San Diego Sheraton Harbor Island Hotel.  After the concert the group would briefly part ways before a planned meet-up in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Reba and her husband, Narvel Blackstock, were to stay in San Diego for the night and then fly to Indiana the next day.  Reba had been suffering bronchitis and Blackstock had insisted that she rest and recover.  The rest of the band and crew will fly on to Fort Wayne after the show in two craft, departing from San Diego’s Brown Field. 
            On the first flight, leaving at about 1:41 AM, were road manager Jim Hammon and band members Kirk Cappello, Paula Kaye Evans, Michael Thomas, Terry Jackson, Anthony Saputo, Chris Austin, and Joey Cigainero.  At the controls of the Hawker Siddeley DH.125-1A/522  were pilots Donald Holms and Chris Hollinger. Two minutes later the craft struck Otay Mountain, killing all onboard. A review of the flight history reveals a breakdown in communication.