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.