Friday, May 20, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: Bruce Geller & Steve Gentry, May 21, 1978

Bruce Geller and Stephen Gentry were on the move in Hollywood in the 1970s.  Gentry had made his mark producing eight TV series including two hits– the iconic Mission: Impossible, and the police drama Mannix. He also earned a couple of Emmys along the way. Geller had been influences to enter the creative arts by his writing professor at Yale, the Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Robert Penn Warren (author of All the King’s Men). He had started his career in entertainment on Broadway, penning critically acclaimed lyrics for popular musicals. He moved to film in the early 1960s, including writing comedian Ernie Kovacs’ last film Sail a Crooked Ship, and winning praise as a feature director for 1973’s Harry in Your Pocket starring James Coburn. Gentry, 37, was a vice-president for west coast programming at ABC. A graduate of Syracuse’s influencial and pioneering broadcast program, he was credited in helping revive ABC’s fortunes by bringing such hits as Charlie’s Angels to what had once been described as “a fourth-place network in a three-network market.”
At 9:15 AM on May 14 1978, Geller and Gentry were flying in Geller’s Cessna 337D from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara and were on final approach in foggy conditions where Geller crashed in Buena Vista Canyon.  The NTSB investigation attributed the accident to a misreading of instruments by the pilot on approach, resulting in the crash.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: ValuJet Flight 592, May 11 1996

Rodney Culver & Walter Hyatt

On May 11, 1996, a ValuJet flight departed from Miami International Airport, bound for Atlanta.  The flight, 592, took off at 2:04PM and sought to abort flight almost immediately.  The flight crew radioed at 2:10PM. Captain Candi Kubeck, a veteran Eastern Airlines pilot, requested to return to Miami due to smoke in the cockpit and cabin. Smoke entered the cockpit when the flight crew opened the door to report fire, on the failure of the intercom system.  Given permission to return, Flight 592 turned and disappeared from radarscopes at 2:14PM. The 27-year-old DC-9 crashed in the Everglades’ Browns Farm Wildlife Management area, killing all five members of the flight crew and 105 passengers aboard.

Two witnesses fishing from a boat in the Everglades when flight 592 crashed stated that they saw a low-flying airplane in a steep right bank. According to these witnesses, as the right bank angle increased, the nose of the airplane dropped and continued downward. The airplane struck the ground in a nearly vertical attitude. The witnesses described a great explosion, vibration, and a huge cloud of water and smoke. One of them observed, ‘the landing gear was up, all the airplane’s parts appeared to be intact, and that aside from the engine smoke, no signs of fire were visible.’ Two other witnesses who were sightseeing in a private airplane [piloted by Daniel Muelhaup] in the area at the time of the accident provided similar accounts of the accident. These two witnesses and the witnesses in the boat, who approached the accident site, described seeing only part of an engine, paper, and other debris scattered around the impact area. One of the witnesses remarked that the airplane seemed to have disappeared upon crashing into the Everglades.

Monday, May 2, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: Edward Cole, The Rebel Engineer

I love problems.

Edward Cole, then-president of General Motors

Edward Cole had an outstanding career at GM, where he spent his entire adult life.  In 1949 he was co-head of the engineering team that redesigned the Cadillac V-8 engine, which was used in Cadillacs for the next 14 years. In 1952 he took over as chief engineer at Chevy, introducing the small-block V-8 that became the main powerplant for the legendary Chevys of the 1950s and early 1960s and revitalizing the Corvette.  Taking over Chevy in 1956, Cole is mainly remembered for an amazing engineering failure, the Corvair.  The sporty rear-engine coupe was aimed at the emerging market of young buyers in the early 1960s. The rear suspension was poorly designed, and the Corvair  proved to be an exceptionally dangerous vehicle that was prone to rollover accidents.  This vehicle was a featured product in consumer watchdog Ralph Nader’s book Unsafe at Any Speed.  Cole continued his career at GM as head of the car and truck group and eventually became president of the corporation before retiring in 1974.
                  Termed “the Rebel Engineer” by the New York Times, by 1977 Cole had bought a controlling interest in the Checker Cab company, producers of the classic-looking taxis that