Years ago, many people thought that anyone who was trying to invent an airplane was pretty much insane…saying, that “if man were meant to fly, God would have given him wings” as their reasoning. I’m sure that those same people reiterated their thoughts on the matter, with each new plane crash…basically jumping on the chance to say, “I told you so!” Of course, these days, no one thinks that way, whether they like to fly or not. I guess a fear of flying and the idea that it is a foolish pipe dream aren’t the same things at all. Still, while man has proven over the years that flight is possible, and in fact mostly safe, there are some airplane crashes that that will forever be embedded in our minds. For me, of course, the one that I can picture in my mind at the drop of a hat, is Flight 232 that crashed in Sioux City, Iowa. This was the crash that took the life of my Great Aunt Gladys Pattan Byer Cooper. That pilot was so close to landing that plane safely, and would have, in fact, if the plane hadn’t put in one last effort to turn over due to a major loss of hydraulics. The resulting crash made me wonder how anyone survived…much less the 185 out of 296 people on board. The only reason they survived was the skill of the pilot…and much prayer.
Another plane crash that has stayed in my memory was the crash of the Concorde, that occurred on this day, July 25, 2000. The Concord was a beautiful plane, and by far the most luxurious one of its time. I’m not sure there are even any planes that are more luxurious today…although the Boeing 787 might be. Dubbed the Dreamliner, it gives the indication that it might out class the Concorde. Nevertheless, in its day, the Concorde was the end all, beat all of airplanes. The thing that always amazes me is that sometimes it is the tiniest of things that ends up bringing down a plane. Much like the bird strike that brought down US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River.
The Concorde was downed be a small piece of metal on the runway…that had fallen off of another plane. Air France Flight 4590 left DE Gaulle Airport for New York carrying nine crew members and 96 German tourists who were planning to take a cruise to Ecuador. That piece of metal shredded the tire that ran over it, throwing pieces of the tire into one of the engines and fuel tanks, causing a disabling fire. The pilot had no idea what was about to happen, but just moments later the plane plunged to the ground near a hotel in Gonesse, France. A huge fireball erupted and all 105 people on the plane were killed immediately. The Concorde, the world’s fastest commercial jet, had enjoyed an exemplary safety record up to that point, with no crashes in the plane’s 31 year history. That crash, however, marked the beginning of the end for the Concorde. The last flight of the Concorde was on October 24, 2003. What was supposed to mark the first of a future of supersonic, fast paced air travel, was brought to a disappointing halt. Air travel has taken on a much slower pace since that time.
Travel these days is so common that we really don’t give it much thought at all, but travel or moving in days gone by, was a very different matter, or perhaps it is just that some things worry people of different ages more that other people, or shall we say older people. I was reading a story written by my cousin Raymon Dunahee, who is my Grandpa Spencer’s sister, Alice’s son. The story begins, “I slept soundly (I guess we all did) all night and woke up the next morning to find that I was still all there. If anything had carried us off during the night they brought us back before morning.” When I read that, it reminded me of some of the camping trips my family took when we were kids, and my sisters and I kept waking my dad up so he could put another log on the fire to keep the bears away…like that would have made any difference. As I read through the thoughts of a little boy as he embarked of an unknown, and maybe a little scary future, my thoughts turned to how different travel was back then.
As I read through the rest of his story, and the continuing mishaps they had, I could see why he felt a little apprehensive about things. The vehicle they were traveling in had a couple of “bum casings” and he was concerned that if the roads got bad at all they might end up stuck in a very desolate place. They were trying to make Kalispell, Montana that day, and they still had a hundred and twenty five miles to go. They were in the mountains when the rear tire blew. The spare was not good either, so they limped along the six miles to the next town and got a new tire. It was another forty miles to Kalispell, but they made it without further mishap and bought another tire there. The trip to Kalispell was a side trip to visit his grandparents before they went on to their final destination…Twin Falls, Idaho. During the visit with his grandparents, they decided to go on to Twin Falls, Idaho with them. The rest of the trip was filled with similar troubles and I’m sure that Raymon wondered if they would make it at all, and if he even wanted to go to this place when it seemed that everything was against their move as it was.
Then, to add to Raymon’s concerns, their trip started to become very slow going…not because of car problems, but because of fish problems. It’s hard to imagine that fish could cause such big problems, but they can for a boy who is really ready to get where they are going. It seems that over the next three days, they family only made twelve miles!! “How could that be?” you ask. Well, they were traveling in an area where there were lots of mountain streams, and every time they came upon another stream, the men wanted to stop and fish!! I don’t think they caught very many fish, but according to Raymon, there were plenty of mosquitoes, and he was really ready to be away from them. I’m sure he was thinking, “Let’s just go!!” And there was no reason to even ask, “Are we there yet?” because you have to be moving for that question to even make sense. In the end, they did make it to Twin Falls, Idaho, where they lived out their days.