Every time an airplane crashes, we expect the worst…multiple deaths, if not the death of everyone on board. Some crashes look so horrific that you wonder how anyone could possibly have lived. While dropping from the sky to land on the hard ground or even on water usually ends in devastation, once in a while, a miracle happens, and everyone on the plane walks away from the crash…everyone!! It can only be called a miracle crash.

These days, probably the most well-known “miracle crash” was the “Miracle on the Hudson” crash. Captain Sullenberger was an amazing pilot, and as a result, all 155 people walked away from what could have been a horrible crash. Some pilots might have even tried to make it back to the airport, flying over and crashing into the city buildings, but “Sully” knew that was impossible, so he did the only sensible thing and water landed into the Hudson River.

There have been a number of other “miracle crashes” throughout the history of aviation. Some in small planes, but some in large commercial planes. It may not always be possible, but a good pilot has a much better chance of landing, or really crashing their airplane and being so successful at it, that everyone walks away. The passengers are likely to have a few injuries, but they are alive, and that is what matters.

German photographer Dietmar Eckell has made it his life’s work to find, what he calls “miracles in aviation history” at the abandoned sites of wrecks that have resulted in no casualties. Eckell’s photo-project, “Happy End” highlights 15 airplanes that had forced landings, in which all the people on board survived and were rescued from really remote locations. One thing I don’t always understand is that the planes are abandoned where they crashed. I suppose sometimes it is hard to recover them, and other times they have already been there for years, by the time they are located. I never knew how many planes litter the earth, both above and below the water, but there are many.

Two of the “miracle crashes” that Eckell photographed were the Douglas Skytrain C-47 that crashed in the Yukon in Canada in February 1950 and the Avro Shackleton, that crashed in the Western Sahara in 1994. In the crash of the Douglas Skytrain, all 10 people aboard survived, even in the frigid conditions. With the Avro Shackleton, two engines of the plane suddenly failed, sending it down to the desert sand in 1994. Surviving this crash in such an inhospitable environment was an astonishing feat for the 19 passengers and crew. If it weren’t for Dietmar Eckell’s determination to search out and photograph these lost “miracle crash” sites, much of the history of these miracles might have been forgotten. I for one plane to look up his “Happy End” project to read more about the “miracle crashes” he found.

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