Saturday, April 16, 2011


Hey again, everyone!

I suspect there's a more elegant way to do this than cutting-and-pasting (still lots to learn), but for now that ought to do the trick, so here without further ado is the cleanest version of the book outline I could lay hands on today:

Prologue:  An Old Photograph
Did you leave any wife or a sweetheart behind?  In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
Although you died back in 1916, in some faithful heart are you forever nineteen?
Or are you a stranger without even a name, enclosed down forever behind a glass frame,
in an old photograph, torn, tattered and stained, and faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?
THE GREEN FIELDS OF FRANCE, Eric Bogle (as sung by Makem and  Clancy)
·         An old black-and-white photograph, of a woman kneeling at the “TWA Mass Grave in Flagstaff”, started me on the path to writing this book in November 2003.
·         After a little online research, I realized that I vaguely recalled hearing of a mid-air collision between two airliners over the Grand Canyon in the 1950s, but after living in Flagstaff for over two years had never heard of TWA grave.
·         A visit to the cemetery, where a bronze marker listed dozens of names – many of the last names repeated over and over – left me wondering who the crash victims were, and whether anyone still knew their stories.
·         An email correspondence with the sister of one of the flight attendants killed in the crash, her sister’s photograph and story, and the fact that no book had ever been written about this tragedy, convinced me to start the project that would eventually become VANISHED IN THE WEST.
Chapter One:  Wings of Freedom, Wings of Death
Beware, dear son of my heart, lest in thy new-found power thou seekest even the gates of Olympus....These wings may bring thy freedom but may also come thy death.
Daedalus to Icarus
·         “You might as well get in.”  (Fort Meyer, Virginia / Thursday, September 17, 1908)
Orville Wright and his less-than-welcome passenger, fellow aviator (and, Orville feared, potential rival) Lt. Thomas Selfridge, prepare to take the Wright Flyer aloft for the latest in a record-breaking series of trial flights at Army Signal Corps Headquarters outside Washington, DC.
·         Dreams of Flight (Prehistory – December 17, 1903)
Mankind has always dreamed of flight – and has always feared the consequences (examples from legends around the world).  From manned kites to balloons to gliders, Man’s quest for flight has been shadowed by death.  In the first years of the 20th Century, heavier-than-air powered flight still seemed to most like an impossible dream (“Darius Green and his Flying Machine”; Scientific American quote) – even after two brothers from Ohio had already flown at Kitty Hawk.)
·         “As the aeroplane dashed off the rising track …” (Fort Meyer, Virginia / Thursday, September 17, 1908)
The flight begins well; Selfridge “evidently was enjoying himself thoroughly”; for the first four laps of the Fort Meyer parade ground, “everything seemingly [worked] much better and smoother than any former flight”, Orville later wrote his brother Wilbur.
·         From Kitty Hawk to Fort Meyer (December 17, 1903 – September 17, 1908)
For almost five years after their first powered flights at Kitty Hawk, the Wright Brothers’ accomplishments were viewed with skepticism or dismissed outright by most journalists, scientists, and government officials.  While the brothers continued their experiments in semi-secrecy, better-known and better-funded rivals also sought to perfect their own flying machines.  Only in the summer and fall of 1908, with Orville putting his Flyer through its paces before crowds of thousands at Fort Meyer in an attempt to sell the machine to the Army, and Wilbur demonstrating his own Flyer to potential buyers in Europe, did the Wright brothers become the undisputed “Kings of the Air”.
·         “Oh! Oh!” (Fort Meyer, Virginia / September 17, 1908)
As the Flyer begin its fifth lap, Orville “start[s] on a larger circuit with less abrupt turns”.  Suddenly, a tapping noise, then two big thumps; one of the twin propellers breaks, sending the Flyer plunging to the ground just outside one of the gates of Arlington Cemetery (now known as the Selfridge Gate).  Orville suffers a broken femur, fractured ribs, and pelvic damage. Selfridge suffers a fatal head injury – he becomes the first victim of the new Age of Flight.  The first-ever official crash investigation later determines the exact sequence of events which caused the mishap.  The Army buys the Wright flyer.  Its first pilots wear leather football helmets; had Selfridge been wearing one, he probably would have survived.
·         40 Years (September 17, 1908 – April 19, 1944)
The Wright Flyer crash makes headlines worldwide;  until the eve of World War I, each new aviation death is reported in detail even as the numbers of aviators and airplanes grow.  The War prompts even more explosive growth in both the numbers and sophistication of aircraft.  Large numbers of military-trained aviators and military surplus aircraft lead to the introduction of post-war air mail service, and later the birth of the airlines.  As commercial aircraft become bigger, they also become safer, but increasing size leads to ever-larger death tolls when they do crash – and high-profile crashes lead to increased government regulation of the airways.  WWII causes both a delay in the introduction of a new generation of civilian airliners and a boom in military-related air travel.

·         Orville’s Last Flight (April 19, 1944, Wright Field, Montgomery County, OH)
Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever in 1912, at age 45.  Orville succeeded his brother as president of Wright Aircraft, but sold the company in 1915.  He last flew as a pilot in 1918, devoting the remainder of his life to serving on various aviation-related committees, most prominently the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA - the direct predecessor of NASA).  On April 19, 1944, Howard Hughes and TWA president Jack Frye stopped at Wright Field in Ohio on their return from a record-breaking 7-hour coast-to-coast flight to give Orville a ride in their revolutionary new airliner, the Lockheed Constellation.  Orville, then 72, may have briefly flown the Constellation; he remarked that its wingspan exceeded the distance of his first powered flight at Kitty Hawk.  Later that night he suffered the first of two heart attacks.  He died shortly after the second one, on January 30, 1948.

In 1953, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Kitty Hawk, Eastern Airlines commissioned Arthur Godfrey, a long-time pilot and the most beloved television personality of the day (then the host of no fewer than three shows on CBS, and President Eisenhower’s secret choice to record reassuring announcements to be broadcast in the event of nuclear war) to narrate a made-for-TV feature film.  Featuring the folksy Godfrey and Eastern’s president, WWI flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker, at the controls of various aircraft, the show explained the basics of powered flight and celebrated how far aviation had come in just half a century.  The real star of the show was Eastern’s brand-new Lockheed Super Constellation, the latest variant of the airliner in which Orville Wright had taken his last flight less than a decade earlier.
Chapter Two:  Saturday Morning in the City of Angels
·         First Flight (Elevator Operator, Abalone Diver, etc.) – Los Angeles, California / Saturday, June  30, 1956
·         The Nation and the World (1956)
·         Heading Out (Relatives with Children, Servicemen, etc.) – Los Angeles, California / June 30, 1956
·         Los Angeles (1956)
·         Heading Home (Kites, Conventioneers, etc.) – Los Angeles, California / June 30, 1956
·         Crowded Skies (June, 1956)
·         Frequent Fliers (Scientists, Business Execs, etc.) – Los Angeles, California / June 30, 1956
·         LAX (June 30, 1956)
Chapter Three:  The Star of the Seine
·         TWA – Howard Hughes’s Airline
·         Lockheed Super Constellation (L1049A) N6902C (“The Star of The Seine”)
·         TWA Flight 2
·         Flight Crew
·         Passengers
Chapter Four:  The Mainliner Vancouver
·         United Air Lines
·         Douglas DC-7 N6324C (“Mainliner Vancouver”)
·         UAL Flight 718
·         Flight Crew
·         Passengers
Chapter Five:  A Thousand Feet on Top
·         Delays
·         Takeoffs
·         Flight Paths
·         A Thousand Feet On Top
·         Painted Desert Line of Position
·         “Salt Lake, United 718 … ah … we’re going …”
Chapter Six:  I’m Afraid I Have Some Bad News
·         “Two of our airliners are missing.”
·         Search efforts.
·         “I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
·         Waiting for news.
Chapter Seven:  Smoke in the Canyon
·         Smoke in the Canyon.
·         Reports from Marble Canyon.
·         The Hudgen Brothers.
·         Others who claimed to have been first to the crash sites.
Chapter Eight:  I Hope I Never Have to See Anything Like That Again
[Green Fields of France quote - I hope you died well, and I hope you died clean, or young Willy McBride, was it slow and obscene?]
·         Initial reconnaissance.
·         The media circus.
·         TWA crash site.
·         United crash site / the two mountaineering teams.
·         Red Butte and Flagstaff
Chapter Nine:  The Board Determines That … - Crash investigation and conclusions.
Chapter Ten:  Memorials – Funerals, monuments, and legacies, both bright and dark.
[ripples quote]
Chapter Eleven:  To Make the Airways Safer – Improvements to air traffic control system and establishment of the FAA.
Chapter Twelve:  Res Ipsa Loquitur – Insurance claims, personal injury lawsuits, and legal (and not so legal) legacies of the Grand Canyon Air Disaster.
Chapter Thirteen:  The Strange Voyage of Arthur Billingsley – Cleanups of the Crash Sites, their current status, and future prospects.
Chapter Fourteen:  Pillars of Fire – Later civil aviation disasters.
[Green Fields of France Quote – … was all that in vain? For young Willy McBride, it all happened again … and again and again and again and again.]
Chapter Fifteen:  Fifty Years Later (2006)
·         The Years Go Slowly By – from Eisenhower to JFK to Indiana Jones to 9/11 and on; follow-up news coverage dwindles
·         And the world moved on – why this crash was so quickly forgotten by most / why no earlier book
·         Flagstaff Citizens Cemetery – but not forgotten by all; TWA alumni & the renovation of the TWA mass grave
·         Grand Canyon Village – Gravesite, Museum
·         “Kissing Takes Concentration” – Into the Canyon with Tom and Hazel
·         Embry Riddle – Exploring His Outdoor Classroom with Bill
·         Touring the Canyon with a reporter from the LA Times
·         Talking about the Crash with Bill and Mike (Grand Canyon Air Pilot)
·         50th Anniversary Observances
Chapter Sixteen:  Time Keeps on Slipping (2006 – 2011)
[discworld quote:  Know how to spell bananana … just don’t know how to stop spelling it]
·         Lexington, Kentucky / Sunday, August 27, 2006
·         Current issues in airline safety.
·         Flagstaff, Arizona  / Sunday, June 29, 2008
·         Other aviation safety issues – air medical, private aviation, etc..
·         Glendale, AZ / June 18, 2009 – Mission Accomplished … Umm ….
·         55 years after the 1956 Grand Canyon Air Disaster
Chapter Seventeen:  Legends
[Blade Runner Quote – I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe]
·         Before they fade from living memory into history, or are lost altogether
·         Questions we may never know the answers to
·         Enduring Legacies
·         Literary Legacies
·         Oddball legacies – misrememories, jokes, etc.
·         What may lie ahead
·         A parting image – campfire tales on the River; a last view of the passengers & crew of TWA2 & UAL718 (It’s still not yet 9AM on that July morning in 1956, and … )
[Faulkner quote:
For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two o'clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it's all in the balance, it hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet, it not only hasn't begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it's going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn't need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose than all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago.
William Faulkner , Intruder in the Dust ]

Well, it's a start anyway.

More tomorrow!

Have a great night.

© 2011 Danny R. Driskill / All rights reserved

1 comment:

  1. I just discovered this blog today (July 5, 2012) and see that the newest post is from over a year ago. Please don't give up on this project Dan Driskill. A grandfather and an aunt of mine (Chester Arnold and Helen Colleen Crewse) were lost on TWA flight two. Being born in 1961, I never got a chance to meet either of them and the lingering memory continues to haunt my father. I began doing research on the disaster while preparing for my parents' 60th wedding anniversary and have become personally invested in the matter.

    July 5, 2012 2:29 AM