A tale of one man and two air crashes

People standing in front of a large fire

It’s September 30, 1951, two Douglas AD Skyraiders (later renamed the Douglas A-1 Skyraider) are en-route to Mather Field in Sacramento from Naval Air Station Seattle. It’s a routine flight for this pair of single-seater torpedo/dive bombers which served in WWII as part of the United States Navy.

They’re not carrying any military ordinance, but the Skyraider piloted by Naval Lt FC Anderson is carrying an unexpected payload. This single-seater aircraft has on board a solder, in addition to the pilot. He’s secreted away somewhere in the bowels of the small wartime aircraft and he’s trying to get back to Fort Ord after a visit home.

It’s an unorthodox way to travel, cramped into the space usually reserved for bombs, but he’s desperate and this is the only flight going his way.

Things go awry in the late afternoon when the brace of aircraft encounter inclement weather. First it’s the bad weather, the building storm that causes problems. Then the radios give out, their oxygen is depleted and the planes become separated. Anderson, lost in the clouds, finds his bearings again only when the skies clear.

The problem is, instead of the 800-odd mile flight he undertook from Seattle to Sacramento, his Skryaider is now over Port Reyes in California – and he’s out of fuel.

There’s only one thing for it, they have to ditch the plane – and it’s going to be out at sea.

Both pilot and passenger survive the crash and face an hour-long ordeal, battling fog and high seas, and getting separated in the dark, before finally making landfall.

Fast forward to 2016 and another aircraft is making a water landing, this time commercial airline Flight 1549, piloted by Captain Chesley Sullenberger. He’s ditched the aircraft into the Hudson River, instead of attempting a ground landing and saves the lives of all 155 souls on board.

In the case of this Airbus A380, it was a multiple bird strike that downed the aircraft. Except, Sully crashed in 2009. The 2016 flight crashed with actor, Tom Hanks, at the controls recreating the crash which Sully and his passengers survived.

What is the common denominator for these two aircraft crashes? This comes in the form of the film’s director. Back in ’51 he was a young soldier, later he turned to making movies, but between these two periods in his life you got to know him from “A Fistful of Dollars”, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”, “For a Few Dollars More”, “Where Eagles Dare”, and of course “Dirty Harry”, “Escape from Alcatraz” and “Play Misty for Me” are also amongst a host of others.

So, the question you need to ask yourself is “Are you feeling lucky?” because it is clear that Clint Eastwood certainly was lucky on that day in 1951 when he crashed at sea, hanging onto bomb racks in the confined crawlspace of a combat aircraft built for one and survived an ordeal at sea before launching a career in cinema that has lasted 65 years.

Time and Date website
The timeanddate.com website which offers a comprehensive set of functions.

On a final note, have you ever need a comprehensive overview of a specific location? Visit timeanddate.com and you can get all the information you need on sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moon phase, the day’s length, the position of the sun, equinoxes and solstices, and what planets are visible from that location including the times of their ascendance. It’s a comprehensive list of information available. There’s a host of other features and functions on the site.

Author: Morné Condon

Automotive journalist in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, following new models, old cars, car clubs and motorsport. My interests are not restricted to the automotive environment, although this is where I am mostly to be found.

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