Friday, October 24, 2014

Disasters Caused by Man: Aviation & Space


"Disaster books are a literary genre involving detailed descriptions of major historical disasters, often based on the historical records or personal testimonies of survivors. Since reportage of both natural disasters and man-made disasters is commonplace, authors tend to be journalists who develop their news reports into books."

The past few months we've covered fire disasters (volcanoes, etc.), water disasters (hurricanes, etc.), and earth disasters (earthquakes, etc.). The next few weeks we will be covering man-made disasters including this one about aviation and space accidents.  Give these books and authors a try--you won't be disappointed.

First Fatal Airplane Accident 1908
The first aviation accident was the crash of the Roziere balloon in France in 1785, which killed two people.The first accident involving an airplane was in September of 1908 when the Wright Model A crashed in Virginia and injured Orville Wright and killed Signal Corps Lt. Thomas Selfridge.


Thomas Selfridge
Thomas Etholen Selfridge--(Feb 8, 1882 – Sep 17, 1908)--He graduated from West Point in 1903. He was a member of the Aerial Experiment Association and designed their first powered aircraft, the Red Wing. He piloted two of the Association’s aircraft, and in doing so he became the first US soldier to pilot a powered aircraft. He was also the first US military officer to fly an airplane solo. When the Army agreed to purchase a Wright Flyer (for testing), Selfridge was appointed to observe and participate in the flights.  On a September morning in 1908, he became the first person to die in a powered aircraft when the plane he was a passenger in, nosedived 75 feet into the ground.  He died a few hours later.

The Hindenburg 1937

The Hindenburg Explosion--May 6, 1937--Lakehurst, New Jersey--36 fatalities included 13 passengers, 22 crewmen, and 1 handler on the ground.  For many years, the cause was attributed to the flammable hydrogen exploding.  But since the late 1990s, some have hypothesized that static electricity from the mooring ropes ignited the aluminum shell and the flammable dope coating it.  Whatever the cause, public airship travel was pretty much ended after this deadly crash. Two years later the first transatlantic plane flight took place.

--The Hindenburg Disaster by Peter Benoit

--The Hindenburg Disaster by Aaron Feigenbaum


Tenerife Memorial
The Tenerife Collision--March 27, 1977--Tenerife Island, Canary Islands--583 dead--the worst commercial airline disaster in history. Two Boeing 747 jumbo jets collided on the runway (KLM flight 4805--no survivors) and (Pan Am flight 1736--61 of 335 survived).  It was caused by the KLM pilot's bad judgement, dense ground fog, and the heavy accent of the air traffic controller.  This horrible tragedy resulted in new rules and regulations regarding controller language usage, taxiing instructions, and runway configuration.

--The Deadliest Plane Crash (DVD)




Pam Am Lockerbie Bombing--December 21, 1988--Lockerbie, Scotland--270 dead (259 on board and 11 on the ground)--At 31,000 feet, an explosive device detonated and broke up the plane, raining debris and death on the Scottish town once known for its fossils but now forever linked with terrorism.

--The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky: a True Story by Ken Dornstein


Edward White, "Gus" Grissom, and Roger Chaffee
The Apollo 1 Fire--Cape Kennedy, Florida--January 27, 1967--3 dead--American astronauts Roger Chaffee, Virgil Grissom, and Edward White died when fire broke out in their space capsule on the launch pad during a routine test.  Their deaths resulted in an 18 month total re-haul of NASA's design, workmanship, and safety protocols.  It would be twenty years before another astronaut was lost in an accident.

--The Apollo 1 and Challenger Disasters by Gina De Angelis


Challenger Crew
The Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion--9 miles above Earth, headed to orbit--January 28, 1986--7 dead--The seven died when a booster engine failed, causing the shuttle to break apart just 73 seconds after launch.  The lost were:  Teacher-in-Space payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe; payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; and astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist--this accident grounded the shuttle fleet for nearly three years during which various safety measures, redesigns, and new policies for the future were implemented.

--The Challenger Explosion by Roberta Baxter

--The Challenger Disaster: Tragic Space Flight by Carmen Bredeson

--Challenger Revealed: an Insider's Account... by Richard C. Cook


Columbia Crew
The Space Shuttle Columbia Explosion--Re-entering Earth's atmosphere from orbit--February 1, 2003--7 dead--The 7-person crew perished when the Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana--the lost crew were: Commander: Rick D. Husband, Pilot: William C. McCool, Payload Commander: Michael P. Anderson, Payload Specialist: Ilan Ramon (the first Israeli astronaut), Mission Specialist: Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist: David M. Brown, and Mission Specialist: Laurel Blair Salton Clark--The shuttle program was grounded for more than two years while safety measures were added, including procedures to deal with catastrophic cabin depressurization, better crew restraints, and an automated parachute system.

--Columbia: Final Voyage: the Last Flight of NASA's First Space Shuttle by Philip Chien

--Too Far From Home: a Story of Life and Death in Space by Chris Jones


"Hubris and science are incompatible."
Douglas Preston

“The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God. ” 
Ronald Reagan

"The cause in which they died will continue. Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on. The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home."
George W. Bush














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