Deadly Turbulence

The Air Safety Lessons of Braniff Flight 250 and Other Airliners, 1959–1966


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About the Book

Jet airliner operations in the United States began in 1958, bringing, it was thought, a new era of fast, high, safe, smooth, sophisticated travel. But almost immediately, the new aircraft were involved in incidents and accidents that showed jets created new problems even as they solved old ones. This book discusses five disasters or near-disasters of the early Jet Age, experiences which shook the industry, regulators and public out of early complacency and helped build a more realistic foundation for safer air transportation.
Special attention is paid to the 1966 destruction of Braniff International Airways Flight 250 in Nebraska. Nearly two years of inquiry helped advance the understanding of jet operations in severe weather and saw the first use of cockpit voice recorder technology in an aviation accident investigation. In addition, a University of Chicago professor, Dr. Tetsuya “Ted” Fujita, conducted a more intensive investigation of the weather system which downed Flight 250. Dr. Fujita’s already extensive knowledge of thunderstorms and tornadoes led to his creation of the Fujita Scale of Tornado Intensity, the F-scale that we hear about so frequently during storm season.

About the Author(s)

Retired public school educator Steve Pollock fell in love with airliners at the age of five during a fateful encounter with a brand-new Pan Am 747. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Bibliographic Details

Steve Pollock
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 236
Bibliographic Info: 33 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7433-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1326-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface 1

Prologue 5

Part I. “I don’t sleep well nights”

1. The Day the Movies Almost Died: Pan American World Airways Flight 115 9

2. Melting Into a Threatening Sky: Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 705 19

3. “Unusual conditions and circumstances”: The Investigation of Northwest Orient Flight 705 28

4. “A turbulence problem”? Persistent Questions 44

5. “It broke the sound barrier at least once”: United Airlines Flight 746 47

6. “The Nation’s Most Progressive Airline”: Eastern Air Lines 52

7. A Strange, Weird Thing: Eastern Air Lines Flight 301 59

8. Disappeared into the Overcast: Eastern Air Lines Flight 304 64

9. Extraordinary Lives: Grant Newby, ­Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux and Kenneth Lee Spencer 69

10. “Extreme disintegration of the aircraft structure”: The Investigation of Eastern Air Lines Flight 304 82

Part II. Falls City

11. Dusting Off a Dusty Little Airline: Braniff International Airways 99

12. Airstrip: “The End of the Plain Plane” 107

13. Fastback Jet: The BAC One–11 113

14. Happy Birthday! Bill Schock and That Night in August 124

15. Milk Run: Braniff International Flight 250 128

16. “One big, terrible nightmare”: Flight 250 and Falls City 134

17. “Ease power back”: The Investigation of Braniff Flight 250 160

18. Mr. Tornado: Dr. Ted Fujita and the Squall Line of August 6–7, 1966 169

19. Knocked from the Sky: A ­High-Intensity Force 179

Part III. Postscript

20. New Normals: The “Before” and “After” Times 187

Notes 195

Bibliography 203

Index 213