N121US: The Fallen Angel

It was the evening of June 17, 1996.  The wedding reception was at Detroit-Wayne County Metro Airport in Romulus, Michigan.  The ceremony took place on a beautiful Northwest Airlines Boeing 747-200 as Northwest and KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines were the masters of ceremony.  The ceremony lasted all night long until the morning as it took 7 hours and 55 minutes to complete.  The celebration took place at Schipol International, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Whose wedding was this for?

My marriage to (commercial) aviation..

The previous night I had spent in the living room avoiding not only packing for the trip but also avoiding such movies as “La Bamba” and “Airport” (1970) as they were all plastered on the television that night.  There was a specific scene in the movie “La Bamba” where a recurring dream Ritchie Valens (played by Lou Diamond Phillips) has of a midair collision between two planes that actually occurred directly over Ritchie’s school, in which Ritchie’s best friend was killed by one of the fallen aircraft.  Whenever I thought of that scene it brought me back to when I was eleven years old and my grandfather took my brother Ryan and I to place which as of 52 years ago today was one of the U.S.’s worst aviation catastrophes:

The Perish of Northwest Orient Flight 710
March 17, 1960

N121US: The Fallen Angel

It’s origin was Minneapolis.  It’s destination was Miami.  There was a brief stopover at Chicago-Midway.  The equipment, a Lockheed L-188C Electra with 4 Allison 501-D13 Powerplants, registered N121US, left the stopover at Midway only to loose contact with Indianapolis ARTC Center over Scotland, Indiana maintaining a cruise of FL 180 (18,000 feet.)  Probable cause was the “separation of the right wing due to flutter induced by oscillations of the outboard nacelles. Contributing factors were a reduced stiffness of the structure and the entry of the aircraft into an area of severe clear air turbulence. “  The aircraft went down in the area near the area of Cannelton and Millstone, Indiana near Tell City.  Fifty-seven and six crew were aboard.  There were no survivors.

The Kiwanis Electra Memorial Site at Night. Photo courtesy of David Clendenen.

Northwest Orient 710 wasn’t the only crash of the L-188.  Two had crashed prior to this one.  It makes one wonder..I remember my grandfather telling my brother and I what had happened on the site like it was yesterday.  I was terrified from that moment he finished the story to fly and vowed not to do so.  When I left the wooded area, I saw the beautiful Kiwanis Memorial that was erected by the public.  The spine chilling yet comforting message was strong:

Photo Courtesy of David Clendenen

There was a reason why I went to that site when I was eleven.  There was a reason why my first commercial flight was with Northwest.  The pure irony of it all..  The safety measures which were taken with my first commercial flight on that day took away all of my fears.  Not only that but I was married to aviation on that day.  How can we make this the case for everyone?  Just like the memorial, we need to echo that message and echo it strong.  We do not need any more angels in the skies falling down to keep reiterating the safety message.May the memory of the souls on board this flight be a blessing and a reminder that we should always strive for the goal to make our skies safe.

jeremy

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One thought on “N121US: The Fallen Angel

  1. Jeremy, this is beautiful. And the reminder why I do what I do. In memory of the those souls on board, we all strive to make the skies safe, and sometimes need to be reminded we have work to do. Always striving for better.

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