It is that time of year again...as we deploy our spoilers, bleed off our airspeed to begin our descent into the overcast layer and transcend into the unknown below. When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.
Astronaut Donald "Deke" K. Slayton (on right) and 1st Lt. Ed Steinman (on left) beside a Douglas A-26 bomber in the Pacific Theater of Operations during the summer of 1945. While the exact location is unknown, the photograph was most likely taken on Okinawa. 1st Lt. Slayton was one of only two NASA astronauts to fly combat missions during World War II.
Deke spent a year in Europe as a B-25 pilot with the 340th Bombardment Group, completing 56 combat missions. In 1944, he returned to the United States for a year before being assigned to Okinawa with the 319th Bombardment Group. As part of the first group to fly combat with the A-26 aircraft, he flew seven combat missions over Japan. Slayton logged more the 6,600 hours of flying time, including 5,100 in jet aircraft. He was named as one of the seven Mercury astronauts in April 1959 and was scheduled to pilot the Mercury- Atlas 7 mission, but a heart condition prevented him from flying. After years of work as the Coordinator of Astronaut Activities and Director of Flight Crew Operations, he was again declared fit to fly in March 1972. Three years later he participated in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project as the Apollo docking module pilot. While he did not fly again, he continued to work for NASA until 1982 in a variety of capacities. He died on June 13, 1993.
He enjoyed piloting racing planes and he died doing what he loved. His date of death is very important for reasons that will be obvious to you. He died at home at 3:22 a.m. on June 13, 1993 and this was witnessed by his wife and daughter. Now here is where things get really strange. The plane that he loved to race turned up in the sky above John Wayne Airport in California on June 13, 1993 at 7:57 a.m.. Even though he died in Texas and there is a time difference, there is no way that he could have been piloting the plane, since he was already deceased. Well I guess by now it must be obvious that you think that somebody else was at the controls? I know that I would have to think that this was the obvious explanation, since the plane wouldn't be flying itself.
There is a problem with this idea however. The problem is one that is insurmountable. His plane was very distinct and had huge numbers painted on the fuselage. It was also a very noisy play which made many people look up as it flew and many of them noted the registration and type of plane. The Federal Aviation Administration sent a letter of citation against the registered owner and pilot of the plane stating that the noise level was above the allowed amounts. The family upon receiving this letter immediately contacted the FAA and told them several interesting facts. The first one of course was that Slayton could not have been piloting the plane since he had died before the incident.
Another interesting fact was that the plane had been put into an aircraft museum in Nevada, before the date of the fly over and the engine had been removed. The plane had been seen taking off from the airport, but the FAA was informed that the plane never had an electric starter and therefore it required somebody on the outside of the plane to help get it going. The many witnesses that had seen the plane were interrogated many times by different agencies and local pilots, none of them wavered in the identification of the plane.
The plane performed maneuvers over the airport that day and climbed suddenly into the clouds and was never seen again.
Sometimes, the unmistakable sound of a lone Merlin engine fills the air in the dark of the night, during snowstorms, heavy showers, fog and in all seasons over residents near the former RAF station at Biggin Hill, Kent. Locals are very familiar with the sounds of the rare engine even though the base was shut down long ago. There have been countless reports over the years where witnesses claim to have heard, and even seen, a lone Spitfire flying overhead. Amazingly, some of these witnesses have been Wartime Veterans, and pilots. Those of us who know the sound of a Merlin, know full well, it is not a sound to be mistaken for anything else. The question is not what engine is producing these sounds, the question is who is flying it.
According to past sightings, the Biggin Hill Spitfire is apparently seen around January, with the 19th your best chance to see the ghostly apparition in flight.
Perhaps the spookiest aeronautical tale ever told...
Eastern Air Lines Flight 401, operated by a four-month-old Lockheed L-1011-1 Tristar (the tenth example delivered to the carrier) carrying 163 passengers and 13 crew members, left New York's JFK Airport on Friday, December 29, 1972 at 9:20 p.m., en route to Miami International Airport. The flight was under the command of captain Robert 'Bob' Loft, 55, a veteran Eastern Air Lines pilot ranked 50th in seniority at Eastern. His flight crew included first officer Albert Stockstill, 39, and second officer (flight engineer) Donald 'Don' Repo, 51. A company employee—technical officer, Angelo Donadeo, 47, returning to Miami from an assignment in New York—accompanied the flight crew for the journey.
The flight was routine until 11:32 p.m., when the flight began its approach into Miami International Airport. After lowering the gear, first officer Stockstill noticed that the landing gear indicator, a green light identifying that the nose gear is properly locked in the "down" position, did not illuminate. This was discovered to be due to a burned-out light bulb. The landing gear could have been manually lowered either way. The pilots cycled the landing gear but still failed to get the confirmation light.
Loft, who was working the radio during this leg of the flight, told the tower that they would abort their landing and asked for instructions to circle the airport. The tower cleared the flight to pull out of its descent, climb to two thousand feet, and then fly west over the darkness of the Everglades.
The cockpit crew removed the light assembly and second officer Repo was dispatched into the avionics bay beneath the flight deck to check visually if the gear was down through a small viewing window. Fifty seconds after reaching their assigned altitude, captain Loft instructed first officer Stockstill to put the L-1011 on autopilot. For the next eighty seconds, the plane maintained level flight. Then, it dropped one hundred feet (30 m), and then again flew level for two more minutes, after which it began a descent so gradual it could not be perceived by the crew. In the next seventy seconds, the plane lost only 250 feet (76 m), but this was enough to trigger the altitude warning C-chord chime located under the engineer's workstation. The engineer (second officer Repo) had gone below, and there was no indication by the pilot's voices recorded on the CVR that they heard the chime. In another fifty seconds, the plane was at half its assigned altitude.
As Stockstill started another turn, onto 180 degrees, he noticed the discrepancy. The following conversation was recovered from the flight voice recorder later:
Stockstill: We did something to the altitude.
Stockstill: We're still at 2,000 feet, right?
Loft: Hey—what's happening here?
The jetliner crashed at 25°51′53″N 80°35′43″W25.86472°N 80.59528°W
The location was west-northwest of Miami, 18.7 miles (30.1 km) from the end of runway Nine Left (9L). The plane was traveling at 227 miles per hour when it flew into the ground. The left wingtip hit first, then the left engine and the left landing gear, making three trails through the sawgrass, each five feet wide and more than 100 feet (30 m) long. When the main part of the fuselage hit the ground, it continued to move through the grass and water, breaking up as it went.
In all, 77 had lived through the ordeal—69 of the 163 passengers and 8 of the 10 flight attendants survived the crash, with 99 initial fatalities. Of the cockpit crew, only Flight Engineer Repo survived the initial crash, along with technical officer Donadeo who was down in the nose electronics bay with Repo at the moment of impact. Stockstill was killed on impact, while Captain Loft died in the wreckage of the flightdeck before he could be transported to a hospital. Repo was evacuated to a hospital, but later succumbed to his injuries. Angelo Donadeo, the lone survivor of the four flightdeck occupants, eventually recovered from his injuries and died on October 4, 2004.
Over the following months and years, employees of Eastern Air Lines began reporting sightings of the dead crew members, captain Robert Loft and second officer (flight engineer) Donald Repo, sitting on board other L-1011 (N318EA) flights. The aircrafts involved in the sightings were discovered to have been serviced using the recovered parts of Flight 401. These parts were salvaged after the crash investigation and refitted into other L-1011s.
The reported hauntings were only seen on the planes that used the spare parts. (Even though some parts were salvaged and re-used to maintain other airplanes in Eastern's fleet, the accident resulted in the total hull loss of N310EA and it was written off.) Sightings of the spirits of Don Repo and Bob Loft spread throughout Eastern Air Lines to the point where Eastern's management warned employees that they could face dismissal if caught spreading ghost stories. While Eastern Airlines publicly denied some of their planes were haunted, they reportedly removed all the salvaged parts from their L-1011 fleet.
Once the original parts belonging to Flight 401 were removed, the ghostly crewmembers were never seen again…
The legend of Clubfoot
Location: Binbrook - Former Binbrook RAF base.
Clubfoot was the unfortunate nickname given to an Australian who worked on Binbrook RAF airbase during the second world war. For reasons unknown, Clubfoot attempted to sabotage a Royal Air Force Lancaster Bomber, and in doing so, somehow mistakenly blew himself up. The legend of Clubfoot grew over time due to what, or who, many believed to be Clubfoot, appearing during the dark hours time and time again for many years after his death walking around on the perimeter road of the old base.
To this day...the sightings continue.
Gremlins: Their origin is found in myths among airmen of multiple nations, many of whom claimed that gremlins were responsible for sabotaging their aircraft in flight.
The term "gremlin" denoting a mischievous creature that creates havoc on board aircraft, originated in Royal Air Force (RAF) slang in the 1920s among the British pilots stationed in Malta, the Middle East, and India, with the earliest recorded printed use being in a poem published in the journal Aeroplane in Malta on 10 April 1929. Some sources even indicate that reports go as far back World War I
Scissor-wielding gremlins were known to cut the wires, sabotage engines, instruments, antennae as well as the aircraft fuselage on poor unsuspecting pilots . These stories even being shared by Spitfire and Hurricane pilots during the Battle of Britain. Flight crews continued to blame gremlins for otherwise inexplicable accidents and incidents which sometimes occurred during their flights.
Gremlins were also thought at one point to have enemy sympathies, but further investigation revealed that Axis aircraft had similar and equally inexplicable mechanical problems. As such, gremlins were portrayed as being equal opportunity tricksters, taking no sides in the conflict, and acting out their mischief from their own self-interest.
The Cosford Aerospace Museum Haunting
There is a well known and much talked about Avro Lincoln bomber located at the UK's Cosford Aerospace Museum. Over the years, there have been countless reported sightings of an apparition in and around the Lincoln aircraft, and most times, witnesses reported hearing perplexing sounds - some of which were apparently recorded during an overnight vigil inside the aircraft by a BBC reporter and a paranormal investigator.
During the course of the investigation, some of the sounds recorded by the BBC were played for some WW2 Veterans who actually piloted the Avro Lincoln Bomber. Much to the amazement of the investigators, the sounds were identified by ex-Lincoln RAF crews as those that would be caused by flight crews either going through the bombers pre-flight checks or during the course of a flight. The sequence, and timing of the sounds were precisely those that only a type specific trained crew would have been able to perform.
There have been numerous reports from former RAF Base, Montrose. A World War I trainee died while out on his first solo flight. Following the crash, his ghost was reported to have appeared in the base commander's room three times, before the room was locked up by the military, and not been used since. The ghostly crew member was also seen flying around in his biplane, up until the end of the Second World War.
A phantom RAF Officer was also seen around the base during the latter years of WW2. It was thought that he was killed when a mechanic with a grudge tampered with his aircraft's engine. The strange events continue to this day with continuous reports that an old radio set at the heritage centre continued to pick up Second World War transmissions, including Churchill speeches.
An aircraft is never still in darkness to those who listen intently past the drone of the engines; there is a whispering in distant chambers. There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery.
From all of us at Sierra Hotel Aeronautics...Eat, drink and be scary!