Trans American Two O Nine

In the early evening of July 2nd, 1980, at 19:25 Local, Trans American Airlines, a Boeing 707 320B(in service since 1957) was pushed back from gate 89 at LAX, and taxied out under dark overcast with 113 passengers on board. TA flight Two Zero Niner was under the command of Captain Clarance Oveur, 57, 30,000 hours of total flight time, and First Officer R Murdock, 48, 20,000 hours of total flight time, Second Officer B. Basta, and 7 cabin crew members. Flight 20 departed LAX on schedule for a direct flight to Chicago O’hare, with arrival into Chicago estimated for ten-forty-five Central Time
Once reaching their cruising altitude of 36 thousand feet, flight attendants began drink and food service while the pilots settled into their en route tasks. At 19:45, Flight 209 climbed to Flight Level 420 due to expected weather ahead.
At approximately 20:25, both the Captain and First Officer began to display signs of illness and soon became incapacitated. Steve McCroskey at Chicago Air Control was advised of the escalating situation via radio by Flight Attendant E Dickinson. Step-by-step instructions were passed on to Dickinson via Chicago Approach to attempt to activate the autopilot. ATC then advised Two Zero Niner about fog down to the deck everywhere east of the Rockies, with no possible alternate. The only option was to continue to Chicago.
As Chicago Air Control attempted to brief Dickinson on aircraft instrumentation and control inputs, the autopilot system disconnected. Thankfully FA Dickinson managed to successfully "re-engage" the autopilot.
Now stabilized at cruise altitude, but entering increasingly unstable weather, flight Two Zero Niner continued without crew towards Chicago in dark and stormy weather. It was at this time that USAAF Capt Theodore Stricker, a retired military pilot was briefed on the situation, and although an experienced pilot, he had no experience on larger jet aircraft, and had not flown since that mission over Macho Grande, when they bombed the storage depots at Daiquiri.  They were coming in from the north, below their radar. Stricker, Murdock, Kramer, Buddy, Andy, Howie, and Zip.
Taking position in the cockpit, Capt Theodore Stricker, while wrestling with the memories of that day, and that mission over Macho Grande, assumed command of the aircraft.  
At this time, Chicago emergency crash rescue personnel were put on alert, and Capt Theodore Striker’s former commanding officer, Rex Kramer, now a training pilot at Trans American Airlines pilot was brought in to help familiarize Stricker with the 707. At one point, turning the aircraft away from built-up areas to minimize ground casualties was considered, but it was decided to attempt an approach into Chicago. The autopilot was disconnected, and TA209 began its approach into Chicago in deteriorating meteorological conditions.
Flight Two Zero Niner broke out of the overcast 8 miles out at 1500 feet, and Chicago was prepared with airport emergency vehicles lining both sides of runway Nine. Chicago approach was monitoring the flight "He's all over the place! Nine hundred feet up to thirteen hundred feet! What an asshole!” ATC requested that TA209 enter a holding pattern until weather improves, but due to an onboard medical emergency, Capt Striker rejected their request.
Holding 135 knots, TA209 continued its approach. Passengers were instructed to assume the crash position as the gear was lowered. Flight 209 touched down on runway Zero Niner hard, which contributed to a brake failure. The aircraft departed the runway surface, and the gear collapsed.
Flight 209 came to a complete stop at 10:42 local time. Although the aircraft was severely damaged, all on board survived...All thanks to the professional conduct and quick thinking of both FA Dickinson, and the impressive flying skills of Capt Theodore Striker. 
When approached by local media, one passenger “Joey” was quoted in saying he has never been to a Turkish prison.


  • Frederick

    Back in those days the Captain had to slide back his side window and pay for
    fuel with his card.

  • Greg

    Never heard of that airline.or story. Has to be fiction.

  • Michael Q

    They lost me at the very beginning…..initial climb to ‘36 thousand feet.then to “Flight Level 420.” First of all, an eastbound flight from LAX to ORD would use odd altitudes (35,000 or, more correctly FL350). Secondly, I think the service ceiling of the B707-320B with PW-JT3D engines is 36000 feet.

  • David Schearer

    Don’t call me surely (Shirley).

  • Peter Stricker

    This looks like it’s based on a 1956 screenplay by Arthur Hailey called “Flight into Danger” and subsequent novel “Runway Zero Eight” which spawned a number of adaptations and movies, including the comedy “Airport”. Stryker (also mis-spelled as Stricker (my name, incidentally) in the article) was a spoof on the play and novel. So if you think this is a true incident, you’ve been had!

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