James Sanders-The Disaster (Part 3)
Updated: Feb 19
Explore the rest of this website about my dad's B-17 crew: www.rumboogiecrew.com
Click below to listen to the audio blog.
Lt. James Sanders came home after the war and went to work as a youthful airline pilot. By the age of 26, he was routinely co-piloting airliners for TWA
to exotic places like Cairo, Madrid, Geneva, and Paris. But then disaster struck. Trans World Airlines' Flight 529 out of Boston usually made stops in New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles before arriving in San Francisco. But on September 1, 1961, one of the aging Constellations assigned to this route made it only halfway before its flight ended in tragedy. The pilot that day was our own Captain Sanders. The plane was the "Star of Dublin," a Lockheed Constellation L-049 propliner. At 2:05 a.m., four minutes after takeoff from Midway Airport in Chicago, something went seriously wrong. The airliner crashed killing all 73 passengers and 5 crew on board. It was, at the time, the deadliest single plane disaster in U.S. history. The accident was investigated by the Civil Aeronautics Board, which concluded its probable cause was the loss of one very small 5/16 inch bolt vital to the control of the aircraft. The bolt fell out of the elevator control mechanism during the climb from Chicago, resulting in a violently abrupt pitch up followed by a stall. The plane veered north from its southwest heading as Captain Sanders fought to recover from the stall. But it fell to the earth, skidded in flames, and disintegrated, leaving debris over an area 200 feet wide and a half mile long across a field of corn and soybeans. In a matter of moments, seventy-eight hearts stopped beating. It was a tragic loss of life.
There is a link to a complete news article of the crash on this blog on my website. It is a seven page article with many details and a full casualty list.
A few years ago, I was scrolling through the link mentioned and came across the following in the Comments Section, posted on October 17, 2012. It contained news I had not heard before about the crash:
"I've been reading the comments from family members who lost loved ones in this tragedy. Clearly this disaster affected many. My father was a TWA Captain/Pilot. He was supposed to have been at the helm of this doomed plane as it took off out of Midway Airport, but due to a series of events, he was not on that plane. My father had fallen a few weeks earlier and received a gash on his head, leaving him with a large bandage around his head. When he was cleared by the flight physician to return to active duty, the head of the flight deck decided my father's appearance might not instill confidence in passengers, so assigned him to a cargo flight instead. My father was flying a cargo flight when he heard about the disaster. It would have been his death if not for his stupid action which caused him to fall - he felt such guilt, always." - Janet B. Dean
I also came across a Facebook Group for relatives and friends of the passengers on Flight 529. The creator of the page, Cari Aiken, said she made it as a place to "share your memories and honor those we lost." The link for the page is on this blog on my website.
I posted the following on the Facebook group page to honor Captain Sanders: "The Rum Boogie crew flew 25 missions and never crashed or were shot down, which was almost unheard of. Captain Sanders was an amazing pilot."
The link to the 1961 television news broadcast out of Chicago about the crash is also on this blog on my website.