“The Tragic Tale of the Flight Controller Tracking Southern Airways Flight 242″–by Clifford Davids

Controller at the display

Controller at the display

Two months after the crash of Southern Airways Flight 242, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conducted a five day public hearing at the Sheraton-Biltmore Hotel in Atlanta, GA. The witnesses included crash survivors, internal investigators, engine specialists, air traffic controllers, meteorologists, and a host of other experts directly involved with the ill-fated Flight 242. Their testimony highlighted the series of fatal mistakes that led to the accident on April 4, 1977, claiming the lives of 63 people on board and 9 others on the ground.

One of the prime miscues occurred just minutes into the flight from Huntsville, AL to Atlanta, right after the plane lost both engines in a hellacious hail storm over Rome, GA. Continue reading

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“Anatomy of a Crash Scene”–Action Photographs taken after the crash of Southern Airways Flight 242–by Clifford Davids

FA Sandy Purl at the 20th reunion in 1997

Flight Attendant Sandy Purl at the Flight 242 reunion in 1997

Even before the co-pilot of Southern Airways Flight 242 had lowered his landing gear and touched down dead center on a narrow strip of highway in New Hope, GA, the first responders had begun to gear up for the fiery rescue. Bobby Bruce, an employee of the city of Dallas, GA, had been working on top of Cemetery Hill when he saw the crippled jetliner plummeting to earth. He immediately radioed an alert from the mobile unit in his truck to the dispatcher at the nearby Dallas Police Department. It was the first warning in what become an unsuspecting tragedy that completely overwhelmed the rural community.

The Dallas Police Department then contacted the Dallas Fire Department by radio, alerting Assistant Fire Chief Elsberry at the Standard Oil gas station where he worked. The nearby Union City Fire Department was also alerted. Continue reading

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“The Dry Tomb Burial of Southern Airways Flight 242″–by Clifford Davids

Braly Sports Complex, Dallas, GA

Braly Sports Complex in Dallas, GA

The precise spot where Flight 242’s wreckage is buried remains a mystery–but its location can be found in the most public of places. After I became fully immersed in this project, I found out that the wreckage has in fact been an unmarked grave site for almost four decades. Every year, many thousands of people unknowingly visit this underground tomb during athletic events at the Samuel U. Braly Sports Complex in Dallas, GA. How can this possibly be? The story begins right after the April 4, 1977 disaster. Continue reading

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“Crash Site Confidential”– The National Transportation Safety Board Photos Of Flight 242–by Clifford Davids

Southern Airways DC-9

Southern Airways fleet ca. 1960’s

The National Transportation Safety Board is as American as apple pie. We all recognize their accident investigators on TV, clad in their blue shirts with the yellow “NTSB” logo, swarming all over the horrific wreckage of airplanes, ships, and trains. Established in 1967, the Board is mandated by the U. S. Government to conduct independent investigations into every type of accident on land, air, and sea. Their final recommendations have often resulted in major changes to the existing Continue reading

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“How They Survived–The Lucky Few From Flight 242″ by Clifford Davids

Searching for survivors

Searching for survivors

The crash of Southern Airways Flight 242 is a cruel story of mayhem, death…and survival. I’m still amazed that anyone walked away. The captain and first officer both died from their terrible injuries. Twenty other passengers died from both burns and smoke inhalation, although they were not significantly injured. Thirty-one people were killed by crushing trauma to the head and upper body. Nine more passengers succumbed to a combination of trauma, burns, and smoke inhalation. The last victim tragically lingered for two months before he finally passed away.

There were 22 lucky survivors, including both of the flight attendants.  Many of the survivors also sustained a variety Continue reading

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“The Dead-Stick Descent of Southern Airways Flight 242″–by Clifford Davids

Southern Airways DC-9

Southern Airways DC-9

The final moments aboard Southern Airways Flight 242 were both chaotic and frenzied. The pilot and first officer were frantically searching for anything resembling a runway while trying to get the plane’s engines restarted, and the two flight attendants were struggling to keep the frightened passengers focused and calm during preparations for a forced landing.

First Officer Lyman Keele, Jr., a former navy fighter Continue reading

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“Annette Snell: The Soul Diva on Southern Airways Flight 242″ –by Clifford Davids

Annette Snell

Annette Snell

It was late in the morning on April 4, 1977 when a giddy and triumphant Annette Snell returned to the old stone building at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, AL. She had spent the last week there recording four songs, and the guys at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio promised her that the tunes would power straight up the Billboard 100–and she knew they could make it happen. They had done it with Aretha Franklin a decade earlier, helping her to become the “Queen of Soul” by jump starting her singing career with monster hits like “Respect,” and the classic “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Continue reading

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