On this Date 1956: Pan Am Flight #6

My brain is full of useless information. Sometimes I find more utterly trivial stories to add to the pile.

On October 16, 1956 there was an astounding water landing in the Pacific Ocean that made headlines because it was the first forced water ditching where all crew and passengers survived. It was Pan Am Flight 6 (sometimes erroneously called flight Flight 943), an around the world flight on a leg between Honolulu and San Francisco.

The plane was a four propeller Boeing 377 Stratocruiser Clipper that took off late in the day of October 15. After midnight first one and than another of the engines went out and crew calculations showed they would not have enough fuel to finish their flight or to return to Hawaii. You can just imagine the slide rules and graph paper consumed in that effort in 1956.

They contacted a Coast Guard ship in the area and arranged to meet in the early daylight hours of October 16, 1956. With 24 passengers and 7 crew members the stakes were high.

Despite the tail breaking off during the water landing and failure of one of the rafts, all on board survived.

The crew later received awards for their efforts and all on board made it to San Francisco on the Coast Guard Cutter a few days later. Remarkable.

I looked this up and Chesley “Sully” Sullengberger was five years old when this happened and I would like to think he said: “Hold my beer* – I can do that with 5 times as many people and land the plane on a river instead of an ocean and with no slide rules.”

*My editorial staff reminds me that there is no evidence that Sully knew this nor said this at that age. I am using literary license. Also they remind me that he probably was not drinking beer at that age. Okay, then I say he said “Hold my Ovaltine.” Satisfied now?

As always you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

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