Sunday, July 17, 2011

Today In History - Hail Wrong Way Corrigan: A Man With Brass Balls, Flying Know How and Maybe A Great Sense of Direction!

It was pea soup thick foggy day at Brooklyn, New York's Floyd Bennett Field, on July 17, 1938, when an accomplished airplane pilot and aircraft engineer/mechanic took to the air in what was officially to be a flight from NYC to Los Angeles. The pilot, Douglas Corrigan, was told by airport authorities to take off in any direction except west because of buildings adjacent to the airstrip in that direction, the building in which the airport manage was located. That man wished Corrigan "Bon Voyage" before he took off. Many believed he knew of Corrigan's secret plan to fly to Europe as possibly indicated by those two words he spoke to Corrigan just before his departure.

Thus, Corrigan took off to the east with everyone, except maybe for himself and the airport manager (although the manager denied any such knowledge), expecting him to turn around and head west. Just over 28 hours later, Corrigan landed his Curtiss Robin OX-5 at Baldonnel Airport, in Dublin, Ireland. It had been his dream to fly non-stop to Ireland but federal officials in the USA had not certified his plane as ready for such a flight even though he had repeatedly modified it for such a trip. Upon arrival in Ireland he was questioned by authorities over and over again about how it was he had flown to Ireland instead of to California as had been his flight plan. He repeatedly stated that he had taken off in thick fog, rose to an altitude where he was surrounded by thick fog or cloud cover, had to fly using his compass alone as a directional aid, and that when he finally broke cloud cover and got more light, about 26 hours into his flight, the additional available light allowed him to see he had been reading his compass incorrectly and flying east instead of west. Despite the disbelief of Irish officials, he stuck to that story finally telling them: "That's My Story"! In fact, he stuck with it for the rest of his life and even wrote a book, his autobiography, by that name. All that regardless of the suspected fact that he supposedly had plans to disregard U.S. aviation officials and fly to Ireland without their permission. (He reportedly had discussed his plans, earlier on, with friends.)

His pilot's license was suspended for a short time but was reinstated by the time he had returned to America. He and his plane returned by ship. He came back to an America still ravaged by the Great Depression and yet he was given a hero's welcome. A parade was held in his honor, in a blizzard of ticker-tape despite the 93.1 degree temperature in NYC on August 4, 1938. It was reported that 1 million people attended his parade, more people than attended the parade for Charles Lindbergh. (Disappointingly for Corrigan, Lindbergh never recognized Corrigan's accomplishment.) I do not know who coined his nickname, but from then on he was referred to as 'Wrong Way Corrigan' and the NY Post ran the headline "Hail Wrong Way Corrigan" printed backwards.

Printed here under fair use.
Above jpg found at Wikipedia.
Lest you think that maybe he was just a fool who actually took off and flew in fog and cloud cover so thick he could not see, then due to low light read his compass wrongly, let me tell you again - he was an accomplished pilot having flown for almost 9 full years prior to his infamous flight. In addition, he was also a somewhat renowned mechanic/engineer in that he worked at the factory that assembled Lindbergh's plane and he was responsible for fitting the wings onto that plane and for installing its gas tanks. He had always wanted to repeat Lindbergh's accomplishment and planned to do so for years. He was not an inexperienced rube. While it is possible he made such a set of mistakes for a 26 hour period (the point at which he said he realized his mistake), it truly is very doubtful that he did not fly to Ireland purposefully having been disgusted by the U.S. Government's repeated failure to certify his plane as worthy of a trans-Atlantic flight. In fact, just before he flew off, his plane had been deemed not to be flight worthy for any flight but I guess the government could get it wrong back then just as they do today (still though it was reported to have been in terrible condition - see below).

He certainly was a different sort of man than most we see today; he had brass balls so to speak for having tried that feat in his plane considering the condition it was in at the time. Pay attention to the Wikipedia article when they quote a reporter who gave the plane a once over after it had arrived in Ireland. It was in scary condition from the sound of it - quite possibly truly not airworthy after all, making this flight all the more amazing. Maybe they should have added another word to his moniker and had it come out like: Crazy Wrong Way Corrigan or Ballsy Wrong Way Corrigan. Whatever the real reason for him having flown the wrong way though, he assured himself a sort of immortality by his having done so. Today, 73 years later, we still often refer to folks with a bumbling poor sense of direction with the term Wrong Way placed before their names (and now you know why if you did not know before).

Ironically, his son was killed in an air crash in the 1970s. In 1988 he celebrated the golden jubilee of his flight and rolled the Robin out of her hangar. Police reportedly considered tethering the plane to the ground so he would not fly off in it! He passed away in 1995. There is a lot more to Douglas 'Wrong Way' Corrigan's story but without a doubt, his wrong way flight made him famous and ultimately made him rich. If you want to read more about him go to the references below. The one at Wikipedia is longer and has much more of his story, it is pretty fascinating but either one is a good read.

All the best,
Glenn B

Wife Shoots & Kills Husband While Trying To Shoot Dog?

There must be more to this story. A Pit Bull puppy tries to attack some children. The adults get the kids out of the danger zone. The husband goes over to the dog and picks it up (why on earth would he pick up an apparently vicious dog puppy or otherwise). Reportedly, right after he picks up the dog, the wife seemingly decided this would be a great time to shoot the dog and she fires twice, hitting not only the dog but her husband too - one shot to each of them. The husband was shot in the chest and killed, no word on the condition of the pooch.

There really just has got to be more to the story other than the fact that local authorities are saying it looks like an accident! I think that either this was a case of a woman seeing an opportunity to murder her husband while making it look like an accident or it was one of the dumbest accidents of which I have ever heard, or drugs and or alcohol were in the mix. Then again, maybe the dog started to bite the husband when he picked it up and the wife was actually trying to protect him from the beast. Still not a smart move pulling the trigger with her husband in the line of fire.

I wonder, can you win a Darwin award for getting someone else killed? Nope I just checked the rules and killing someone else rules you out. Of course, if the husband knew the wife was going to shoot the dog, then held the dog up for her to get a good shot, then maybe he could win a Darwin award. I am not saying that is the way it happened just wondering a sort of what if.

All the best,
Glenn B