Stories from the High Desert Shed | Major air disaster results in loss of life


I’m not one to do book reviews, but on a recent trip, a book on display caught my eye. Its subject was an event that at the time was called the most terrible air disaster of all time. Having worked at Valle Airport near the Grand Canyon over the years, I was very aware of the event of June 30, 1956, when a TWA plane and a United Airlines plane met over the Grand Canyon. , leading to the violent accident. of the two planes in the famous tourist attraction.

We Are Entering by Mike Nelson (Courtesy Photograph)

All souls on board were lost when the two planes came to rest in two different locations. Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of aviation enthusiasts than the thought of the word “in flight” because most of the time it results in a tragic loss of life, be it one person or many.

In this case, the story of two jetliners full of travelers is truly heartbreaking, especially when we remember the lost souls who lived their lives on a summer’s day traveling to all types of jobs and activities, not knowing that that day would come to such a dramatic end.

Wanting to know more about this event, I bought We Are Going In, by Mike Nelson. Nelson also has a personal connection, as one of the passengers was his uncle.

The story, as he tells it, covers a lot of ground on the investigation and the “whys” of the accident and how it happened. Thinking back to 1956, he pointed out how air travel back then was not as well regulated as it is today and crews didn’t have much of the progress that modern aircraft make in preventing such events.

Even one aspect of the story really shows how far we got when, after the crashes, it was the fact that the first clue that something was wrong was that the planes never got to the gates, and the Landline phones were used to find the answers.

What really makes this book different and remarkable is how Nelson treats the 128 people who lost their lives that day. The sad reality is that of the 128 passengers and crew, only three sets of remains have been identified.

The rest were buried in a common grave, with each airliner having its own monument and grave in remembrance of the fallen.

The mass grave of the victims of United Airlines Flight 718 at the Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery. The cemetery is located near the south bank. (Courtesy photograph)

Nelson spends much of this book telling stories about these people and telling the stories of their lives – from children going on vacation to business leaders on a business trip. Today most of the remains of the two planes – a Lockheed Constellation and a Douglas DC-7 – have been removed from the canyon as the two airlines were asked in 1973 to clean up their respective planes.

Much of the wreckage has been removed, but artifacts from that time still remain today. The memories of those who died have now faded over time, and it was nice to see those lives revisited and to tell their story which, at the time, was overshadowed by a national tragedy – a tragedy that brought people to rethink their travel plans and created an uptick in train travel for a short time.

I highly recommend this book as it does its job very well because it is entertaining – if the same can be said of such a horrifying subject – and it is done in a way that keeps the pages turning.

But more importantly, it brings back the lives of those lost in time, who now share a common grave, never realizing when they boarded their respective flights that it would be for eternity with their fellow travel.

Peace my friends, and until next time, Bob out…

The victims of TWA Flight 2 are at the Citizens Cemetery in Flagstaff, Arizona. (Photograph offered)
An artist’s sketch of the tragic event… (Courtesy photograph)
The Grand Canyon National Historic Site. (Courtesy photograph)

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