Friday, 20 October 2017

A really strange plane incident 

I have flown in many planes in my lifetime during my trips to many countries around the word.

Many years ago, I flew in a small sea plane over the mountains of British Columbia. The pilot even let me fly the plane for half an hour.  Fortunately for him and me, we were several thousand feet above the mountains.

I also flew in a World War II two-seater fighter plane over Prince Edward Island and nearly fell out of the passenger seat when the pilot made a sharp left bank. I couldn’t be seat-belted in the plane because I was too fat then so I wasn’t seated tightly in the seat.

Another time when I was in a small plane flying over Ontario, I wanted to take a photo so I pulled a lever that I thought was for the window. It was for the door and I ended up outside the plane hanging on the lever until the pilot banked left and I fell back into the plane.

I and a friend of mine later got into a small plane that was to be flown by a friend of my friend. Just as we were to take off, the pilot got a message to return the plane to the hanger. Two days later, he took the plane up by himself in the air and purposely dove the plane into the ground where he was then killed.

A number of years ago, I and my family were in a passenger plane in the United States that crashed onto the runway and caught fire. Everyone but me got out safely. I had a broken right arm and couldn’t unlock my seat belt.  My wife cried out, “My husband is still in the plane. He can’t release his seatbelt.” A female stewardess rushed back into the plane and unbuckled my seat belt and dragged me out of the plane.    

And now, I am going to tell you about a strange event of what took place in a small three-seater plane flying over the City of Toronto.

Len Koenecke was a married man and the father of a young child. He was an outfielder with the Brooklyn Dodgers, who in the previous season had set a major league fielding record of .994 but an arm injury and faltering performance was threatening to end his baseball career. He was subsequently sent back to the minors.

In September 17, 1935, the ballplayer with his reputed rebellious streak boarded a commercial flight to New York. But he was turfed from the plane during an unscheduled stop in Detroit for being drunk and aggressive.

At the airport there, he approached a pilot called Mulqueeney about chartering a Stinson Junior monoplane to continue his journey east but he balked at the $175 fare.  Nevertheless they both agreed on a $60rae  to fly as far as Buffalo.

Koenecke seemed to have a hangover, but otherwise he was quite steady and sober,” Mulqueeney said of Koenecke’s demeanour in the airport waiting room.

Davis, a 25-year-old licensed pilot, stunt flyer and friend of Mulqueeney’s, decided to go along for the ride and the trio set off around 10 p.m.

Within minutes of being in the air, things got ugly in the cabin as Koenecke demanded that the veteran airman perform flying stunts. When Mulqueeney refused, Koenecke tried to grab the controls. What a jerk that man was expecting the pilot to do maneuvers in the dark of night.

“It looked as if he wanted to try to fly the plane himself,” the pilot recalled. He and Davis managed to force Koenecke, who appeared “completely demented,” into the back seat where promises of liquor in Buffalo pacified him between bouts of belligerence for a couple of hours.

But as the plane approached Long Branch in the south-west of Toronto, Koenecke tried again to take charge of the plane.

Davis wrestled him to the floor, suffering several bites as the powerful athlete kept grinding his teeth on the flesh of Davis’ body  and pawing at him while Davis struck back with his fists. 

Koenecke was bumping against the controls and the plane causing it to fly erratically. Mulqueeney later said to the Toronto Star  “We would all come down dead if we didn’t knock Koenecke out”

He grabbed the fire extinguisher and struck out when the first blow hit Davis by mistake.

Mulqueeney said, “I left the controls of the machine and turned around. I could see the side of Koenecke’s head. I hit him. The handle of the fire extinguisher came out. I hit him again. I hit him until he stopped fighting.”

In his account to the newsmen, he said he hit Koenecke as many as 10 times.

He said, “The ship (plane) was going up and down and all over the place.”Mulqueeney described how he used his “seventh sense” to fly, doing 200 km/h as they zoomed as low as 200 feet.

In the moonlight, the disoriented pilot could see the outline of Long Branch race track at Kipling and Evans Aves. which was a safe spot to land  to get away from that frightful nightmare.

The chaos in the sky caught eyes and ears on the ground below. While the fight for life was taking place, the aeroplane zoomed low and then climbed high, dozens of times, as it followed an erratic course along the lake shore awakening and puzzling residents of the towns from the Humber to Port Credit,” coroner Dr. Warren Snyder who later told the newspaper.

It crossed the race track from north to south several times. To onlookers, it appeared to be going quite fast and was very apparently in distress.

The plane finally landed just after 1 a.m. in the infield of the race track, slightly damaged and splattered with blood inside. Koenecke was huddled dead in the rear seat.

A police constable told the Star, “I saw his face and saw the blood he had lost and said “he’s gone.” He died of his injuries before the plane landed.

If Koenecke’s dead, I guess I killed him,” Mulqueeney said, adding he didn’t remember much after hitting the deranged man. “It was either him or all of us. It’s terrible.”

Mulqueeney and Davis were immediately charged with manslaughter but the charges were dismissed three days later when the jury at a preliminary hearing ruled that they had acted in self-defence.

Defence counsel E.J. Murphy told the jury, “Koenecke had become demented after being discharged from the Dodgers then kicked off the flight to New York. The despondent man wanted to die a spectacular death.  A sane man would never have attempted to grab the controls of an aeroplane. The jury acquitted both men.

Magistrate William Keith believed the two flyers had little choice but to defend themselves. He added, “However, the men may have used a little more force than necessary.”

Give me a break. In the fog of battle, niceties are not applicable when your life is at stake.

Years ago, an unruly passenger who authorities say was trying to open an exit door on a Delta Air Lines flight to Beijing while the plane was high in the air. He fought with the cabin crew and the passenger and was knocked out by a flight attendant with two wine bottles. He was lucky. In another event, a man tried to open the outside door and was tackled by a number of passengers. The man died in the tussle.       

When I was a young boy living in Toronto, I saw a plane crash into the paddlewheel ferry that I and my family had just taken to cross the Toronto harbour to reach the Toronto Islands.

Years later, a large passenger place approaching the Toronto Airport hit the runway so hard, one of the plane’s two engines broke off one of the wings. The pilot then flew the plane over Toronto in order to make another attempt to land but without the lost motor, the plane crashed in a field and everyone in the plane was killed. 

Then years later, a small four-seater plane crashed into a field just north of Toronto. The two men in the plane died in the cash.

Despite these crashes, flying in planes is safer than riding in a car on highways and city streets. But then once in a while when flying in a plane—00ps

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