Flying Off the Radar – WIF Aviation Mysteries

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Strange

Aviation Mysteries

There have been many unexplained disappearances of aircrafts over the years. There’s no denying that the Bermuda Triangle is a hot spot for planes disappearing, but there are countless other locations around the world where airliners have seemingly vanished into thin air. Other times, aircraft suddenly crash with very little warning. And of those crashes, the wreckage discovered often leaves experts with more questions than answers. From the disappearance of Flight 19 over the Bermuda Triangle, to MH370 vanishing, to a hijacker that jumped out of a plane only to disappear without a trace, today we detail 10 of the most fascinating aviation mysteries of all-time.

10. Helios Airways Flight 522

In August 2005, Helios Airways Flight 522 was on its way from Cyprus to Greece when air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft. After losing contact with the plane, two Greek fighter jets went out searching for it and when it was located, they noticed the two pilots slumped over the controls. The fighter pilots then noticed a steward, who was holding an oxygen bottle, breaking into the locked cockpit and attempted to take control of the plane. Unfortunately, he was too late and the plane ran out of fuel, crashing into the hills near Grammatiko, killing all 121 people onboard.

After an investigation took place, it was announced that the cabin lost pressure which left the crew unconscious, although they had previously tried to pressurize the cabin but failed. While we know what happened to the aircraft, a big question still remains: is it in fact safer to lock the cockpit doors? After the terrible tragedies of September 11, 2001, locked cockpits were the normal procedure, but it makes it much more difficult for the flight and cabin crews to communicate. And had the crew of Helios Airways Flight 522 been able to enter the cockpit sooner, the crash may have potentially been avoided.

9. Flying Tiger Line Flight 739

In March 1962, during the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army Flying Tiger Flight 739 was carrying 96 soldiers and 11 crewmen from Guam to the Philippines when it vanished over the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. Crew members of a Standard Oil tanker reported seeing an explosion in the sky about an hour after the aircraft made its final communication, although no distress signals were made by the pilots.

Numerous aircraft and ships searched over 200,000 square miles for eight days looking for the missing plane, but no wreckage was ever found, sparking several rumors as to what really happened. One of those theories is that the U.S. government accidentally shot down the aircraft and tried to cover it up by saying the crash most likely happened due to engine and communication failure.

8. B-47 Stratojet

In March 1956, a Boeing B-47 Stratojet was flying from MacDill Air Force Base in Florida to Ben Guerir Air Base in Morocco when it disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea. After completing its first refueling stop without any problems, it was time to refuel again, so the aircraft began to descend but didn’t make any contact with the tanker.

While an extensive search was conducted, no wreckage was ever found and the crew members were declared dead. The unarmed aircraft had two capsules of nuclear weapons material in carrying cases onboard, so the theory of a nuclear detonation wasn’t a possibility. And interestingly enough, the nuclear weapons were never found, either.

7. TWA Flight 800

In July 1996, Trans World Airlines Flight 800 was flying from New York City to Paris on an overnight trip when it suddenly exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean about 8 miles off the coast of Long Island, near East Moriches, New York, killing all 230 people onboard. The plane exploded just 12 minutes after takeoff, while it was at an altitude of around 13,700 feet. While the U.S. government said that a combination of fuel and air had ignited in the fuel tank, many others believe that it was hit by a missile.

The center part of the aircraft fell first, followed by the forward fuselage, the wings, and the remaining part of the fuselage. After working for over 10 months in water around 120 feet deep, divers were able to recover the remains of all 230 victims, as well as about 95% of the aircraft. Investigators said that the explosion was due to an electrical short circuit that affected the fuel gauge wiring in the tank. There was, however, explosive residue found inside of the cabin but they explained that by an explosive detection exercise that had taken place on the aircraft.

Since 258 people who were interviewed by the FBI claimed to have seen a streak of light that approached the aircraft just before it crashed, many have speculated that it was instead shot down either by terrorists or by a mistake made by the U.S. military, leaving people with more questions than answers as to what really happened to TWA Flight 800.

6. EgyptAir Flight 990

In October 1999, EgyptAir Flight 990 flew from Los Angeles to New York City, where it made a stop before continuing on to Cairo, Egypt. Less than 25 minutes after taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport, the aircraft crashed into the Atlantic Ocean around 60 miles south of Nantucket, Massachusetts, killing all 217 people on board. While the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board claimed that it was the actions of the co-pilot that caused the plane to crash, Egyptian authorities said it was because of mechanical failure.

The plane began to descend very fast (approaching the speed of sound) at a 40 degree steep angle before regaining altitude, then changing directions. It then lost its left engine before descending again and crashing into the ocean. Since a large group of passengers on the plane were military officers from Egypt, some have speculated that the flight had been targeted by the country’s enemies.

According to the cockpit voice recorder, the pilot went to the washroom, leaving the co-pilot alone. At that point, the autopilot was disconnected and the plane began its descent. When the pilot returned to the cockpit, he was heard asking the co-pilot what had happened, with the co-pilot answering “I rely on God.” Was it the co-pilot who caused the crash or was it mechanical failure? We may never know the answer.

5. Pan Am Flight 7

The Clipper Romance of the Skies – also known as Pan Am Flight 7 – was the most luxurious and biggest aircraft of its time. It was in the process of conducting a flight around the world with 36 passengers and eight crew members, departing from San Francisco with its first stop scheduled for Hawaii. That was, however, until it crashed in November 1957.

At 16:04 Pacific Standard Time on November 8, the pilot last reported his position, and that was the last time anyone aboard the plane was heard from. One week later, several of the victims’ bodies were recovered from the ocean. The most interesting fact is that their watches showed a time of 17:25 PST. So, what happened in the 81 minutes between the last communication from the aircraft and when it crashed?

While many theories have circulated on what actually happened, some people believe that a couple of bad men boarded the plane – one of which owed a pretty big debt and the other who was called a “psycho” by people in his hometown – and they may have brought the plane down. Another theory is that the propeller shattered mid-flight because the engines were so powerful. Some of the bodies recovered were wearing life vests, and a large amount of carbon monoxide was detected in several of the bodies. What exactly happened on that flight still remains a mystery.

4. Flight 19

In December 1945, six planes vanished in the Bermuda Triangle and have never been recovered. Five Avenger torpedo bombers (known as “Flight 19”) took off from their base located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for an exercise run. The pilots encountered problems with their compasses and lost communication with the ground crew, although the ground station was still able to hear the pilots talking to one another. The pilots appeared to have been confused as to their location and they all decided to crash-land their planes in the water once their fuel dropped below 10 gallons.

A huge search and rescue mission took place for five days that covered 700,000 square kilometers but no wreckage was ever found. In fact, another plane that had 13 people on board also disappeared and was never found. Apparently, an ocean-liner that was in the area reported seeing a huge fireball in the sky. But to this day, none of the six planes or the passengers have ever been recovered, which adds to the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle.

3. Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart set many flying records during her life, including becoming the first woman to fly solo over 14,000 feet in 1922, and then in 1932 when she was the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic. But tragedy stuck in July 1937 when she disappeared while flying around the world. Her twin-engine Lockheed Electra vanished close to the International Date Line in the central area of the Pacific Ocean. The only clues that were left behind by Earhart were a few unclear and garbled up radio transmissions.

There have been several theories as to what happened to her, such as the possibility she abandoned the airplane and died in the water. Other, stranger theories have surfaced, such as the idea she may have been stranded on an uninhabited island for several years all alone, or that she may have been captured and killed by the Japanese government. Some have even suggested that she just wanted to disappear from the public eye so she faked her death and lived in New Jersey under a different name.

Although the wreckage of her plane has never been found and she was declared lost at sea, what really happened to Amelia Earhart still remains one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century.

2. D.B. Cooper

One of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all-time doesn’t involve the disappearance or crash of an aircraft, but rather a man who hijacked a plane and seemingly vanished into thin air after jumping out with a large sum of money.

In November 1971, a commercial plane was traveling from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, in a seemingly normal flight. A male passenger who was around his mid-40s and about 6-feet tall, and who said his name was Dan Cooper (or D.B. Cooper), handed a flight attendant a note that said he had a bomb in his briefcase. He then showed her the inside of his briefcase, which contained several wires, red sticks, and a battery. At that point, he asked for four parachutes and $200,000 in cash.

When he received the items in Seattle, he let all of the passengers leave the plane, except for a few crew members. Somewhere between Seattle and Reno, Nevada, Cooper lowered the rear steps and jumped out of the plane (with the money), never to be seen again. While countless searches were conducted to try and find him, it was as if he just completely disappeared. To this day, no one knows who D.B. Cooper actually was, or what became of him.

1. MH370

On March 8, 2014, the world was left shocked when Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 seemed to disappear off the face of the Earth during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Extensive search efforts were conducted from the Indian Ocean west of Australia to Central Asia to try and located the 227 passengers and 12 crew members, but no bodies were ever recovered.

With no warning or explanation, the aircraft’s transponder was switched off shortly after communicating with air traffic controllers. The aircraft had then turned toward the west for no apparent reason, as it was completely off track from its initial destination. Since nobody knew for sure where their aircraft may have potentially gone down, several pings from a black box were heard around 1,200 miles northwest of Perth, Australia, but searchers were unable to determine the exact location of the box and it’s never been discovered.

Numerous theories have surfaced on what may have happened to MH370, such as mechanical failure, to hijacking, to even pilot suicide. Since July 2015, several pieces of debris have been recovered, but only a very few were confirmed to have come from MH370. Debris has been recovered from the French island of Réunion, as well as the shores of Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Madagascar, and Mauritius.

In July 2018, the Malaysian government issued a report claiming that mechanical malfunction was very unlikely, as the change in the flight path occurred from manual inputs. So, who caused the plane to disappear? Why did they do it? And most importantly, where is it?


Flying Off the Radar –

WIF Aviation Mysteries

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #1

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #1

Chapter One

ALPHA AND OMEGA

… Well, it looks like they finally got him….

  Somewhere in the western United States in 1956

“Have you seen the headlines from back home, Lyn?” asks Robert Ford of his bride Carolyn Hanes. He is reading the stalwart newspaper Tallahassee Democrat.

“No, I’ve had my hands full putting your Pacific Clipper story on paper. I still can’t believe you guys made it back in one piece!” Lyn Hanes is a writer of some repute and she is working on the account of Captain Bob Ford’s historic flight back to New York City at the very beginning of World War II.

A.O. CampbellHe is nudging her into a reminiscing state of mind. “Do you remember that black doctor from Frenchtown, A.O. Campbell?”

“Oh my yes, how could I forget? What a sweet old man! He’s got to be in his mid-sixties. There is no one quite like him, for sure.” Lyn was loosely involved in the death of A.O.’s mother-in-law in 1931, a friend of a witness to be exact.

“Well somehow this nice old man is being indicted for manslaughter and abortion charges. The Democrat reports sources from police saying they have been watching his clinic for months.”

Carolyn Hanes takes exception to this revelation.

“Tallahassee has become a hotbed for bigotry lately. They cannot stomach a successful black man, threatens them somehow.” She knows it’s time for the South to do some “social” catching up.  “Both white and blacks have been jealous of him and his wife for decades.”

“Well, it looks like they finally got him.”

Hanes lets that statement roll around in her head for a while. She is known for supporting causes that are contrary to popular opinion or the administration of justice, i.e. abuse of.

“I can see the gears grinding in that pretty little head of yours.”

“I am putting in a call into one of my contacts inside the police department. Joe Slater is chief of detectives… I wonder what he knows?” She is becoming suspicious. “Joe would not hassle that old man without cause.”

Carolyn is on the phone in a minute, leaving a message with TPD dispatch, “Have him call me at Westwood 54-1954.”

What can she accomplish, here in regressive 1956 Florida, where the difference between black & white, was complete different to that of right & wrong?

Do not underestimate a writer, when on the trail of a worthwhile story…


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #1


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #321

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #321

Chapter Nineteen

Trials and Triumph

…Does she or doesn’t she…

Does she or doesn’t she?” Bob Ford knows the answer to that question, posed by advertisers for Miss Clairol, but he best not spill the truth about the color of his wife’s hair.

“I think that the visual medium of television is a bit too nosey for my taste.” Lyn Hanes-Ford laments about the potential invasion of privacy.

“But only your hair dresser knows for sure!” The wily fly-boy is watching way too much television now that he is semi-retired. “You know, your hair was darker when I first met you.”

Carolyn’s steely blue eyes are focused on her husband’s direction, her attention drawn away from the banging of artful keystrokes, those recounting Bob’s former heroics. She muses, “Let’s see, didn’t you typewriterget your crew lost over the Arabian Sea, nearly running out of fuel?”

Ford does not remember it that way and why is she tinkering with the story of the Pacific Clipper. “Hey sweetie, you know that we were flying by the seat of our pants and I thought you finished that account last year.”

Lyn fluffs her shoulder length blond locks. “I just had a bunch of notes on paper, no structured text, when I started “The Day”. Now I have time to tell the whole story… that was an amazing experience, Bob!”

“Okay, you were a blond when I met you.”

“I thought you would see it my way…”

In the midst of this playful banter, the telephone rings. It has its origins from a Florida exchange, as suggested by the type of ring.

          “I’ll get it!” she is hoping it is the call she has been waiting for. “Hello?”

          “Miss Hanes, is that you? This is a voice from your past.”

          “It is Mrs. Ford now, Joe Slater. How are you?”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #321


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #299

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #299

…“She was quite a dish, I hear. A bronze skinned beauty with fetching brown eyes that could consume a mere mortal man,” she says with a writer’s flair…

Beautiful Caribbean by Colin Garland

Beautiful Caribbean by Colin Garland

“I know you and I never really talked about it… but we were lovers.”

There, she said it out loud.

Ford has had to deal with the notion before this moment; yet another slightly askew aspect to the last half of his life. “I figured as much, watching you two interacting on the Clipper and such.”

Lyn takes a step back. “No wonder that subject never came up. And to think I was terrified of what you would think, if you knew about us.” It wasn’t that Lyn never liked men. She and Sara just kind of happened. “Then why did you? … You asked me to the reception?! … Oh I get it divide and conquer! Get those girls apart and you would win my heart, was it?”

on-my-mind“Well, sort of. I really did need an escort you know and you do clean up real good,” even though he had his hands full at the time. “I was quite taken with you Lyn, I must say, but the heart thing was not foremost on my mind. And my 2nd officer, Rod, he wouldn’t stop talking about that Sara woman. Yes, we had been away from base for a while, but we were both unattached. No harm in trying.  It seemed like a natural fit for the evening and we didn’t have any expectations. Hell, we were staring 12,000 miles of  in the face… half the world away from New York and no charts to guide us.”

“I was just giving you a hard time Bob, you guys were perfect gentlemen.” More than that, she recalls she had a great time and liked the feeling of being on a man’s arm for a change. “You know, this is a great-great story, one that should be told. It would be a shame to let it slip into the cracks of history.” The gears in Lyn’s brain were grinding away. Constance Caraway could use some time off, The Hawaiian Spy-001surely having to do with that Ace Bannion guy, so, “Would you be open to collaborating with me…”

“Isn’t that what your book The Hawaiian Spy was about?”

“I meant collaborating on a book about you … and the flight of the Pacific Clipper. A story like that almost tells itself. And I can get it right from the horses’ mouth. I’m regret missing the last half of your odyssey.”

Ford inserts a pregnant pause in the previously running conversation. There is more to the story than she wants to know. He waits for the right time to let slip a gem, “But then you would find out about that girl in Port ‘O Spain.”

Lyn counters by subtly raising her eyebrows. She maintains a matter-of-fact facade. “She was quite a dish, I hear. A bronze skinned beauty with fetching brown eyes that could consume a mere mortal man,” she says with a writer’s flair.

Image result for writing with flair   How cool was that?

Now he is confused. He thought he coming of as ‘I was only kidding’, but there was that one night when they were refueling. It could have been that homemade rum, or consuming relief that they had made it across the Atlantic Ocean without tasting its salty water, but he didn’t remember why he awoke in this woman’s bed.

What he did not know, is that Lyn was merely guessing. He says nothing.


Alpha Omega M.D.

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Writing with…

Episode #299


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #288

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #288

…The changes in Sara may be more obvious, but Lyn’s metamorphism manifests itself right where she lives and cannot be avoided…

Conspiracy in the Cactus-001

“Some-one or some-thing did something to you during those six years and I intend to find out exactly what it was and how to correct it.”

“That’s swell, Lyn, but while you and Captain Ford do that, you and I are drifting apart. Sure, we’re friends, that’ll never change, but we used to be lovers, Lyn. I may not remember what I did yesterday, but I do recall sleeping in the same bed.”

Lyn knew that this subject would come up sooner or later, preferably the latter. Her feelings for Sara had changed, somewhere between 1941 and forever. What happens when you think a person is dead? There is the process of grieving, which is basically saying goodbye. Is goodbye a one-way switch?  Or was it the six-year separation that put out the fire? The changes in Sara may be more obvious, but Lyn’s metamorphism manifests itself right where she lives and cannot be avoided.

“I can’t put my finger on it, Sare, but neither of us is the same person. It’s like the Pacific Clipper changed our lives forever.”

Mercifully, the telephone rings. Ironically, the Clipper strikes again.

roswell debris “Lyn, meet me at the airport. I got a call from the owner of the ranch where the debris field is in Roswell. The government moved him to Texas, gave him ten thousand bloomin’ acres. No wonder we couldn’t find him. Can you believe it? He heard about us poking around town. I told you that leaving my business card at the barber shop would pay off.  This guy went back for a trim and bingo! He needs to talk to somebody who won’t treat him like a loony or a criminal like the military. He has his own landing strip!” Ford is so excited that Carolyn did not have the chance to say hello.  

“I’m sorry, you must have the wrong number; this is Connie’s Bakery – head crumb speaking.” She has her usual fun with him.

          “Get moving, wiseacre. We have head wind at 5,000 feet.”

          “You really know how to treat a girl, Ford, but I’ll be there in an hour anyway.”

          “Sorry, Lyn, but this is so big. I’ll have her all warmed up and ready to go.”

          “I love your enthusiasm, Bob. See you there. Bye.”

She turns to tell Sara where she is going. The back screen door is swinging closed.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Image result for old screen door

Episode #288


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #271

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #271

… A blank stare is the mystery woman’s default answer to most questions. She simply doesn’t remember… much…

Meanwhile Caption-001

“This is 1947, Miss ______?” wonders United States Air Force Sergeant Vincent Smith of a woman who is sitting up in a hospital bed at the military facility near Alamogordo, NewHolloman AFB-001 Mexico. She was found standing on the main runway at Holloman Air Force Base, in the middle of a moonlit night two days ago. It is only the full moon that saves her from being run down by a jet airplane taxiing to a midnight takeoff. “Okay, let’s forget your name for now. What is the last thing you remember?”

          “Dancing.”

          “Dancing. That makes sense, considering the dress you were wearing when they found you. Can you tell me where you were dancing and perhaps how you managed to find your way onto the most highly guarded military base in the world?”

A blank stare is the mystery woman’s default the answer to most questions. She simply doesn’t remember… much. “Pearl Harbor – can’t go back, the Japanese…”

The man is puzzled why she always goes back to 1941. Maybe she was a prisoner of the Japanese? “That was six years ago,” he explains once again.

20140323psychiatry“No,” the woman insists, “we are leaving for Pakistan in the morning. I have to get back to the Clipper.”

The base psychiatrist, who has since come into the room, having dealt with this mysterious lady from the beginning, has been slowly putting some of the clues together. “I think she is talking about the Pacific Clipper, Vince, you know, the one Bob Ford flew for Pan American. When the bleeping Japs hit Pearl, he had to fly back to New York by the seat of his pants.”

“Yeah, I have a buddy who knows one of the mechanics from that plane, said they burned 76 octane half the time,” Smith recalls. “But that was still six years ago! This is beginning to creep me out. Keep an eye on her Ben; I’m going to give Pan American a buzz. Maybe they can help figure this out.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Melancholia-Dr Sarvenaz Keyhani

Melancholia by Dr Sarvenaz Keyhani

Episode #271


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #268

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #268

…After Captain Ford, his crew and remaining passengers, et al had left Karachi, their odyssey continued for another ten days…

Pacific Clipper Route      As for the Pacific Clipper, the first thing Captain Robert Ford did, once they had landed at LaGuardia Robert Ford-001harbor on January 5 1942, was to radio Colombo, Ceylon and the British Embassy there. He did call his family, knowing that Pan Am had done so in advance for him, but it is the fate of a woman he barely knew that haunts him, and as it turns out, will continue to haunt him for the rest of his life.

Pacific Clipper Take-off    After him, his crew and remaining passengers, et al had left Karachi, their odyssey Pan Am Clipper2continued for another ten days, across the Arabian Peninsula, the sands of the Sahara, the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean to the tip of South America, then finally and mercifully, New York City.

Ford Map-001 The loss of one passenger will taint the joy of flying, for a flyer without parallel. Instead of retirement, he is granted two weeks leave and a reassignment to an Atlantic Clipper route. He will china_clipperdo so dutifully, if not unceremoniously.

In the two-week layover, he writes out a complete debriefing for his friend, Lyn, so she can fill in the blanks for her war mystery, The Hawaiian Spy. He promises a visit to Tallahassee on his summer vacation. Not an altogether disagreeable notion, even for her. Friendship is friendship, after all.

Pan Am ClipperPan Am Hat-001fords-flight-route1937 CC P.I.-001

As in the case of their country, they find: a lesson not learned  is the hardest lesson of all.

End of Chapter Fourteen


Author’s note:

What I enjoy most about writing Historical Fiction is being able to weave stories, like Robert Ford’s Pacific Clipper WWII ordeal, into the fabric of ***Alpha Omega M.D. Granted he never actually had a passenger go missing from his Pan Am Clipper on the island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), but what fun it was to include characters Carolyn Hanes (Constance Caraway) and Sara Fenwick (Fanny Renwick) in on one of the most amazing stories that no one knows about.

One sunny Sunday, while knee deep in writing this book, I came upon a feature article in the Chicago Tribune’s Travel Section. Somewhere in my old-fashioned stack of research material is that article. At the time, I could not put it down, nor could I let it rest.

As it is with the construction of any book, one writes one-day-at-a-time and a once well planned story takes a sudden turn. And so it did; from a story about a kindly Southern doctor – to a fictional fiction writer who takes a holiday aboard one of Pan American Airways flying boats, WWII breaks out, she loses her companion and blah, blah, blah etc…

I would like to thank the faithful readers of the Writing is Fun-damental (WIF) blog, for allowing me to share my book, along with this amazing story with you. – Gwen

*** THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A BLACK SOUTHERN DOCTOR – ISBN 978-1-4691-9018 Xlibris Publishing

For the real story behind the Pacific Clipper, (Daley, Robert, 1980, An American Saga, Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire, Random House, New York)  follow the link below:

Captain Robert Ford’s Factual Pacific Clipper Story

Pacific Clipper-001



Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #268


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