Archive for April 6th, 2008

06
Apr
08

Darwin Awards: Flying…um…High!

May 23, 2007 044a

 

Plane Stupid
1981 Honorable Mention
Unconfirmed by Darwin

(February 1981, California) Phoenix Field airport in Fair Oaks had been subject to recurring petty thefts from neighborhood teenagers, so a security firm was retained to patrol the grounds. Thefts decreased sharply, but fuel consumption was on the rise. This puzzling situation continued until late one night, when a passerby noticed a flaming airplane on the field.

By the time the fire department arrived, the plane had completely melted into the tarmac. While they extinguished the residual flames, the passerby noticed a uniformed figure lying facedown several yards away. It was a security guard!

He was revived and questioned.

Turns out he had been siphoning fuel from small planes to use in his car. The plane he selected that night had a unique fuel storage system involving hollow, baffled wing spars. When the determined guard shoved the siphon in, it stubbed against the first baffle. No matter how he twisted, pushed, and pulled the hose, he could not siphon any fuel from the plane.

Exasperated, he lit a match to see inside the tank… and the rest is history.

4-1-0 Club
2004 Darwin Award Nominee
Confirmed True by Darwin

(14 October 2004, Missouri) When Peter and Jesse wanted to see what their new ride could do, like many young men, they got more than they bargained for. It was all fun and games until the vehicle stalled. In most cases this wouldn’t be a serious problem — but Peter and Jesse stalled at 41,000 feet.

You see, they weren’t pushing the old man’s car to the limit. They were flying a 50-passenger jet, a Bombardier CRJ200. Fortunately, there were no passengers aboard to share the fatal consequences.

“Paging the Darwin Awards, please pick up
the white courtesy phone.”

Jesse, 31, was captain of Pinnacle Airlines Flight 3701, and Peter, 23, was the co-pilot. They were transporting an empty plane from Little Rock, Arkansas to Minneapolis, where it was needed for a morning flight. They decided to see what that baby could do. Their fun began while ascending, as they pulled 1.8 G’s in a maneuver that activated an automatic stall avoidance system.

Then they decided to “forty-one it,” take the jet to 41,000 feet–eight miles–the maximum altitude the plane was designed to fly. The thrust of the engines pressed them into their seats with 2.3 times the force of gravity as they soared ever higher, laughing and cursing in a friendly manner, ignoring the overheating engines, and the stick shaker that warned they were operating outside of safe aerodynamic parameters.

At this point, Air Traffic Control contacted the pilots to find out what they were up to. A female controller’s voice crackled over the radio: “3701, are you an RJ-200?”

“That’s affirmative.”

“I’ve never seen you guys up at 41 there.”

The boys laughed. “Yeah, we’re actually a, there’s ah, we don’t have any passengers on board, so we decided to have a little fun and come on up here.”

Little did they know that their fun was doomed when they set the auto-pilot for the impressive climb. They had specified the [I]rate[/I] of climb rather than the [I]speed[/I] of the climb. The higher the plane soared, the slower it flew. The plane was in danger of stalling when it reached 41,000 feet, as the autopilot vainly tried to maintain altitude by pointing the nose up.

“Dude, it’s losing it,” said one of the pilots.

“Yeah,” said the other.

Our two flying aces could have saved themselves at that point. An automatic override began to pitch the nose down to gain speed and prevent a stall. Unfortunately, Jesse and Peter chose to overrule the override. Oops. The plane stalled.

“We don’t have any engines,” said one.

“You gotta be kidding me,” said the other.

Jesse and Peter still might have saved themselves. They were within gliding range of five suitable airports. Unfortunately, they did not reveal the full extent of their difficulties to the controller. They said that they had lost only one of the two engines. They glided for 14 full minutes, losing altitude all the way. As they drifted closer and closer to the ground at high speed, still unable to get the engines restarted, they finally asked for assistance: “We need direct to any airport. We have a double engine failure.”

Unfortunately, it was too late. “We’re going to hit houses, dude,” one of pilots said, as they desperately tried to reach an airport in Jefferson City. They missed the houses and the runway, crashing two and a half miles from the airport. Both men died in the crash.

“It’s beyond belief that a professional air crew would act in that manner,” said a former manager of Pinnacle’s training program for the Bombardier CRJ200.

Lawn Chair Larry
1982 Honorable Mention
Confirmed True by Darwin

(1982, California) Larry Walters of Los Angeles is one of the few to contend for the Darwin Awards and live to tell the tale. “I have fulfilled my 20-year dream,” said Walters, a former truck driver for a company that makes TV commercials. “I’m staying on the ground. I’ve proved the thing works.”

Larry’s boyhood dream was to fly. But fates conspired to keep him from his dream. He joined the Air Force, but his poor eyesight disqualified him from the job of pilot. After he was discharged from the military, he sat in his backyard watching jets fly overhead.

He hatched his weather balloon scheme while sitting outside in his “extremely comfortable” Sears lawnchair. He purchased 45 weather balloons from an Army-Navy surplus store, tied them to his tethered lawnchair dubbed the Inspiration I, and filled the 4′ diameter balloons with helium. Then he strapped himself into his lawnchair with some sandwiches, Miller Lite, and a pellet gun. He figured he would pop a few of the many balloons when it was time to descend.

Larry’s plan was to sever the anchor and lazily float up to a height of about 30 feet above his back yard, where he would enjoy a few hours of flight before coming back down. But things didn’t work out quite as Larry planned.

When his friends cut the cord anchoring the lawnchair to his Jeep, he did not float lazily up to 30 feet. Instead, he streaked into the LA sky as if shot from a cannon, pulled by the lift of 42 helium balloons holding 33 cubic feet of helium each. He didn’t level off at 100 feet, nor did he level off at 1000 feet. After climbing and climbing, he leveled off at 16,000 feet.

At that height he felt he couldn’t risk shooting any of the balloons, lest he unbalance the load and really find himself in trouble. So he stayed there, drifting cold and frightened with his beer and sandwiches, for more than 14 hours. He crossed the primary approach corridor of LAX, where Trans World Airlines and Delta Airlines pilots radioed in reports of the strange sight.

Eventually he gathered the nerve to shoot a few balloons, and slowly descended. The hanging tethers tangled and caught in a power line, blacking out a Long Beach neighborhood for 20 minutes. Larry climbed to safety, where he was arrested by waiting members of the LAPD. As he was led away in handcuffs, a reporter dispatched to cover the daring rescue asked him why he had done it. Larry replied nonchalantly, “A man can’t just sit around.”

The Federal Aviation Administration was not amused. Safety Inspector Neal Savoy said, “We know he broke some part of the Federal Aviation Act, and as soon as we decide which part it is, a charge will be filed.”

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06
Apr
08

On This Day, 4-6-08: Shiloh

Battle of Shiloh begins

The Civil War explodes in the west as the armies of Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston collide at Shiloh, near Pittsburgh Landing in Tennessee. The Battle of Shiloh became one of the bloodiest engagements of the war, and the level of violence shocked North and South alike.

For six months, Yankee troops had been working their way up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. Kentucky was firmly in Union hands, and now the Federals controlled much of Tennessee, including the capital at Nashville. Grant scored major victories at Forts Henry and Donelson in February, forcing Johnston to gather the scattered Rebel forces at Corinth in northern Mississippi. Grant brought his army, 42,000 strong, to rendezvous with General Don Carlos Buell and his 20,000 troops. Grant’s objective was Corinth, a vital rail center that if captured would give the Union total control of the region. Twenty miles away, Johnston lurked at Corinth with 45,000 soldiers.

Johnston did not wait for Grant and Buell to combine their forces. He advanced on April 3, delayed by rains and muddy roads that also slowed Buell. In the early dawn of April 6, a Yankee patrol found the Confederates poised for battle just a mile from the main Union army. Johnston attacked, driving the surprised bluecoats back near a small church called Shiloh, meaning “place of peace.” Throughout the day, the Confederates battered the Union army, driving it back towards Pittsburgh Landing and threatening to trap it against the Tennessee River. Many troops on both sides had no experience in battle. The chances for a complete Confederate victory diminished as troops from Buell’s army began arriving, and Grant’s command on the battlefield shored up the sagging Union line. In the middle of the afternoon, Johnston rode forward to direct the Confederate attack and was struck in the leg by a bullet. The ball severed an artery, and Johnston quickly bled to death. He became the highest ranking general on either side killed during the war. General Pierre G. T. Beauregard assumed control, and he halted the advance at nightfall. The Union army was driven back two miles, but it did not break.

The arrival of additional troops from Buell’s army provided Grant with reinforcements, while the Confederates were worn out from their march. The next day, Grant pushed the Confederates back to Corinth for a major Union victory.

“Battle of Shiloh begins,” The History Channel website, 2008, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2161 [accessed Apr 5, 2008]

1199 – English King Richard I was killed by an arrow at the siege of the castle of Chaluz in France.

1789 – The first U.S. Congress began regular sessions at the Federal Hall in New York City.

1830 – Joseph Smith and five others organized the Mormon Church in Seneca, NY.

1830 – Relations between the Texans and Mexico reached a new low when Mexico would not allow further emigration into Texas by settlers from the U.S.

1862 – The American Civil War Battle of Shiloh began in Tennessee.

1865 – At the Battle of Sayler’s Creek, a third of Lee’s army was cut off by Union troops pursuing him to Appomattox.

1875 – Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for the multiple telegraph, which sent two signals at the same time.

1909 – Americans Robert Peary and Matthew Henson claimed to be the first men to reach the North Pole.

1917 – The U.S. Congress approved a declaration of war on Germany and entered World War I on the Allied side.

1924 – Four planes leave Seattle on the first successful flight around the world.

1938 – The United States recognized the German conquest of Austria.

1941 – German forces invaded Greece and Yugoslavia.

1965 – U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson authorized the use of ground troops in combat operations in Vietnam.

1998 – Federal researchers in the U.S. announced that daily tamoxifen pills could cut breast cancer risk among high-risk women.

Battle of Sayler’s Creek

Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia fights its last major battle as it retreats westward from Richmond. Lee’s army tried to hold off the pursuing Yankees of General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac. In fierce hand-to-hand fighting around Sayler’s Creek, the Yankees captured 1,700 Confederate troops and 300 supply wagons. As Lee watched his men staggering away from the battlefield, he cried, “My God, has the army been dissolved?”

“Battle of Sayler’s Creek.” 2008. The History Channel website. 5 Apr 2008, 11:51 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2162.

The secret of masonry is to keep a secret.
Joseph Smith, Jr.

If my life is of no value to my friends it is of none to myself.
Joseph Smith, Jr.




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