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What I’m thinking about this Memorial Day

Most people I know are happy about Memorial Day, There’s no school, no work, and probably some beach or pool time. They throw burgers on the grill and spend time in the sun.

But that’s not what I’m thinking about on Memorial Day.

I think about a naval surveillance aircraft, the Lockheed SP2E-Neptune, that takes off for a mission through the Santa Ana Mountains of California one rainy February night in 1969.

Seven crew from the nation’s heartland miss their wives and children back home, yet they are tense with anticipation.

These aviators crave flight. The thrust, the power, the roar of four engines and the spinning propeller course in their veins like an electric current.

The controller sends the coordinates, and the heavy Neptune lifts into the furious dark. Rain assaults the aircraft like driving sheets of metal hammering against its flanks. Walls of water hedge the aircraft as it steers through the black of night.

The coordinates lead the Neptune into Modeskja Canyon at an altitude of 3,000 feet.

But aviators don’t fly into canyons. They navigate from high to low, not low to high. This canyon is no place for a huge aircraft. Somehow, the coordinates are wrong. Continue reading