The photo assignment was to drive to a little town in Missouri where a fellow had some pieces of a plane his late father had crashed in 1963. The man was planning to gather more of the plane, rebuild it and fly it.
A question kept coming back to me on the drive up: Why?
The gentleman I was to meet was Frank Flores whose father, Ralph Flores and a passenger, crashed in the remote Canadian wilderness in the dead of winter. They survived for 49 days with almost no food in subzero temperatures before being rescued.
As Frank Flores recounted his father’s ordeal and his plan to rebuild and fly the plane that was still mostly at the crash site, I began thinking the story sounded familiar. I had seen a movie made a couple of decades earlier based on a book written by Flores’ passenger, Helen Klaben.
The 1975 made for TV movie starred Ed Asner as Ralph and Sally Struthers as Helen and was, in my humble opinion, just so-so. The story, as Frank told it, was fascinating. Maybe I’ll read the book if it is still in print.
The “Why?” of this “part two sequel” was still unclear. Why go to all the trouble and cost to rebuild a crashed plane and then fly it after all these years? The answer was it was an unfulfilled promise the younger Flores had made to his father who had passed away a year earlier.
But, still I wondered, “Why”?
You can read a 1963 two part newspaper story about the crash and rescue with photos of Ralph and Helen here:
You can read the story of Frank’s attempt to collect and rebuild the plane in this 1999 LA Times story here:
I couldn’t find any followup story so I doubt Frank finished restoring the plane. If that is the case, that’s a little sad but predictable. At the time, Frank seemed like he was heavily grieving the loss of his father which can skew rational thinking.
Here is a link to another blog post related to this story: http://www.gadsdentimes.com/article/20101226/WORK/101229935?p=1&tc=pg
And, here is a photo (photographer unknown or I would gladly credit) of the plane as it sat in 1998 where it crashed more than 30 years earlier.
John S. Stewart