Monday, September 28, 2009

Death of Payne Stewart

My Dad was watching the golf tournament yesterday and reminded me of the strange aircraft accident that killed American pro golfer Payne Stewart (1957-1999) and 5 others on October 25, 1999. Remember the news reports of authorities tracking a jet that was on autopilot and wasn't responding as it flew from Florida all the way to North Dakota? The Learjet 35 (photo below) was co-owned by Stewart, who was enroute from his home in Orlando to the Pro Tour in Dallas with his 2 agents and a golf course designer. Flight traffic controllers lost contact with the 2 pilots 20 minutes after take-off from Sanford-Orlando airport. The Oklahoma Air National Guard sent up 2 F-16s and reported that the windows had frosted over and the occupants were nonresponsive. The plane flew out of control for 1,500 miles, crashing after 4 hours outside of Mina, South Dakota. Analysis at the crash site showed that the jet plummeted nose-first at 600mph from an altitude that had varied from 22,000 to 51,000 feet, leaving a 10' crater in the ground. It had finally run out of fuel. No one on the ground was hurt and there were no survivors, the occupants having died of hypoxia when the plane lost pressurization and the emergency oxygen system apparently failed. News reports called the flight "eerie" and "ghostly," as it flew toward an unpopulated area unintercepted. Also eerie is the quote from Payne, "I've been fortunate enough to have travelled all over the world, and I've seen things you only read about and see on the news," in light of the fact that his travelling was the news all day that day as we watched the story play out.

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