Monday, September 16, 2013

Fatal Crossing: The Mysterious Disappearance of NWA Flight 2501 and the Quest for Answers by V. O. van Heest

Karen Schmit, editor of BITS AND PIECES newsletter for NWA flight attendants has this to say:  "I am completely absorbed in the pages of this book. BRAVA to V.O. van Heest. She has done an incredible job of researching and writing this story. I am so fascinated with the history of all the people who are involved one way or the other in this plane crash. The diving information is so interesting. I had no idea so many ship and airplane wrecks are in Lake Michigan. I loved the way she began the book and how she pulled me in with the NWA history and that of the crew and families. it's absolutely wonderful." 
Valerie van Heest has documented, in absorbing style, a 10-year search for long-forgotten NWA Flight 2501. The Douglas DC-4 disappeared in the waters of Lake Michigan carrying 58 passengers and crew shortly after midnight on June 24, 1950. At the time, the loss of Flight 2501 was the United States' worst commercial airline disaster. Six months later the Civil Aeronautics Board (precursor to the FAA) declared that there was not sufficient evidence upon which to make a determination as to probable cause.
Van Heest is a shipwreck hunter, one of the founders of the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association (MSRA), dedicated to searching for ships of historical significance. In 2002, shortly after MSRA's success locating the H.C. Akley, a bulk freighter lost in Lake Michigan in a storm in 1883, one of her associates suggested they go hunting for Flight 2501.
Word got to author and explorer Clive Cussler, founder of the National Underwater Marine Agency (NUMA) and he offered to help. For ten consecutive years, NUMA underwrote the expense of a professional team to assist in the search. Cussler joined the effort on two occasions.
Over the years the author sought out and interviewed anyone whom she believed could shed light on the incident, including relatives of passengers and crew. Lady Skywriter readers will recognize many of the names. Joe Kimm was NWA Chief Pilot when Flight 2501 was lost and is quoted and mentioned frequently. Felix Perry was on the NWA team sent to investigate. Donald Nyrop, H.V. "Pete" Patzke, Jerry Nielsen Bob Gibson and Rick Cochran were also interviewed.  Photographs were provided by the NWAHC, Joe Kimm and Rick Cochran.
A compelling read for anyone in the Northwest Airlines family, Van Heest not only documents the diligent search, but serves up a heartfelt tribute to passengers and crew lost on Flight 2501.  For more information:   The book is available at


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