Wednesday, December 2, 2009

60 YEARS AGO: MARCH 31, 1949, Two Beech 18s Attempted to Land at London Airport, one RCAF, one Dow Chemical… One Turned Back, and One Didn't…

THIS IS THE STORY of the Beech 18 THAT didn't turn back

WINSTON CHURCHILL had just given his famous Iron Curtain speech in America. In it, Churchill lamented the future plight of European nations which would be threatened by an ever greater Russian expansionist influence that had already begun, just after World War II. He was still in America, and now he was scheduled to give another speech in Boston. Churchill promised it would be as important as the previous Iron Curtain across Europe speech. The world would be listening on radio broadcasts all over the world. These stations would be airing his 40 minute address live.

Some would be lucky enough to attend.

Some, had received personal invitations, from Winston Churchill, himself.

One of those very few, was Dr. Willard Dow, 52 year-old president and CEO, of the industrial corporate giant, Dow Chemical Corporation of America.

Willard was somewhat of a giant himself.

His father, Canadian, Herbert Henry Dow, established the company in 1897. But it was the son who developed and expanded his father's company far beyond the original vision. Rarely does a son reproduce the success of a father. But Willard did, and he was a genius.

Not only did he carry around company's 700 chemical manufacturing formula's in his head, in 1940 he had developed a process to produce magnesium from seawater, now allowing "man to mine the oceans for metal". Dow Chemical became a strategic partner to the Allies during WW II because of this. Magnesium, which was needed in abundance, could now be had, in abundance, because of Dow's new process. Fabricating large quantities of lightweight magnesium parts for military aircraft would never be easier. And since Dow's North Carolina plant was the only plant on the east coast producing bromine, it was the one attacked by a German U-boat in 1942.

In 1943, Willard had received the Frederick Chandler Award by Columbia University for his "dynamic and successful leadership of the American Chemical industry.

Dow "always seemed able to come up with the right formula at the right time!" Chemistry became magic for him.

Sorcerer or conjurer, Willard could bend chemistry's laws to his will. And in 1943, he produced synthetic rubber and plastics for the first time. In 1944, he was honoured by the American Institute of Chemistry when they bestowed their annual Gold Award on him.

Times were never better for Willard, and his family. Youngish looking and sharp, he was known and loved by thousands of men, from his various plants all across North America. Employees, he had grown to know personally, through the years.

Maybe millions of people worldwide didn't know who Willard was, but those very millions used dozens of his products on a daily basis. Products, that had been produced, by his incredible ingenuity.

On March 31, 1949, at about 9:10 am Willard, his wife Martha, Calvin Campbell , head of Dow's legal department, Calvin's wife, AJ Bowie, the pilot and Fred Clements, the co-pilot, took off from an airport near Midland, Michigan where Dow Chemical had made its headquarters, and where they all lived.

Only one of them would ever see Midland again.

Onboard, the mood was festive. The world was waiting for Winston's latest pronouncement. And the Dow women had risen to the occasion by being decked out in their very finest. Extravagant jewellery few mortals had ever seen, let alone owned, and wore, were soon to be appreciated by Boston society's elite, and the numerous international attendees.

Yes, soon the Dow representatives would be rubbing shoulders with other dignitaries, and notables, in Boston, and there with "Winnie", reflecting on, and enjoying those recent hard won freedoms, that had emerged for the world from the bloody battlefields of World War II.

Or so they thought.

Dow chemical's Beech 18 had been flying for a little over an hour, uneventfully, and had already flown past London, Ontario, vectoring its way towards Boston, at a steady pace of 175 mph. And that's just when trouble began.

A garbled message came over the radio at the London Airport.

It was from the Dow airplane.

The Dow Chemical Corporation's Beech 18 had turned back! It was seeking the safety of London.

It was now speedily heading west, back, toward London Airport for an emergency landing!!


© 2009 Paul Cardin - Special Projects in Research


Dmitry said...

Oh, you can't break the story with 'to be continued' like that! :) Looking forward for the 2nd part.

Btw, great blog!

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