Boldly.
November 10, 2015 2:50 PM   Subscribe

On June 18, 1947 on a Pan Am flight from Calcutta to New York, an engine stopped working. While the pilot attempted to land the plane, the 25-year-old co-pilot unbuckled himself, and went into the main cabin to help the passengers...
posted by schmod (63 comments total) 88 users marked this as a favorite
 
ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE ME CRY
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:54 PM on November 10, 2015 [28 favorites]


that was beautiful thanks for posting I'll be over here sobbing.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:55 PM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wow/fate/him/them/us!
posted by Oyéah at 3:00 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I knew what this story was as soon as I saw the first panel, but I didn't expect the ending. A nice surprise from The Oatmeal.
posted by briank at 3:01 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


...and now you know... The Rest Of The Story.
posted by muddgirl at 3:03 PM on November 10, 2015 [22 favorites]


Oh wow
posted by sio42 at 3:05 PM on November 10, 2015


Not to kill the love... but I kind of would have liked the copilot of my plane to be helping figure out how to get it down safely instead?
posted by metasarah at 3:05 PM on November 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


The girl died didn't she? Don't tell me the answer. I wanna know the answer.
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:06 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well. Thanks for this. Very much.
posted by Splunge at 3:06 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I actually kind of suspect he moved back in the plane specifically to increase the chance of a crewmember surviving. It would have been the pilot's obligation to stay up front.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:10 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not to kill the love... but I kind of would have liked the copilot of my plane to be helping figure out how to get it down safely instead?

This was kind of my thought when I read it, too. Like, they must have co-pilots for a reason, right? And if that reason doesn't come into play when the plane is literally on fire and falling out of the sky, then what could that reason possibly be?
posted by jacquilynne at 3:11 PM on November 10, 2015


I saw this earlier today and went looking for any kind of sources about the crash that weren't Roddenberry biographies, but I couldn't find much. The best I could find was this article which reveals that Roddenberry was the third officer (there were a lot of flight officers!) which probably explains why he was not in the cockpit at the time. The captain and first officer were the ones flying the plane.

Anyone have anything more authoritative?
posted by fremen at 3:12 PM on November 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I totally needed to cry at my desk on my lunch break, it's fine, this is fine.
posted by yasaman at 3:12 PM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah. This is a beautiful story and is only yet another reminder that I need to actually do something with my life.

Thanks for feeding fuel to my mid-life crisis.
posted by teleri025 at 3:14 PM on November 10, 2015 [18 favorites]


It's a cool story and all, but tales like this make me think it must have been great to have lived in a time when you could wander from career to career without anyone requiring you have at least five years prior experience and a degree first.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:23 PM on November 10, 2015 [97 favorites]


I'm impressed, yet cynical... just got done submitting it to Snopes to check veracity.
posted by MikeWarot at 3:24 PM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


This says he was a deadheading pilot on the flight. It says the accident was June 19, 1947, 36 people aboard, 14 fatalities. Two crew survived out of seven aboard.

From the bio on rodenberry.com:
At war's end, he joined Pan American World Airways. It was on a flight from Calcutta that his plane lost two engines and caught fire in flight, crashing at night in the Syrian desert. As the senior surviving officer, Roddenberry sent two Englishmen swimming across the Euphrates River in quest of the source of a light he had observed just prior to the crash impact. The Englishmen reached a Syrian military outpost, which sent a small plane to investigate. Roddenberry returned with the small plane to the outpost, where he broadcast a message that was relayed to Pan Am, which sent a stretcher plane to the rescue. Roddenberry later received a Civil Aeronautics commendation for his efforts during and after the crash.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:25 PM on November 10, 2015 [27 favorites]


I can't help but think that if the engines are on fire and the copilot comes out of the cockpit and tells you everything is going to be okay that's probably a good indication that everything is not going to be okay. GO FLY THE PLANE. THATS YOUR JOB.
posted by Justinian at 3:25 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ah, deadheading. That makes sense. There was already a copilot in the cockpit.
posted by Justinian at 3:26 PM on November 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Surviving a plane crash does seem like implicit permission to do whatever the hell you want next. Maybe that helps in the interviews.



I kind of would have liked the copilot of my plane to be helping figure out how to get it down safely instead?

It makes a certain degree of sense that Gene Roddenberry might have been the kind of officer that wasn't, shall we say, straightjacketed by the officer-role.
posted by namespan at 3:27 PM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


That bio also says he returned to flying (for at least some time) and only left it "when he first saw television". Then he moved to LA and became a cop, which helped him break into tv writing.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:31 PM on November 10, 2015


This lists him as Third Officer.
posted by peeedro at 3:33 PM on November 10, 2015


> "It makes a certain degree of sense that Gene Roddenberry might have been the kind of officer that wasn't, shall we say, straightjacketed by the officer-role."

He put himself on the Away Team.

And saved the day.
posted by kyrademon at 3:38 PM on November 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Good thing it wasn't Rod Serling. It would have ended differently, is all I'm sayin'.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:39 PM on November 10, 2015 [39 favorites]


Maybe he just noticed she wasn't wearing a red shirt. "No, really, you'll be ok."
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 3:39 PM on November 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I never heard this before - and I am an original Trekkie. Wow - what an amazing story - and he ended up changing the world in so many ways. In how many alternate universes (if you believe that sort of thing) must the world be so very different just because the incredibly improbable never happened. We all lucked out.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 3:40 PM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


This comic was beautiful. The Great Bird of the Galaxy was mighty indeed.
posted by Gelatin at 3:40 PM on November 10, 2015


If it was George Lucas, there'd be more and more giant lizards wandering around in the desert every damn time he told the story.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:43 PM on November 10, 2015 [29 favorites]


Flagged as offensive.
posted by George Lucas at 3:45 PM on November 10, 2015 [87 favorites]


The second engine caught fire first.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:45 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The woman passenger turned out to be his long-lost twin sister.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:47 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Kobayashi Maru Scenario: Based on a True Story
posted by b1tr0t at 3:48 PM on November 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


I, too, desperately want to know if the woman made it.
posted by Andrhia at 3:50 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I suppose a question about if they were wearing red shirts would be, um, inappropriate...
posted by Chuffy at 3:53 PM on November 10, 2015


"... it was then that Gene Roddenbury carried you"
posted by Nelson at 3:57 PM on November 10, 2015 [64 favorites]


kyrademon: "He put himself on the Away Team.

And saved the day.
"

This is probably why redshirts always die

self-loathing
posted by boo_radley at 4:10 PM on November 10, 2015


"... it was then that Gene Roddenbury carried you beamed you up"

retconned that for you
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:14 PM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


If it was George Lucas, there'd be more and more giant lizards wandering around in the desert every damn time he told the story.

Prize Bull Octorok, don't you mean Werner Herzog?
posted by janey47 at 4:37 PM on November 10, 2015


Justinian: "Ah, deadheading. That makes sense. There was already a copilot in the cockpit."

Yeah because *I* want a copilot who is tripping on acid!
posted by symbioid at 5:09 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Roddenberry sent two Englishmen swimming across the Euphrates River in quest of the source of a light he had observed just prior to the crash impact.

That was actually The Little Prince.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:52 PM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Totally cried on my packed BART train. Then laughed my ass off at the Rod Serling comment. Thanks, Metafilter, everyone around me must be wondering what the hell I just read.
posted by girl Mark at 6:30 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


The twist? Gene Roddenberry died in that crash. We don't know who or what took his place and created Star Trek.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:34 PM on November 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


This is so great, but all I could think about was that the girl totally died, right. It was not okay.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:58 PM on November 10, 2015


I have a personal policy against lying to make people feel better. I can typically come up with something supportive to say without having to lie, so I make it a point to do so. And when I'm the one who needs comforting, false reassurances just make me feel worse.

Now I keep wondering if I would feel differently in the last 30 seconds before a fiery plane crash.
posted by vytae at 7:05 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Roddenberry sent two Englishmen swimming across the Euphrates River in quest of the source of a light he had observed just prior to the crash impact.

That he had the presence of mind to remember such a thing in the midst of the chaos is remarkable.
posted by droplet at 7:22 PM on November 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


teleri025: "Yeah. This is a beautiful story and is only yet another reminder that I need to actually do something with my life.

Thanks for feeding fuel to my mid-life crisis.
"

I would say that you might have already done some wonderful things. Maybe you don't appreciate what a cool person you really are? Have you smiled at someone one day? Have you helped someone? Are you, just by being you, bringing joy to someone?

You don't have to be a co-pilot on a burning plane to have helped someone. Many times it is not the big thing that helps. Most often it's the small things.

For instance, your comment made me think of these very things. And that made me a bit happier. So thanks for your help.
posted by Splunge at 7:42 PM on November 10, 2015 [34 favorites]


In 2004, on a cross-country Virgin Atlantic flight, Brannon Braga agreed to eat a regular dinner when the crew ran out of kosher meals.
posted by PlusDistance at 8:17 PM on November 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Surviving a plane crash does seem like implicit permission to do whatever the hell you want next. Maybe that helps in the interviews.

"Tell us about a work-related crisis you've faced, and how you dealt with it."

(Crosses legs, calmly eases back into maximally relaxed posture.) "WELL."
posted by No-sword at 8:24 PM on November 10, 2015 [39 favorites]


Thanks Splunge.

It's been one of those months. The gig that seemed perfect might not be, the money might not compensate for the totally unnecessary stress, and I still haven't found someone to pay me to stay home and read books and play with puppies and kitties all day.

The beautiful drawings illustrating a great story about somebody who was not only brave but creative and touched tons of lives just made me realize that I need to try a little harder to do a little better.

Sometimes it's easy to get lost looking for the grand gesture that means you Did Something and miss that every day you might do a lot of little somethings.

It's not Star Trek, but it'll do for now.
posted by teleri025 at 8:30 PM on November 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Wait, do we really not have info on the woman and whether she survived? This is important, damn it!
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:10 PM on November 10, 2015


Jim, I'm a doctor not a historian, dammit!
posted by Bella Donna at 9:16 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Abehammerb Lincoln: "Maybe he just noticed she wasn't wearing a red shirt. "No, really, you'll be ok.""

Thanks for that. I was feeling all the feels and then I saw that and smiled...
posted by Samizdata at 9:55 PM on November 10, 2015


Nitpick re art: the Check Six article clearly identifies the plaine involved as a Constellation, the most beautiful - and flawed - passenger liner of the era. The aircraft was named Clipper Eclipse, but it wasn't a Boeing 314 (what with the desert and all), which appears to be among the vague forebears of the drawing.

I appreciate and am amused by the redshirt/away team retconning upthread. I was also put in mind of, in no particular order, Shatner's famous Twilight Zone gig, and the fate of the USS Constellation in TOS (which seems to have no particular derivative relationship to this anecdote).

Finally, with regard to veracity and sourcing, Roddenberry's Wikipedia page included a version of this event in which it was noted that he was known to exaggerate the story. The paragraph had a citation, I believe to a biography. I will note that we are all aware that the man was a storyteller.

As much as the Oatmeal grates on me, so is the author of the Oatmeal. This was both effective and sloppy storytelling, as is the way of the Oatmeal. Whatever, I needed to read it and I needed to read it today, so thanks for the beautiful, internally inconsistent lies.
posted by mwhybark at 11:52 PM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Let's stick more to discussion of the actual post than getting into general personalized snark about the author. Thanks.]
posted by taz at 3:10 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Although the accident really happened, Roddenberry largely exaggerated it in later life, claiming that he single-handedly rescued the survivors from the wreckage, fought raiding Arab tribesmen, and walked across the desert to the nearest phone and called for help. The tale as recounted by Roddenberry was reminiscent of events depicted in the 1965 movie The Flight of the Phoenix. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, 1997, p. 14) - Memory Alpha

Print the legend, as they say.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:24 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Someone on the /r/startrek subreddit gives more details from Roddenberry's biography. Significantly, Roddenberry went to reassure the passengers because the pilot told him to.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:07 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you survive three plane crashes "Maybe I should pick a different line of work" is admittedly a pretty understandable reaction.
posted by schmod at 6:21 AM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


"I've built up an immunity," however, is not.
posted by Etrigan at 6:51 AM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


If it was the stewardess, Jane Bray, that he sat next to, don't worry - she survived.
posted by booksherpa at 6:53 AM on November 11, 2015


Oh god we're all going to be dead soon.
posted by Theta States at 7:37 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


The girl didn't die, she ascended to the stars from the plane because being up so high, she was so close enough to realm between life and death that the goddess of life could see her, and what she saw was such an amazingly strong and courageous woman. So much so the goddess of life scooped her up right there, held her tightly and reassured her "Everything will be okay, sweetie" as they rapidly took flight up to the heavens in the stars. That's why she wasn't there when Gene ran back into the plane to rescue people.

That's what happened and I don't care what anyone else says.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:57 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


She was too beautiful and pure to remain on Earth, it's true.
posted by notyou at 8:55 PM on November 11, 2015


The name of the woman he was reassuring: Edith Keeler.
posted by Stoatfarm at 6:44 AM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


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