Our late friend, Wayne, always embellished the attributes of his friends to other friends. It was a charming, though sometimes embarrassing, quality of his. But, I never knew him to embellish about himself or his experiences. He was not known for tall tales.
A few years back he told me a fascinating story of an averted Montana air disaster. He wasn’t aware himself of its scope until the deathbed admission of a fellow pilot.
Back in the old days of the 1960s, commercial airlines had three working in the cockpit — two pilots and a navigator. Wayne’s first job with Northwest Airlines, after his service in the Air Force, was as a young Boeing 727 navigator. As his story goes: During a blind, fogged-in landing approach to Missoula, Montana, Wayne noticed an anomaly with the flight path. I don’t know the details of how or why. But he told me that upon this discovery, he tapped the co-pilot on the shoulder and showed him his findings on a clip board. The co-pilot immediately pulled back on the yoke and throttled up into a steep, abrupt ascent. They made another go-around, then landed safely. Nothing more was said about this incident until the co-pilot’s confession on his deathbed, decades later.
This is an unknown story and I thought that it should be mentioned as a tribute to Wayne. It turns out they were on a flight path that led into the side of a mountain. Obviously, such a horrible disaster would have been world news, save Wayne’s attentiveness.
An interesting side-note of this story is that the captain of this flight was the same captain of the famous (a few years later?) “D.B. Cooper Hijacking.”