Sunday, September 13, 2009

Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Tribute Group Sole Mode Of Transportation Within The Everglades "AIRBOATS"

Traveling the 9.2 mile distance from the Tamiami Trail launch site is "Airboat One" piloted by Doyle Kennon from Cooper Town which onboard were the survivors Ron Infantino, Beverly Raposa and Patty McGigg. Also onboard was the group photographer Catherine Smallwood who successfully recorded the day
Traveling on the left flank and riding passenger is Bruce Brockhouse with Tom a member from the Airboat Association of Florida who also lent his time and boat to assist the group in getting everyone out there

A great level thanks goes out to Doyle Kennon and the whole of Cooper Town for the use of their "Boat" which carried the Tribute group survivors back to the site

Shown is the launch site off Tamiami Trail were all the "Boats" were launched from. Should be noted that the size of the launch site only allow the launching of one boat at a time
Located on the South side of Tamiami Trail, the day started out on the grounds of the Airboat Association of Florida club and camp grounds as the "Boats" were hauled to the launch site which is situated on the North side of the Trail thus allowing a clear running to the crash site

The "Boats" ranged in sizes, horsepower and paint scheme, but all indispensable to getting the group out to the site and the sole mode of transportation within the Everglades

Miami, Florida 12th September 2009: Once again the survivors of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 found themselves preparing and heading back out to the very same spot that they were in on the night of 29th December 1972 crash of Flight 401, 37 years ago, as they the Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Tribute Group prepare to survey the area for the collection of historical information.
And the only and sole means of getting back to the site as was the case 37 years ago is by air boat! Thank to Jesse and Doyle kennon of Cooper City Air boats it was possible. Despite the advancement that Miami-Dade County has undergone since 1972, the world famous Florida Everglades are as unassailable as they were 37th years and for that matter since its discovery over 500 years ago.
Cooper City Air Boats Tours were a key factor in making this possible and we at the Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Tribute Group wish to thank both Mr. Jesse Kennon and his Son Mr. Doyle Kennon.

Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Tribute Group Prepares For The First Of Many Crash Site Survey of Flight 401

Shown left to right: kneeling, Benny Benitez, Ron Infantino, Al Naranjo, Catherine Smallwood and Beverly Raposa. This event marks the group first formal and organized crash site survey since the group formally assembled at the start of the year and of which many more shall follow as the group goes forth
Shown at the launch site is the group photographer Catherine Smallwood properly equipped to provide photographic survey of the site and to overall record the day for the group history

Not to waste one minute so as to seize every second at the site, group leader Ron Infantino begins to unload the provisions to take along for the trip, which mostly consisted of water and soda to combat the heat while out on the site

Al Naranjo and Bruce Brockhouse are ready and eager to head out. The trip is very useful to them both, as they will be able to get an idea of the general area as they continue their plans to hopefully establish a memorial at the site

Having been and operated in some the most remote parts of the world while undertaking the survey of aircraft accidents and crashes will in the service of Lloyd's of London and despite being in a "friendly" environment with the support of over eight air boats, direct contact via communication to the Opa Locka U.S. Coast Guard Air Station, Benny still conducts a proper and detailed equipment check for the group before heading out

Miami, Florida 12th September 2009: In a combined effort by all hands of the Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Tribute Group, the group makes ready for their first formal and organized expedition back out to the crash site of 37 years ago, so as to undertake a survey of the area.
One contributing attribute to the group is the experience in which group member Benny Benitez brings in the area of post crash area investigations and surveying.
As a post crash surveyor and investigator in the service of the London Lloyd Syndicate of Aviation Underwriters when being employed for the world known aviation lost adjustment firm, the London based AIRCLAIMS Benny Benitez undertook the survey of over a dozen crashes in the most inhospitable places within Latin America.
Drawing on his experience in planning, safety and executing success sit surveyors, the group benefited from this as they undertook the survey of their crash site. The group hopes to lay the ground work for future public tours that the group would use as means of raising funds for their cause through site visitation and lectures at the site by the survivors.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Tribute Group Survivor Meets One of His Rescuer from 37 Years Ago

Shown (left) is surviving Eastern Airline Flight 401 passenger Ron Infantino with retired Miami-Dade Fire-Figther Don Onstad who 37 years ago helped Ron off the rescue helicopter at the hospital when Ron was airlifted out from the crash site
After 37 years Ron Infantino and Don Onstad again meet within the Everglades, but under much different and more hospitable conditions and enjoyed seeing each other after so many years
Ron Infantino (left) is shown listing to Keith Price, the President of the Airboat Association of Florida, as unknown to him yet standing next to him is an individual who Ron has not seen within 37 years and who was the Miami-Dade Fire-Fighter who took him off the rescue helicopter. Retired Miami-Dade Firefighter Don Onstad awaits for Keith to finish speak before re-introducing himself to Ron

Miami, Florida 12th September 2009: As it always appears to be with the Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Tribute Group each exploit and undertaking that the group plans and does results in a new and wonderful find. Such is the case when during the preparation of the first organized survey tour back to the crash site of 37 years ago and as the group gathered at the Air Boater Association of Florida grounds, the past met the present.
Much to the surprise of everyone, especially surviving passenger Mr. Ron Infantino, he meets one of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescuer, Mr. Don Onstad.
Unknown to any of us at the time this amazing reunion was a surprise to all and on those magical moments that often happen when around the Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Tribute Group. Both Ron and Don warmly greeted each other and without any words at first spoken, just a hardy handshake and warm smile between them, the sensation of thanks and gratitude was abundant among these two men who fate brought them together 37 years ago.

After 37 Years The Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Tribute Group Locates and Indentify Wreckage From Aircraft N310EA

Despite the seasonal high water level within the Everglades, this piece from aircraft N310EA is still visible and after 37 years still appears to be in overall good condition concerning surface corrosion
Al Naranjo feels to see if the subject part may be moved, but soon learns that what is seen is actually the tip of the iceberg as further observation showed that this piece is over 8 feet long and about 3 feet wide. Recovery of this piece will require the part to be strapped and / or chained and hauled / broken free by either the airboats or a truck to be driven out on the levy A close up survey photograph displays heavy presence of "sealant" on the structure indicating that is may be part of an area which held fuel such as the wing and / or center tank areas. Also noted and worthy of mention that despite 37 years of sitting out there in the elements the "sealant" still had a slight rubber feel to it. Also the heavy rivet area displayed very little visible surface corrosion
Drawing on his diverse world experience of aircraft accident investigations and crash site reclamation with the London Lloyd's Syndicate, honorary group member Benny Benitez is "boots on ground" along with Al Naranjo and Bruce Brockhouse at the first identified area which exhibited a sizable part of aircraft wreckage from Eastern Airlines Lockheed L-1011 aircraft N310EA

Miami, Florida 12th September 2009: After 37 years surviving member of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 find themselves back to the site of the crash of their L-1011, N310EA, but this time they are not alone.
After a 40 min transit by the flotilla of air boats that comprised the survey team and through the area guidance of the good folks at the Air Boat Association of Florida, the group soon found themselves back at the crash site. It was amazing to see that after almost 37 years later bit and pieces of N310EA still lay undisturbed in the silence and remoteness that is the Everglades.
One such and notable piece of N310EA is shown above. It measured about 12 ft in length and at the widest about 4 1/2 feet wide and appears from its structure to be wing skin / section.
No effort was made to remove it as this visitation to the site was merely a survey, but in the future this could prove to be a good artifact to preserve from N310EA.
The subject part at the time of our survey laid in about 8 inches of water. The segment shown in the above photo is the point of one end.
It should be noted that noticeable reminisce of "gray sealant" was visible leading our theory that this may have been a section of the wing that housed a fuel cell. Further review shall be pending and final determination of the local piece shall be established.

AirBoat Association of Florida (AAOF) & Cooper City Assist The Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Tribute Group With Their Survey of The Crash Site

The Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Tribute Group crash site survey team shown left to right: Beverly Raposa, Benny Benitez, Al Naranjo, Bruce Brockhouse, Catherine Smallwood, Patty Mc Quigg, Ron Infantino and Keith Price of the Airboat Association of Florida. Of notable mention and not present due to a schedule conflict Mercy Ruiz (surviving flight attendant)
Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Ron Infantino the group "Commander" speak with the President of the Airboat Association of South Florida Kieth Price about the site and the current condition of the area and its water level during this time of the year considering the seasonal heavy rains
Bruce Brockhouse and Al Naranjo from the Miami based Architectural firm of Brockhouse speak to Kieth Price about their idea to establish a memorial for Eastern Airlines Flight 401 out at the crash site
Eastern Airline Flight 401 surviving flight attendant Beverly Raposa shown here next Kieth Price, President of the AirBoat Association of Florida (AAOF). Keith is speaking to the group about the the current state of the water level out there before heading out for the scheduled survey

Miami, Florida 12th September 2009: The Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Tribute Group wishes to thank all the good and caring folks both at the Air Boat Association of Florida (AAOF) and the Cooper City, as their willingness to help is greatly appreciated. In speaking to Mr. Keith Price the President of the Air Boat Association of Florida he mentioned that his organization will support the Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Tribute Group in providing transportation from time to time back to the site for any research and collection of information that would help the group establish itself. The group fully appreciate the support of the local airboating community as it was an lone airboat manned by the late Mr. Robert "Bud" Marquis that came to the rescue of Flight 401 and 37 years later the airboats and its great folks still are forever rendering the assistance that started 37 years ago.

We at the Eastern Airlines Flight 401 Tribute Group wish to thank and hold in great esteem all the folks that make up the airboat community and culture that is so special to South Florida and those who are here today because of the rescue they offered 37 years ago.