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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fifth calendar year
    PCR #213  (Vol. 5, No. 17)  This edition is for the week of April 19--25, 2004.

Book Review -- "Ghosts of the Air: True Stories of Aerial Hauntings"
 by Will Moriaty
"Kill Bill, Vol. 2"
 by Mike Smith
Air....Walkmen....Xiu Xiu....Von Bondies
 by Terence Nuzum
My Take On "Reinventing Horror Films
 by Andy Lalino
The Kill Bill Miracle....Donald Who?....Miss USA, Super-Soldier
 by Brandon Jones
Iraq....Resident Evil games
 by Joshua Montgomery
Andy's Forry Encounter....Amity island, Here I Come
 by Matt Drinnenberg
The Punishment....Trivial Knowledge....Meet The Beatles, Part 13
 by Mike Smith
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Book Review:
"Ghosts of the Air: True Stories of Aerial Hauntings”
By Martin Caidin.
294 pp., 1991, Bantam Books

If you are a regular to my column you may recall my references to a former colleague named Greg Van Stavern. Greg and I were practically life-long friends until about one year ago. In the course of our 32 year long friendship, one of my favorite memories was having Sunday dinners back in the late 70’s and early 80’s at the now defunct Mexican Burro restaurant on Gandy Boulevard in South Tampa.

As we would munch on chips and guacamole and wash them down with Dos Equis, Greg would share with me his latest encounters with “La Floridiana” as his job with Foreline took him statewide repairing ATM’s and bank equipment.

Of particular interest to me (outside of his recounting of the “UFO Hill” story, see PCR #173) were the stories he would share about the type of aircraft that resided in the northwest corner of Miami International Airport next to Northwest 36th Street. This northwest corner of real estate was referenced by the locals and the aviation players as “Corrosion Corner’ or “Cockroach Corner”.

It is at this specific location where many old piston airliners and first generation jetliners were sent to their final years on the planet before falling victim to the welder’s torch. Many operated as cargo haulers to the Caribbean and Central and South America, while many sat in various stages of decay waiting to be sold to other operators or scrapped.

Greg photographed many of these incredible veterans of the skies, and those familiar with the Miami air scene of that era, such as ‘Miami Mike” Hiscano, Don Levine, Bob Scheible and Davis Gandees, undoubtedly remember such tired iron classics as the ARGO S.A. L-69 Constellation, the TAMPA Columbia and Challenge Air Transport DC-6’s, an incredible array of DC-3’s, and possibly the most unique of all, the rickety old C-46’s of Air Haiti and Rich International.

Each time that I thought that Greg would outdo himself at reporting a unique old classic, his ultimate find almost made me choke on my chalupa.

“I saw a Junkers JU-52 with a Confederate flag on it at Miami International this week!”

For those not familiar with civil aviation, the Junkers JU-52 was a tri-motor piston aircraft of the 1930’s that was a European equivalent to the Ford Tri-Motor here in the States.

Although I had no reason to doubt Greg, this flying “ghost “ disappeared from the proverbial radar 40 to 50 years earlier!

A Mystery Solved
Years later I discovered while reading this book that the Junkers JU-52 mentioned above was restored at Miami International Airport by aviation, science fiction, space technology writer and aviator Martin Caidin! Sure enough, he was returning the aircraft, nicknamed “Iron Annie”, back to its former glory, and using the aprons at “Corrosion Corner” to conduct the restoration effort. This effort was being done at the same time Greg saw the aircraft down there.

Well, there’s one major aviation mystery solved, but author Caidin brings up 294 pages of aviation mysteries in this wonderfully written book.

Caidin was an aviation legend in South Florida. In addition to having flown almost every type of operable aircraft from the 1940’s to the 1990’s, Caidin was a prolific author who penned over fifty novels such as “Cyborg”, which spawned the 70’s ABC television shows “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman”; ‘Marooned”, which became a motion picture; as well as "Fork-Tailed Devil”; “The P-38”; “The God Machine”; “Boeing 707”; “The Saga of Iron Annie (the Junkers JU-52 referenced above)”; “JU-52 Pilot’s Flight Manual”; and "Aviation and Space Medicine”.

“Ghosts of the Air” is a compilation of alleged true stories of unexplainable, inexplicable, and just plain (or is that “plane?”) weird occurrences associated with aviation.

Although most of the stories involve ghosts and strange disturbances associated with the Second World War, there are some stories that occur in or near the sunshine State.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t...
One of the strangest occurrences recounted in this book is a story involving a National Airlines Boeing 727 jetliner on approach to Miami International Airport. No date or flight number of this occurrence is noted, presumably to keep the identities of those involved confidential.

One must assume that if this actually did happen, it was sometime between 1964 and 1980, when National had the 727 in its fleet. My stepbrother, Preston Patton Pender Jr. flew National 727’s as a first officer between 1969 and 1973 and was stationed at M.I.A. - - for all that I know, that could have been his plane involved!

Anyway, the 727 was approaching Miami from the west over the Everglades. The pilots were following Miami Air Traffic Control to the letter. Miami radar had the 727 as well as other targets on its scopes.

The blip that was this National tri-jet suddenly vanished from the screen. Either one of the following had to have happened: The radar was malfunctioning; the aircraft’s transponder was malfunctioning; the aircraft had gone down.

Immediately Miami ATC instructed other aircraft in the vicinity to look for a downed 727. The pilots were instructed to look for flames, smoke, a refection of sunlight from the aircraft’s metal body - - anything! Choppers and emergency crews were dispatched to the sight last seen on the radarscope. All crews reported finding nothing at or on the way to the location.

Now You See It...Again!
Approximately ten minutes after the 727 disappeared from the Miami radarscope it reappeared again at the exact same position that it was last seen at! In addition to this, the crew was chagrinned and clueless as to why the Miami controllers were so concerned about the flight. To both the crew and passengers of the National 727, nothing at all unusual had occurred to this aircraft. It was just a routine approach with no problems whatsoever, although they disappeared for ten minutes from the radar screen, several aircraft flew right through the position the aircraft was at when it disappeared, and then it reappeared at that exact same spot ten minutes later!

The tower requested that the National jet park at an apron separate from the terminal so that airport and airline officials could board the aircraft to try to determine what might have happened. All the crew, passengers, avionics, engines and airframe of the aircraft appeared to be in good condition. The only thing that was abnormal is that the clocks on the aircraft, and the time on the watches of its crew and passengers were all ten minutes behind the clocks and watches on the ground!

If this was a true story, just what happened to that aircraft?

Again, this is a wonderful book for both the aviation and paranormal enthusiast. In addition to the paranormal activities that Caidin discusses, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the non-paranormal antics of South Florida aviator Captain Robert J. Hanley (see Chapter 7 - - it’s downright frightening!), along with references of other South Florida aviation personalities such as Frank Quentin Ray at Page Aero (who helped with the JU-52 effort), Phil Paxton at Okeechobee, and others. Even some of “Iron Annie’s” parts were from old Chalks seaplanes!

Loving written in the gruff matter of fact Caidin style my favorite phrase in the book is “We can entertain anyone on the ground, but if a man lies to his airplane, it will kill him. Deader than hell.”

“Ghosts of the Air” is a rare book to find, but it’s worth the search. I found my copy at Alibris (http://www.alibris.com/search/search.cfm).

Though not entirely Florida Noir, it ranks as an eleven out of ten in my book.

"La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.