It is remarkable how events can change people’s lives. We all take air travel for granted as it is, by far, the safest way to go long distances. When an airline crash occurs it is etched into our minds and seldom forgotten.
Last March, the University of Michigan basketball team had a major scare after a very difficult attempt at a takeoff and their plane crashed through a runway fence. Fortunately, everyone on the Michigan plane was unhurt; but their lives were all altered because of that event
On Nov 14th 1970 the Marshall Football Team had a tragic air crash as the plane they were in collided with the side of a mountain. This incident, documented in a number of books and a remarkable movie, changed the lives of families forever.
On Oct 29th 1960 at 11 PM the California Polytechnical Institute football team was getting ready to fly home from Toledo Express Airport after a 50-6 loss to Bowling Green State University. BG at the time was a highly ranked college football team, coached by Doyt Perry, and the Cal Poly team got to the airport exhausted. It was such a foggy night that as the team headed out to the tarmac to the C-46 Propliner N1244N, they literally could not see the plane, a veteran aircraft from WWII, that flew for Arctic Pacific.
Commercial plane traffic was grounded at the Toledo Airport due to the fog, but since the Cal Poly flight was a charter the pilot could make the decision whether the plane will take-off, not the airport traffic control tower. The last conversation heard outside the plane was with the pilot and Cal Poly Head football coach Roy Hughes, discussing the weather,and whether they should attempt the takeoff. The last words from Hughes were ‘’let’s give it the old college try.” The old World War ll plane rumbled down the runway on this ominous night with forty-four souls aboard. It got about one hundred feet off of the ground when the left engine cut out. The plane quickly dipped and crashed onto the runway. On impact the plane was severed into two sections and all the people in the front of the plane were tragically killed, while those in the back section lived. Because of this horrible crash aviation regulatory procedures changed and pilots no longer make the take-off decision. Now, the airport traffic control tower has full authority to determine whether a plane takes off, regardless if it is a commercial flight or a charter.
This 1960 air tragedy at the Toledo Airport should never have happened. The plane should never have taken off with almost zero visibility. John Madden, pro football hall of fame coach, was a Cal Poly assistant coach at the time, but he was not on the flight as he stayed home and coached a nearby junior college football team. A great friend to many on that Cal Poly team, Madden famously took busses to stadiums during his football coaching and broadcasting career due to that fateful crash.
Ted Tollner was the quarterback of the Cal Poly team and right before the ill- fated take off was asked by his wide receiver Curtis Hill to change seats. Curtis thought he would be less nauseous if he sat up front; Tollner did . Curtis was killed and Tollner lived. So many lives were changed that fateful night in 1960 in Toledo -a flight that never should have happened.