Likely you’re seeing a lot of media accounts of that crash this week on its fiftieth anniversary. If you haven’t already, grab the February 2009 issue of AOPA Pilot and read Bruce Landsberg’s thoughtful article. It’s a tragic chapter in history made sadder still by the realization that, 50 years later, VFR-into-IMC is still taking lives. Audiophiles note: The Feb. 3 edition of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered featured Landsberg talking about how pilots can avoid such accidents.
Thirty-eight years ago, when Don McLean released “American Pie,” few if any of my 12-year-old friends knew the backstory: that it begins with McLean’s memories of “the day the music died”–the night Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper and their pilot crashed in a snow-coverered field in Iowa. We just knew we liked the song. (I had the 45.) If we were lucky, the deejay on our AM station played the full version, but most of the time he didn’t. (It was almost nine minutes long, after all.)