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From: (C. Marin Faure)
Subject: Re: A brief commentary
Date: 27 Jun 96 12:42:12

In article <airliners.1996.1055@ohare.Chicago.COM>, wrote:
> ...the number of recent crashes raises some serious questions in itself.
> It's starting to look slightly statistically significant. Are air saftey
> standards dropping? Is it just bad luck? Have airports suddenly started
> employing black cats to cross in front of aeroplanes to give their rescue
> people a job?

Related only to the black cats thing, but an interesting story.  During
WWII, the Air Corps B-29s flew out of airfields in China.  These
packed-gravel airfields were built by hand by the Chinese, and they needed
constant maintenance.  As a result, there were always large numbers of
Chinese workers on the runways during flight operations.  When the B-29s
took off, the workers would move to the side of the runway until the
planes were gone.

Every now and then, one or more Chinese would suddenly dash across the
runway directly in front of a B-29 that was speeding along on its takeoff
run.  There was nothing the B-29 crews could do about this but hold their
breath.  Sometimes the Chinese workers made it across and sometimes they
were hit and killed by the propellers.  The reason was interesting.  The
Chinese believed that if they were having a run of bad luck in their
lives, family troubles, financial problems, or whatever, they could rid
themselves of this curse by dashing in front of a moving vehicle which, if
they timed it right, would kill the evil spirit that was closely following
them around.  The people working on the runways figured there was no
better way to kill an evil spirit than by running over it with a B-29.

A B-29 flight engineer told me that the official procedure if they hit one
of these workers was to monitor the engine temperature gauges throughout
the rest of the takeoff.  If they remained normal after the collision, the
flight was continued.  If the temperature of an engine began to climb
higher than the already-red-hot normal temperature, it was assumed that
the remains of a Chinese worker were interfering with the airflow, and the
flight was aborted after takeoff and the plane would return to the
airfield to be cleaned.  Grisly, but true.  I used footage of one of these
incidents in a film I made honoring the 50th Anniversary of the B-29.

Sorry this is off the thread and probably in the wrong newsgroup, but the
black cats comment reminded me of this.

C. Marin Faure
   author, Flying a Floatplane

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