Knute Rockne and Aircraft Safety
American Heritage examines the crash that raised a key issue in aircraft safety. An excerpt:
Besides Fry’s copilot, Jess Mathias, the Fokker carried six male passengers, most of them businessmen of some importance. But one was considerably more famous than the others, and in a much different area. Knute Rockne, the legendary Notre Dame football coach, was on his way to Los Angeles to make an instructional football film and perhaps also to schmooze Hollywood producers, with an eye toward getting other film work.
Not long after takeoff from Kansas City, Fry found himself in rapidly worsening conditions. Ice began to collect on the wings and struts, affecting the plane’s handling and stressing the wooden structures. Before Fry could even think about getting out of the storm, one wing ripped away and the aircraft plummeted into a wheat field near Bazaar, Kansas. The occupants died instantly, their bodies and the wreckage burning almost beyond identification. Rockne’s remains were found with a rosary wrapped in his fingers. A nation grieved for the gridiron hero.