Come fly away to exotic locales!

Come fly away to exotic locales!

[Here's an amazing yarn from our first octogenarian contributor, Bob Nielson, age 86...we're not worthy! —Ed.]

Back in 1960 the Toronto Star sent me to South Africa to report black-white violence.  I boarded an American Airlines 6-propeller plane in New York, which crossed the Atlantic and stopped briefly at a few East African cities while heading south.  I had a window seat over the right wing and saw the nearest engine catch fire, shooting flames 30 feet high.  Called the flight attendant who ran to the cabin.  Turned off, that engine glowed like a red-hot coal.  We were over the jungle with no place for an emergency landing…

That was the situation for at least 45 minutes and, remarkably, nobody yelled or screamed although all passengers, like me, must have believed that their next breath could be their last.  (Fuel was stored in the wings).  When we reached the airport at Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo, the number of ambulances and fire engines on the ground wasn’t exactly reassuring.  But the pilot brought the plane down gently—the fire shot up momentarily from the engine—and we all got out safely.

—Robert Nielson, 86. A retired journalist and Nieman Fellow, Nielson spent 33 years with the Toronto Star as parliamentary correspondent, chief editorial writer, editorial page editor, foreign correspondent, investigative reporter and editorial page columnist. He lives in New Brunswick.



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