Friday, November 29, 2013

Book review: "Final Flight" by Peter Stekel

"Final Flight" is perhaps not a great book, but you can't fault author Peter Stekel's enthusiasm for the subject. Stekel delves deeply into every aspect surrounding the mysterious 1942 crash of an Army plane in California's Sierra Nevada range in which four young airmen died.

In what is probably the high point of the book, Stekel hikes high into the mountains and himself discovers one of the victims' bodies in a glacier.

I particularly liked the first half of the book where Stekel tries to solve an historical mystery: Official records and other reports say remains of the four airmen were recovered and buried in 1948. So how can it be that one of the bodies was found in the glacier in 2005? And another found in 2007 (by Stekel)?

Stekel looks at the crash from every angle, recounting the lives of each airman, detailing the strengths and weaknesses of the airplane, reviewing all the recovery efforts, describing similar aviation accidents and trying to sort out what actually went wrong.

He notes that these sort of training accidents weren't uncommon during World War II more U.S. aircraft were lost to accidents, he says, that were lost fighting the Japanese.

My main criticism of the book is that Stekel doesn't seem to know when to stop. He goes on way too long, for example, talking about weather conditions on the day of the crash. While much of the book is interesting, you will definitely find parts you can skim.

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