The Day the Music Died is Rock and Roll history, but does not warrant NTSB reopening its 45 year old Finding

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The below article indicates that  NTSB is considering reexamining its decision as to the Buddy Holly accident; while it is a high profile and fascinating matter for rock and roll fans, it seems to be a poor use of scarce resources.

The National Transportation Safety Board has a full agenda in investigating accidents in aviation, highway, marine, pipeline, and railroad modes, as well as accidents related to the transportation of hazardous materials. That keeps the Board and its staff very, very busy. Furthermore, the statutory purpose ( 49 USC §1131) is to find “probable cause” and to issue recommendations which the FAA and other relevant agencies will review for prospective improvements. There is some time urgency to this process because the findings should be the premises for advancement of safety.

On February 3, 1959 a plane captained by Pilot Roger Peterson crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa. His passengers were All Stars of music at the time: Buddy HollyRitchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. It was a sufficient milestone in music history that Don McLean wrote a song “American Pie” and that included a line “…the Day the Music Died” to commemorate the sad event.

The NTSB found that the infamous crash was due to pilot error and secondarily weather (snow). The pilot was an easy suspect because he was only 21 years old. The aircraft, a Beechcraft Bonanza Model 35, is no longer in production. Note: a forensic pathologist was commissioned in 2007 to test another theory of the crash.

A Mr. L.J. Coon, an experienced pilot, wrote to the NTSB to bring to their attention a different hypothesis for the 1959 accident. He asserts that the real probable causes involve “weight and balance calculations, the rate of the aircraft’s climb and descent, fuel gauge readings and whether a passenger-side rudder pedal”. The author of a book on the crash contends that the CAA (the NTSB’s predecessor agency) got it right.

It is highly likely that the NTSB’s new findings will garner considerable press interest. The result of the staff’s work product, hours of time devoted to 45 year old accident, will have little or no consequence to current aviation safety. NTSB Acting Managing Director Tom Zoeller, while “..something touched [you] deep inside, the day that the music died”, this historic even does not  merit the attention of your experts. Maybe someone at the National Air and Space Museum could research Mr. Coon’s interesting hypothesis.

Acronyms used in this article (in order):

NTSB: The National Transportation Safety Board

FAA: Federal Aviation Association

CAA: Civil Aviation Authority


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1 Comment on "The Day the Music Died is Rock and Roll history, but does not warrant NTSB reopening its 45 year old Finding"

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