Miracle at Glenview (8-19-1948)

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“There’s good news tonight!”  That was the greeting often spoken by a popular radio commentator of the 1940s.  On this date in Chicago, there sure was.

World War II had been over for three years.  Though civilian air travel was starting to grow, much of the public was still nervous about getting on a plane.  There always seemed to be some spectacular air crash in the headlines.

American Airlines Flight 383 was routed from New York to Chicago, with three stops along the way.  It was scheduled to arrive at Midway Airport at 4 p.m.  On the final leg of the trip, pilot Eddie Cycon discovered that the plane’s front wheels were jammed and would not descend.

Cycon’s twin-engine, propeller-driven craft was cruising at 300 miles-an-hour, and had 250 gallons of fuel left.  He radioed Midway traffic control.  After consultation, Cycon was advised to set down at Glenview Naval Air Station, which had the best facilities for handling emergency landings.

Before he could attempt a landing, Cycon had to burn off the excess fuel.  So when he reached Midway he circled the field for over an hour.  Meanwhile, back in the cabin, stewardess Agnes Mae Vaughn was soothing the 35 passengers and making sure they were all securely strapped in.

At 5:15 Cycon notified Glenview he was ready.  He came in nose-up.  The plane touched down on its rear wheels and skidded for nearly a half-mile.  Despite Cycon’s best efforts, the front of the craft dipped as it slowed down.  The nose hit the runway.  Sparks flew.  A last, harrowing 300 yards—and the plane stopped.

The five emergency doors opened, and the passengers quickly exited, sliding down nylon ropes.  Within two minutes the plane was empty.  Over a hundred naval fire-fighters were standing ready.  But an examination of the plane showed there had been no structural damage.

Except for a woman who fainted and had to be carried off in a stretcher, there were no injuries.  Pilot Eddie Cycon and First Office Erwin Boldt were hailed as heroes.  Stewardess Agnes Mae Vaughn was praised for her calm, professional performance.

Only Vaughn knew how much effort that had taken.  American 383 had been her first flight.



2 Responses to “Miracle at Glenview (8-19-1948)”

  1. 1 Pat August 19, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Gabriel Heatter was that fellow, I think. Interesting story.

    • 2 J.R. Schmidt August 19, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      You’re right up Gabriel Heatter. The story I heard was that he started opening with “There’s good news tonight” in the early days of WW2 whenever the U.S. won a battle, to give the public a morale boost.

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