Still Another Kennedy Tragedy

When news reports that Kennedy’s plane was missing were first broadcast on a Saturday morning in July 1999, the country held its breath. Yet again the Kennedy family was threatened with tragedy, and painful memories were reawakened.

As details of Kennedy’s last minutes of flight began to emerge from the National Transportation Safety Board investigators whose job is to investigate fatal airplane accidents, pilots around the world felt an even deeper pain. Many could imagine themselves in the cockpit of Kennedy’s Piper Saratoga, frightened and bewildered as events sped out of control. As days passed and details came to light about the plane’s radar track, investigators, the press, and the public gradually acknowledged that John Jr., his wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister Lauren Bessette were almost certainly dead.

Still Another Kennedy Tragedy

By the Book

Air-traffic controllers track air­planes using radar, which transmits a radio signal, then listens for it to bounce back from an object. The longer a signal takes to bounce back, the farther away the object is. Radar equipment automatically records the radar images, or visual description of these signals, and if necessary, investigators can recon­struct an aircraft’s radar track, a kind of motion picture of its movements, including its altitude, speed, and location.

Still Another Kennedy Tragedy

By the Book

The Piper Saratoga is a high – performance single-engine air­plane that can carry a pilot and as many as five passengers (although some Piper Saratogas are equip­ped with a luxurious executive console that takes up one seat). The Saratoga can fly for more than 850 miles without refueling at a cruise speed of 175 knob, or 200 miles an hour. A new Saratoga cosb about $400,000.

Before we look into the combination of circumstances and bad decisions that probably led, step by step, to Kennedy’s crash, we should review how Kennedy and the Bessette sisters spent their last few hours. The chain of events that led to the crash started many hours before Kennedy’s Piper Saratoga hit the waters of Rhode Island Sound.

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