Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sharon Hendricks

Saturday was my sisters birthday. Sharon was born August 3rd, 1945- you figure out how old she would have been). There were 7 in our family growing up, she was the first child and I had two older brothers and one younger sister. (want to guess where I came in?) Sharon had taken a Airline Stewardess Job with Braniff, and three days after her Birthday turning 21, her plane went down in Nebraska. We had just moved to Tacoma and I was in the sixth grade when that happened.  I have heard they are making a movie about that flight- I have not seen it nor do I know if it is factual- most movies are not. This is an old video of a phone conversation she had with Aunt Viola recorded on a reel tape recorder- back when telephone calls were special and limited to 3 minutes usually. Sharon also worked as a telephone operator before being a stewardess- and we all know how far phones have come since the 60's......Anyway- I have many happy memories of Sharon and look forward to seeing her again in Heaven someday.
Photo probably taken in 1965? Susan in Front, Tim, Wayne, Sharon and myself in back. 

the following letter was written 5 days before her crash to me(postmark Aug 2nd,1966)

Falls City, NE Plane Crash, Aug 1966
Posted November 10th, 2007 by Stu Beitler
Investigators hope tape recorder will yield clue to crash taking 42 lives.
FALLS CITY, Neb. (UPI) – Federal investigators said today at least one of the recorders which monitored the crash of a Braniff International jetliner into a Nebraska soybean field was so badly damaged it was useless.

However, they hoped that a tape of the conversation between veteran Capt. DONALD G. PAULY, and his co-pilot as they struggled to bring their plane out of its death spin would yield a clue as to why and how 42 persons died in the Saturday night crash.

Edward E. Slattery, Jr., chief investigator for the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) at the scene, said the flight recorder – regarded by air safety experts as a key factor in determining the cause of crashes – had received such heavy impact and fire damage that its tape could not be deciphered.

Second Tape AnalyzeBut a second tape of the conversations in the plane's cockpit was less damaged and has been sent to CAB headquarters in Washington for analysis, he said.

In Washington, informed sources said it was feared that the cockpit recorder, too, was too badly damaged to yield clues.

However, the sources said, the best speculation was that the British-built BAC111 was torn apart in the sky by a violent line squall – equivalent almost to a tornado – which was swirling over southeast Nebraska.

The theory was based on the fact that one wing and the tail section of the doomed plane were found a mile from the main wreckage 11 miles northeast of Falls City.

At least two witnesses said they heard an explosion before the Kansas City-to-Omaha flight plowed into a sloping field of soybeans about 11:15 p. m. CST Saturday.
                             This is the field where plane crashed in1966 and the memorial erected.

Stakes Mark Site

Today, 42 white stakes driven into the dearth[sic] marked the spots where the victims were found.

The CAB flight detectives hoped to piece together the sections of the mangled jet in the field where it crashed in hopes of discovering further clues to the cause of the disaster. A large tent was set up nearby on the ANTONE SCHWANGE farm to shelter the investigators.

The CAB investigators were joined by experts from Braniff, the British Aircraft corp., which built the plane, Rolls Royce, which manufactured its two jet engines, and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

An FBI agent at the scene refused to comment “at this time” on the possibility of sabotage.

The crash was the first fatal accident of the British built BAC111 since the plane was put into passenger service more than a year ago. Seven persons were killed while the plane was being tested.

The tail section of the plane was found a mile from the remainder of the twisted wreckage after what appeared to be a violent explosion. The jet apparently plunged nearly vertically to the earth.

Witnesses said they saw a brilliant flash of light in the rainy Nebraska skies before the plane crashed. At least a dozen persons watched the plane plunge to the ground in flames.

Most of the victims – their bodies badly burned and mangled – were thrown clear of the wreckage. Searchers found them in the muddy field. The pilot was found in the cockpit, his hands gripping the controls.
Falls City, NE Plane Crash, Aug 1966
Posted November 10th, 2007 by Stu Beitler
Recorder Burned On Crashed Plane
42 Killed In Crash In Nebraska
FALLS CITY, Neb. (AP) – Investigators learned Monday that one of two recording devices, which may have held a clue to the cause of Saturday night's airliner crash, was burned beyond use in the crash that killed 42 persons.

The Braniff International Airways plane was in an envelope of flame when it plunged from a cloud into a soybean field about eight miles northeast of here.

However, there was a chance that another recording device may still be useful.

Too Much Heat
Ed Slattery, spokesman for a 12-man Civil Aeronautics Board investigating team, said Washington experts found heat had destroyed any record that was in the flight recorder. The device, pulled from the wreckage, was designed to keep a record of the plane's position and movements in the air.

He said CAB and factory experts were trying to decipher information in the cockpit voice recorder, which should reveal any cockpit conversation which took place within 30 minutes before the crash. Slattery said the cockpit recorder was recovered “in a rather battered condition.”

An explosion flared as the plane hit the ground, and a witness shouted: “My God, the world is on fire!”

Sky Lit UpANTONE SCHAWANG, owner of the field where the plane crashed, was with his family in an automobile when the disaster occurred. “The sky seemed to light up,” he said, as the burning plane crashed and exploded. It was the that his wife shouted that “the world is on fire.”

Sitting in the kitchen of his farm home three hours later, his suntanned face tired and drawn, SCHAWANG continued his description.

“I could see this ball of flames dropping almost straight down, then I saw the tip of a wing sticking out and I knew it was a plane,” he said.

“Then there was the crash.”

“It came so close – a few more yards and our house and buildings would have been wiped out.”

SCHAWANG said the impact tossed flames and debris “500 feet in the air. It sounded more like hitting your fist on the table than an explosion.”

First Fatal CrashThe plane was a BAC One-11, a twin-jet, rear-engine craft built by British Aircraft Corp. and capable of carrying 63 persons. The CAB said this was the first fatal crash of a BAC One-11 in the United States.

Braniff identified the crew as Capt. DONALD G. PAULY, 47, First Officer JAMES A. HILLIKER, 39, and stewardess GINGER ELAINE BRISBANE, 21, all of Minneapolis, Minn., and stewardess SHARON EILEEN HENDRICKS, 21, Sawyer, N. D.

The plane was Braniff Flight 250, just 15 minutes from landing at Omaha. It had left New Orleans, La., to go to Minneapolis with stops at Shreveport, La.; Fort Smith, Ark.; Tulsa, Okla.; Kansas City, Mo., and Omaha.

Residents near this southeast Nebraska town of 5,600 said there was thunder and lightning before the crash and a heavy rain afterward.

Waterloo Daily Courier Iowa 1966-08-08
Claim bodies of 42 plane victims

FALLS CITY (UPI) – Friends and relatives today claimed the bodies of some of the 42 persons killed in Saturday's crash of a Braniff jet airliner while authorities tried to reconstruct the tragedy.

Members of a Federal Bureau of Investigation “disaster team” continued efforts to positively identify other victims.

Preliminary studies indicated the British-built jet disintegrated in the air while flying through the most vicious of all thunderstorms: a line squall.

Edward E. Slattery, Jr., chief Civil Aeronautics Board investigator at the scene, was asked whether sabotage had been eliminated as a cause. He said “nothing has been eliminated” but that his team, including a meteorologist, were working mainly on the weather-caused theory.

In Washington, informed sources said Monday the BAC 111's flight and voice recorders were seriously damaged but that the voice recorder might yield some information despite fire and impact damage.
Photo of crash site

Braniff flight 250
A strong cold front lay between southern Kansas and northern Nebraska on the evening of August 6, 1966. Braniff flight 250 was scheduled to depart Kansas City for Omaha shortly before 11:00pm that night with 38 passengers and two flight attendants. On the flight deck of the BAC-111 was Captain D G Pauly and First Officer J A Hilliker. Pauly's weather report said that the front was moving southeast, it's passage bringing severe thunderstorms, hail, and strong wind gusts. Another crew just in from Chicago told him that the storm front looked very severe and that that radar pictures did not accurately portray it's intensity. Upon departure, 250 was told to climb and maintain 5,000ft. A few minutes after takeoff, the flight was handed off to Kansas City Centre and cleared to FL200.

Pauly then told Centre that he would prefer to maintain 5,000ft and asked to deviate left of the flight plan course. This request was granted and 250 was handed off to Chicago Centre. Pauly discussed the weather with the Chicago controller and then spoke with another Braniff flight which was at that time climbing out of Omaha for Kansas City. The crew reported light to moderate turbulence and reported that their weather radar showed nothing of significance further south.
Pauly acknowledged and that was the last heard from 250. Shortly afterwards, several people on the ground who had gone outside to view the approaching storm reported seeing 250 flying in clear conditions at about 4,000ft. Witnesses said it seemed to be heading for a light spot in the approaching cloud wall. 250 was lost from view as it passed over a low cloud shelf, but shortly thereafter, witnesses reported seeing a bright flash and a ball of fire falling through the cloud shelf which was 205 spiralling towards the ground, where it impacted killing all aboard. Just moments after the crash, the wind shifted nearly 180 degrees and increased velocity to about 50kts. Rain began to fall and, within minutes, two funnel clouds had formed.
......Examination of the wreckage showed that the starboard wing failed downward while the tail had failed to the left. Both the rudder and elevator had separated from their attachments, having over-travelled in both directions. There was no evidence of structural or system damage nor damage from hail or lightning. The FDR was destroyed in the fire, but the CVR was still readable. The pilots discussed a hole in the line of clouds ahead and then talked about diverting to Pawnee City. About half a minute later, the words "Ease the power back" were heard, followed by the sound of rushing which continued until the end of the tape 25 seconds later. Just prior to the end of the tape, the stall warning horn was heard four times.

Crash site photo

Analysis of the CVR showed that the aircraft was travelling at approximately 270kts, it's recommended turbulence penetration speed. It was determined that 250 would have to encounter a gust of at least 140ft/sec. at an upward angle to cause the tailplane to fail. Chicago Centre's radar tape showed an area of heavy rain just north of the area of the accident. The U.S. Weather Bureau analysed the weather in the area and confirmed that strong outflow from the rain cell north of the accident area would cause extreme low-level turbulence. Further analysis showed that 250 would have just passed through a low-level shear zone when the accident happened.

The other Braniff flight penetrated the line just east of 250's flight path at cruising altitude and experienced no problems.

                                                              Flight Crew that Night

The Columbus Daily Telegram Nebraska 1966-08-09
Falls City, NE Plane Crash, Aug 1966
Posted November 10th, 2007 by Stu Beitler

Flight Recorder Proves Valuable In Study of Crash
By Charles Nicodemus
WASHINGTON – A rushing whoosh of wind whistles eerily through the cockpit of the doomed airliner, as the plane begins to disintegrate.

A claxon blares, triggered automatically a few moments earlier as the jetliner, manhandled by violent turbulence, suddenly looses airspeed and stability, and sloughs into a fatal stall.

A crewman shouts a warning about one of the plane's control surfaces, as the co-pilot and pilot unsuccessfully battle the controls and the storm-tossed BAC – 111 heads in a death plunge toward the dark Nebraska plains, 5,000 feet below.

Then the crew seems strangely silent, and only the “honk” of the claxon and the whistle of the wind are heard as the craft plummets down with stupefying speed.

Finally the brief roar of a crash signals the death of the Braniff airliner in a rainswept field near Falls City, Neb., Aug. 6.

These are the sounds of a unique tape recording, produced by one of the recently installed airline cockpit voice recorders. The Braniff accident was the first fatal crash by an airliner carrying the new equipment.

Highlights from the recording were described by Rep. Roman Pucinski, D-Ill., after attending a playback of the tape conducted after a few key congressional figures and top officials of the Civil Aeronautics Board and the Federal Aviation Agency.

Pucinski, who fathered the idea of installing the voice recorders, and pushed the FAA into requiring them, said CAB investigators probing the Braniff tragedy affirm that results from this first crash recording are “highly gratifying” even though they are far from perfect.

“As we hoped, the recording is proving a valuable tool,” Pucinski said – particularly because the plane's flight recorder, which takes down airspeed, altitude, gravity stress and other flight data, was rendered useless by the fiery crash.

“With the experience we have gained from this first fatal crash tape, we can make needed revisions to improve performance even further,” Pucinski predicted.

The CAB, which investigates air accidents, will not officially release a transcript of the recording or analysis of its significance until hearings on the Braniff crash open, probably in mid-November.

And both Pucinski and the CAB emphasize that no conclusions can be drawn as yet from the tape, particularly since parts of it are still being clarified by sound engineers, who are trying to ungarble certain faint sounds that may prove to be voices.

However, the recording does make certain things clear:

-- Wind started whistling through the cockpit shortly after whatever the disaster struck. Where did it come from?

Investigators believe this may well indicate that the plane was ripped apart by turbulence. Pieces of the plane were found scattered over a wide area, reinforcing that theory.

-- Turbulence was so severe that the plane went into a stall just before it began its fall. The claxon shows that.

Conversation with air traffic controllers and among the crewmen establish that the plane had flown into a thunderstorm with turbulence far than they expected. They were desperately looking for a “hole” in the weather just before the crash.

-- No clearly identifiable sounds are heard from the crew in the last seconds, even though the stall claxon, the wind – and ultimately, the crash – come through clearly.

This has led investigators to wonder if the crew could have been knocked out at that point – and if so by what? The force of the turbulence? Fright? Disintegration of the airframe?

The recording has nothing like the quality of the records you buy in the store, or even an air traffic control tape

Falls City, NE Plane Crash, Aug 1966
Posted November 10th, 2007 by Stu Beitler
Sounds are piled one atop another – engine noise: radio messages: sounds such as the claxon: a warning horn as the throttles are depressed, and other extraneous noises.

All are being separated, filtered and analyzed. “Technically it is a fantastically complex, difficult process, taking the combined best efforts of sound engineers and flight investigators,” Pucinski said.

But the finished product, which CAB officials are confident will be improved still further by the time of the hearing, “is well worth the time, money and effort,” the congressman declared.
Corpus Christi Times Texas 1966-09-12

Airliner Crash Victims Listed.
DALLAS, Tex. (AP) – Braniff International Airways announced Sunday the following crew and passenger list aboard Flight 250 which crashed Saturday night near Falls City, Neb., killing all 42 aboard:
Capt. DONALD G. PAULY, 47, Minneapolis, Minn.
First Officer JAMES A. HILLIKER, 39, Bloomington, Minn.
Stewardess SHARON EILEEN HENDRICKS, 21, Minneapolis.
Stewardess GINGER ELAINE BRISBANE, 21, Mineapolis.
Pvt. LARRY J. BOFTEED, Ft. Polk, La.
NANCY CHAMBLIN, 18, Fort Smith, Ark.
SUSAN CHAMBLIN, 15, Fort Smith, Ark.
DANNY RAY COX (military standby), Clayton, Del. Or Omaha.
MISS JEAN DUERKSEN, 22, Victoria, Tex.
MRS. EVA DYER, Washington, D. C.
K. ESKELINEN, Venice, Fla.
A.F. M. Sgt. DONALD FERRARO, (no home town).
L. M. GRAEBER, 61, Spring Park, Minn.
MARY KAY HAMM, 16, Houston, Tex.
SUSAN HAMM, 17, Houston, Tex.
Pvt. CHARLES E. HOWARD (military standby), no home town.
Pvt. RUSSELL E. HUDSON (military standby), no home town.
CHARLA J. WARD, 16, Omaha.
ROBERT D. WELTER, Des Moines, Iowa.
FRANK WILSON, Fremont, Neb.
JOHNSON (military), Ft. Polk, La.
MRS. CHERI LYN JORDAN, Tusla, Okla. And Minneapolis.
BOHDAN K_________ (military), Chicago.
EUGENE P. McCONNELL (military), no home town.
MRS. MORGAN MILES (or MILLS), Gonzalez, Tex.
WILLIAM MURPHY (military), Ft. Polk, La.
JOHN M. PAUL, Overland, Kan.
Albuquerque Journal New Mexico 1966-08-08

update: I understand August 6th, 2016 there will be a memorial to honor 50 year anniversary. I am sorry I cannot make it.


  1. So sorry about Sharon.

  2. I just read the book, Falls City, like your sister Sue said, some of the drama I didn't believe but then it was very interesting and couldn't put it down. Read the book with an open mind, only because I wasn't born yet -7/11/67 So it was interesting in parts, but then other parts were like the people she worked with were mean to her, like Leota-supervisor..Some people gave Sharon a bad time because of the burn on her leg from the fireplace when she was younger and the fear of fire was a big thing when doing Sharon's practices on the airline if there was a fire on board.-Brenda AL-Abadi, your cousin.

  3. My blog above is written how I saw things, perhaps my sister saw things differently- that is normal. As for the book Falls city- it never claims to be facts- it clearly states it is based on a true story- Kit even offered to change some issues that we objected to, but it is his right to tell the story how he wishes and what sells. I have no problem with that. The news coverage above I cannot even vouch if it is factual- I was not there. I can tell you we never even had a fireplace growing up, Sharon never was burned or had a fear of fires. I am not competing with the book or the movie which may be different from book- I simply shared a recording of Sharon had with our Aunt Viola who has since passed away as well. Perhaps there will be a story on my life someday- I had trouble with news reporters getting things straight when I was on council- you can change a story by leaving out one word or adding one word and todays news is just opinions- we do not have investigative reporters anymore- the simply write what is told them- that is why I do not watch TV news- look at the missing airliner coverage for last 3 weeks and "the opinions" thrown out as facts and what has proved wrong already....Read the book for entertainment- not facts.

    1. We did have a coal stove which we used for heating in the winter months but not a fireplace.

  4. Thank you for your blog posting. My father was a passenger on the plane. I was 13 at the time. I did not know that there was a book about it. I visited the crash site and plan to go again this August 6th.

  5. This was fascinating! Thank you for sharing it!

    Adrienne DeJarnette
    Braniff Reservations in Kansas City, 1972-1978, native of Seattle.