ITALY: Miracle: Sitting Backwards

The large, four-engine Africa-bound plane was carrying six crew members and 51 passengers, members of the Sudan administration and their families who had been vacationing in Britain. Fifteen miles off the coast of Sicily, the pilot shot up a red distress flare: the plane had developed engine trouble. The craft, a Hermes, crashed into the sea three miles offshore. As it hit the water, the great plane split in half. Then what seemed like a miracle occurred.

The plane (owned by a British firm, Airwork, Ltd.) had its seats arranged in a novel way: backs to the engines, so that passengers...

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