Aviation: On a Wing & a Prayer

Pan American's Flight 843 waited at the end of the main runway at San Francisco's International Airport for takeoff to Honolulu. Aboard the Boeing 707 jet was a full complement of 143 passengers, a crew of ten, two tons of cargo and 13,384 gal. of fuel. At the controls, First Officer Fred Miller, 47, went through the pre-takeoff checklist with Captain Charles Kimes, 44, a freckled, sandy-haired veteran of 16,000 flying hours who had elected to let Miller handle the takeoff. Finally, the airport tower radioed: "Clipper 843 cleared for takeoff." Thirty-five seconds later, the 266,631-lb. plane was airborne, rocketing...

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