Nolls and Caldwells at Dinner

The Plane That Never Came

In 1987 some friends of ours came to visit us in China and we were to travel together when we left China. Bernice and I were working in Chengdu for the Chinese National Academy of Sciences. We left Chengdu and took the train to Chongqing where we would meet the Caldwells. They were to fly to Hong Kong and then to Guangzhou. From there they would take a plane from Guangzhou and we would meet them at the airport in Chongqing. After that we would travel by boat down the Yangzi River for five days. The flight they were to be on was to arrive at 4:00 PM and we made arrangements to take a car to the airport to meet them

We go to the Airport

We were at the airport on time and Flight 414 was on time and expected to arrive soon. As we watched the board the arrival time still said an "On-Time Arrival." But no plane arrived. After the plane was supposed to be there for the last 20 minutes the board changed to "Flight Cancelled." We packed up and left for the city. We went back to the airport the next day and Flight 414 was posted to arrive at 4:00 PM again. Again after posting "On-Time Arrival" and not showing up, 20 minutes after the on-time arrival it again changed to "Fights Cancelled."

The Nolls and Caldwells at Dinner

The Plane Has Crashed and all are Dead

In those days phone calls are next to impossible so we were perplexed as what was happening. The third day came and went with the exact same results. I then called upon one of my students who worked for the CAAC (China's State owned Airline Company) to find out what was going on. The truth was most strange. Flight 414 had crashed on the way to Chongqing with the loss of all passengers. All aboard the plane were dead.

A Strange Situation

Yes, the plane had crashed, two months ago. However the now-phantom plane was still flying and they were still selling tickets and people were waiting at both ends of the flight for a phantom takeoff and landing. Eventually our friends figured out what was happening and bulldozed their way aboard another flight and we met up for our travel plans. "All's well that ends well," as the bard said. Here we are having dinner and laughing about the "Strange Situation." The Caldwells are to the right side in the picture.