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What Are The Chances?

Sometimes, when forging through history, seemingly uneventful elements are discovered and often discarded. Occasionally, such components, when pieced together, create an entirely different story. Such is the case with a chance event I happened on, purely by accident.

I came to Canada, with my family, on August the 14th, many years ago. We flew from Amsterdam on the most luxurious of aircraft, the Lockheed, Super Constellation (affectionately known as the ‘Connie’). This state of the art airplane held up to 90 passengers, with the first class cabin at the rear (away from the engine noise).

The aircraft, of which 579 were made, had a range of 5,500 km, which meant our trek took us from Amsterdam to Shannon, Ireland, from there to Gander, Newfoundland and then to Montreal. The entire trip was 17 hours, with the transatlantic portion being 11 of those.

Yesterday, I was glancing at my iPad, searching for something, when I stumbled across a photo of the ‘Connie’. I looked at it, and it brought back some memories. Suddenly, my eyes were drawn to a headline, dating back to the same year I flew to Canada. It read, ‘Super Constellation crashes off the coast of Ireland’.

The flight was KLM 607-E., which had just landed in Shannon, after departing Amsterdam. Its destination was Gander, Newfoundland, followed by New York City. Shortly after takeoff from Shannon, a propeller malfunctioned, causing metal particles to clog the oil line, and sending all 99 people on board (90 passengers and 9 crew) to their death. This was the deadliest civil aviation disaster, involving a single aircraft, at the time.

My reason for being totally stunned when I read this, was the flight left Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, and had the exact same routing as the one I was on (except the last leg). It was the identical aircraft I boarded, and was not only the same year as I came over, but it left an hour before my flight, on the same day.

I felt a shiver run the length of my spine, when I read the story. I never knew about the incident, and I am not sure if my parents did either. I have been on six airplane mishaps during my life, on more than 800 flights, but this one, my very first time in the air, will have a special meaning for me, as destiny took its course.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.