This coming September it will have been thirty four years since the Texas International Airways flight number 655 disappeared in a violent thunder storm that it was trying to go around. As some may recall, the aircraft, a convair 600, was en route from Memphis Tennessee to Dallas Texas, with stops in Eldorado and Texarkana Arkansas. Aboard the aircraft was two pilots and nine passengers.
At the stop in Eldorado the air crew decided to continue on to Texarkana though there was a massive cold front approaching from the North West, that was pushing a violent thunderstorm across the State.
Did the aircrew know something that led them to believe they could beat the storm to Texarkana ?
We will likely never know, for the aircraft was forced North to try to find a way around the storm.
Thirty years later an Aviation Archeological Team, accompanied by a news crew from channel 3 KTBS, arrives in the Ouachitas to revisit the scene of the crash and to interview Mena locals that may have knowledge of the incident.
Long time Aircraft Technician Marty Caldwell, who has been involved in many air searches over the years, was one of those that were interviewed out at the airport.
The Ouachita Mountains are clearly marked on the Aviation map of Arkansas. There is a large purple rectangle on the map that defines our area as a "high Crash Incidence" area. The Ouachita Mountains jut up from the earth in a twenty five hundred feet high leap above the surrounding terrain, causing pilots that are used to flying in flatter Southern Regions to miscalculate clearance.
During the search for the missing airliner a Army National Guard Helicopter also crashed, losing all personnel aboard, amplifying the magnitude of the tragedy. Local pilots who are knowledgeable of the
Ouachitas are always sought out for some of these dangerous search missions, with the Mena Airport as the base of operations for such searches. The search for the Texas International flight lasted for three days before it was located many miles from the original search area.
During these days of unbridled media attention, you might think that these valiant and expensive, often volunteer, search and Rescue operations would garner much applause. Yet recognition seems to be sparse. How is it that so little attention has been given to the many massive search and rescue operations that are spearheaded by local pilots gets so little attention ? The budgets of local Law Enforcement agencies, Fire Departments and the Office of Emergency Management are devastated by these efforts. These local agency's always are the first to get the call for help, yet seem to be the last to get much recognition.
During the course of your daily activities, as you encounter these dedicated and professional public servants, let them know how you appreciate their efforts on behalf of the public.
Should you have missed the original airing of the broadcast, or would just like to revisit it, the article is chock full of details with a on site view of the crash scene, it is available on the internet at: