Stranger Than Fiction

By John Macklin

Samuel Hoosen, a mild-mannered real-estate broker, arrived at New York’s La Guardia airport early in the morning of May 3rd, 1955 to catch the 9.45 flight to Los Angeles for a business conference the following day.

It was just a routine business trip, one he had done several times before. How could Hoosen have guessed that it would become the most important day of his life and that the passengers on Flight 119 could well end up owing their lives to him?

Hoosen carried a small overnight bag, his briefcase, a raincoat and a magazine to occupy him during the flight. He didn’t enjoy flying, but he wasn’t frightened of it–he had flown all over the world during his army service in the war.

There was nothing particularly remarkable about Hoosen. He was small, never known to make a fuss or to throw his weight about. All of which made his behaviour on that May morning in 1955 even more extraordinary.

For when passengers were called to board the DC6 airliner for flight 119 to Los Angeles, Hoosen simply refused to go. “I don’t want to cause trouble”, he told the cabin steward, “But I know there’s something wrong with the plane.”

“Don’t you worry, sir,” said the steward, as though talking to a difficult child. “The guys have been checking it over all morning. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. I’m on the flight myself,” he added, “Can you step through now, sir? You’re causing a holdup.”

But Hoosen refused to budge. By now people were beginning to murmur and look at him strangely. One man said: “Have we got a nut on this flight or something?” Hoosen blushed with embarrassment but he refused to board the red and silver plane.

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