In the summer of 1996 while studying and copying by hand file No. AW1/1869 about the August 15th 1939 British Airways LTD crash at the British Airways Archives near Heathrow airport, it was suggested by Fred Huntley, the head archivist at the time, that when I returned to America I contact a Mr. Ron Davies at the Smithsonian. I had lived in the DC area and in those days I visited our nation’s capital from time to time. I tried to visit him, but foolishly did not take the time to make an appointment, so I did not get to meet Ron Davies until 2003.
I eventually contacted him by phone, probably sometime in 1999. My requests were always along the lines of measurements or equipment on the Lockheed Electra 10A. Although I only called when I had exhausted any other means of researching elsewhere, I did not call often. The calls always began the same way with a reminder as to who I was and why I was researching. Then they always sidetracked to the Bridge that was built between Denmark and Sweden, and the request to get him any information and photographs I could. Through a friend in Sweden I did finally get a very nice glossy color brochure in English for Mr. Davies. He then remembered me as the woman who got him the Bridge Brochure.
During a phone call on May 9th, 2000 Ron added information to his records of the British Airways historical Summary for the August 15th entry in regards to the Lockheed Electra 10A G-AESY and credited Catalina Egan! I know this because he made me a copy of the page in 2003 to show that I had helped update information at the Smithsonian. He said something to the effect that I had left an imprint in historical records.
I remember the May 9th phone call well, it was then Ron suggested that I really needed to personally see and measure a Lockheed Electra10A. I told him that I had only been able to find one owned and operated by Air Canada that my budget was such that I could not book tickets on it and had no idea who to contact. Ron then informed me that a man at a museum in Connecticut a Mr. Bill Taylor was rebuilding one piece by piece. It was amazing; I had airline tickets from a trip cancelled due to the flu the previous Christmas that could for a very low transfer fee could be changed to a location right by the New England Air Museum.
The following week with my husband and our then two-year-old son in tow we were at the museum in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Measuring the windows and doors, sitting at the cockpit. With my eyes closed trying to imagine how I would chose window over the emergency exit, which by all accounts in any file that mentioned it worked perfectly.
Looking at every possible detail.
Bill had not completed the interior, so it was easy to see what would have been under the linoleum where the seat of the fire from the G-AESY 1939 flight I was researching is recorded. We photographed it all from every conceivable angle.
I found an article at http://airspacemagazine.com dated September 1st 2004, where leatherette seats and far more of an interior than we saw in 2000 and 2002 are described. Through the following years both Bill Taylor and Ron Davies helped me. I kept more in touch with Ron, as when I purchased his books as special gifts, he was always kind enough to autograph them with special messages.
Bill Taylor was born in 1919 and has had health issues this year but is doing OK. Ron Davies was born in 1921 and retired from the National Air and Space Museum this past February. He died a few weeks ago. A friend in London contacted me and we were both sad, as we are both great admires of Ron Davies work and his life.
To me Ron Davies and Bill Taylor are examples of a choice to live life to the fullest. They are the example of choices in life that leave an imprint, an influence for any who develop an interest in the history of aviation to use. Ron leaves behind a large number of books and as curator in a large museum that is so well known touches the lives of countless people. I feel very honored that I was able to get to know him and correspond a little, share a lunch on a cold winter day in 2003.
Bill Taylor a volunteer at the New England Air Museum, in Windsor Locks, Connecticut who for many years worked; at times with a team and at times alone, in the restoration of a Lockheed Electra 10A impacts with his example of perseverance and care to meticulous detail. Bill inspired me with his words when he told me not to give up, and to continue to search as much as did by the example of his work.
I don’t know that I will be fortunate enough to live into my 90s but if I do I hope that if I do, I will follow in the footsteps of these two extraordinary people who made such an impact and impression in my life. They did so because their conversations were always interesting and because they were in interested in so much. Leading lives by choice in such a complete and productive manner.
I feel that this is so important to remember especially today, as it is August 15th and the 72nd anniversary of the crash in Denmark from The Bridge of Deaths. The quest I chose to peruse for almost two decades.
Maria Catalina Egan
August 15th 2011Delray Beach, Florida