Flight of the Resolution

2008 News Archive

55th Year Remembrance Hike Brings Long Quest to a Close

A plaque, at last, to remember victims of '53 airliner plane crash

By Patrick May, Mercury News- Posted 12/04/2008 (All pictures courtesy of San Jose Mercury News)

chrissjplaque200812For more than five years, Half Moon Bay aviation buff Christopher O'Donnell has waged a lonely campaign to have a plaque erected at the site of San Mateo County's deadliest plane crash, its residue still scattered about the redwood-laced ravines after more than half a century. · This week, O'Donnell's efforts took a huge leap forward, as officials at the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District recommended installing the plaque at a trailhead off Skyline Boulevard that leads to the crash site. · " I'm still in shock," said the Australian-born O'Donnell, fascinated by the ill-fated flight of the passenger plane Resolution, which claimed the lives of all 19 people on board when it crashed in the fog on final approach to the San Francisco airport. " Five and a half years of being told by people to disappear, now welcomed with open arms " ... I'm beyond happy, I'm ecstatic!" ·

Administrators at the district, a government agency that acquires land for public open space from San Carlos to Los Gatos, had formally resisted the idea of erecting a marker on district property. But this week, the public affairs committee recommended that the full board approve the plaque. · " We're glad to honor the victims of the worst air disaster in San Mateo County history this way," district spokesman Rudy Jurgensen said Thursday. " We think it's a good solution that fulfills the wishes" of those hoping to acknowledge the victims as well as the guardians trying to protect the preserve.

O'Donnell said the agreement calls for the 45-pound, 24-by-18-inch granite plaque, etched with the names of the passengers and crew and a picture of the plane, to be placed on a large stone at the entrance to the Methuselah Trail, which leads after a two-hour hike to the crash site on Resolution Trail. Security was one reason for placing the plaque on the road, where park rangers can protect it from vandals

grantsjplaque200812GrantTischler, who had traveled from Australia in October to visit the site where his father, Bernard, had died in the crash, said the plaque's approval " means full closure for me." · " I think about my father every day and I know he's up there smiling to think that everything has finally come full circle," he said by phone from Queensland. · Perhaps more than anything, the news represents an exquisite vindication for O'Donnell, who has fought tirelessly to publicize the doomed British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines DC6 Flight 304 and those who lost their lives the morning of Oct. 29, 1953. · In a congratulatory e-mail, Tischler, who goes by the nickname " Chips," was so moved by the payoff for O'Donnell's dedication that he was unable to complete his thoughts.· · " On behalf of myself and all the Tischler family, thank you so much," he wrote. " I'm going to close now because I'm getting emotional and the tears are starting to flow. Cheers for now MATE. Chips."

Contact Patrick May at pmay@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5689.

55th Year Remembrance Hike October 29th, 2008

Australian visits site of Peninsula plane crash to mourn dad he never knew

By Patrick May, Mercury News- Posted 10/29/2008

chriswdc6model200810Rounding the elbow of a narrow mountain trail in San Mateo County on Wednesday morning, Grant Tischler caught a glimpse of the twisted aluminum in the ravine, dropped his hiking stick, then began to sob as he collapsed in the dirt. This was, after all, sacred ground. It was on this steep hillside that his dad, Bernard, died exactly 55 years ago when an Australian passenger plane named Resolution lost its way in the fog on final approach to the San Francisco Airport, smashing into the thick weave of redwood and blood-red madrone and killing all 19 on board. Investigators estimated that from the moment it hit the trees to its final point of impact, Flight 304 continued on for another seven seconds. " I'm counting seven seconds in my head, and it's an eternity," said Tischler, picking up a charred piece of the DC-6 from the scattered debris. " All of them " ... going through that. If the plane had been just a few hundred feet higher, I might still have my father with me today."

A troubling secret

He couldn't have known it at the time, but Grant Tischler's journey to this redwood sanctuary really began 65 years ago, in the southeastern corner of Australia where he was born in 1943. He never knew his biological father, Bernard. And he would only learn about him years after his dad had perished. Bernard Tischler was a sailor in the Australian navy who had come home on leave in 1942 after his ship was sunk at Guadalcanal. " That's when he and my mother got together and from that liaison,'' said Grant, " little ol' me was born." But the family refused to allow the 18-year-old girl to marry the sailor. His love denied, Bernard left to rejoin the war. And in 1948 when Grant was 5, he and his mother moved to the town of Mildura where she married Ray Carpenter, who quickly adopted the boy. " I grew up thinking Ray was my real dad," he said. " I had my suspicions as I got older, but nobody ever told me anything." Years later, Grant would learn about his biological father and how he " had come home after the war looking to get back with my mom. But by then, she was already married to someone else, and it was too late."

An unmarked site

flightpathWednesday morning, Tischler arrived early at the trail head for a trek he hoped would lead not only to his father's resting place, but to some emotional resolution for a life tormented by secrets and suspicions. He had come from Australia just for this hike, and was joined by Christopher O'Donnell, an Australian-born aviation buff from Half Moon Bay who has waged a tireless campaign to place a granite memorial at the crash site. For decades, aviation sleuths and the occasional hiker have come here to pick through the debris of San Mateo County's worst aviation accident ever. One of its passengers was the renowned American pianist William Kapell, who was returning from a concert tour of Australia.

" I've got a plaque and I want to find a home for it," O'Donnell said. " But the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District which owns the land won't allow anything placed at the site. They just want us to go away."

Worse, said Tischler, his dad's family back home all assumed a plaque had been erected years ago. He didn't have the heart to tell them it wasn't so. But in a significant turnaround this week, district spokesman Rudy Jurgensen said " we're now willing to take another look at this, though we'd want to erect something that's more interpretive in nature in addition to a memorial. It's not a done deal, but we're looking at it." As they headed up the trail, two hours through a steep, winding thicket of towering redwoods and plunging gulleys, O'Donnell and Tischler were heartened. Perhaps there would soon be resolution for the son — and maybe some good news to take back to the people his father had left behind.

A wedding photo

Grant Tischler worked in the gas industry and raised two daughters. He was 38 when he stumbled upon the key to his true identity that everyone had kept from him so long. He was visiting his grandmother when he noticed a wedding photo of his mom and Ray Carpenter on the wall. He'd seen it before, but this time his eye caught something in the corner of the frame. " There was a small embossed logo of a photo studio," he said. " And lightly penciled in was 1948. I asked my grandmother, " Isn't this a photo of my mom and dad on their wedding day? " She said, 'Yeah.' " Well, this says 1948, but I was born in 1943. Is there anything you want to tell me?' " She hemmed and hawed, then she told me the story." The wartime leave. The grandfather's resistance to his daughter's marriage. The move to Mildura. And the decades of deception that followed. " Suddenly, all the pieces fell into place," Tischler said. " I had always realized I didn't look like anybody in the family, but I had just shrugged it off. But there were strange things that went on. I'd ring up home after I'd left, dad would chat a bit, then yell to my mom 'Alice, your son's on the phone.' Not 'our son,' but 'your son.' " Still, I kept my suspicions to myself." But the whole story had not been told — because his grandmother didn't know it.

One day, Grant took his mother aside. " I asked 'Is he alive?' and she said, 'No, he was killed in an airplane accident in America.' " But no one on her side of the family knew the specific details. Grant then asked: Was Bernard the man she had really wanted to marry? " She told me 'I've only loved two men in my life. Ray was one — and your father was the other.' "

A familiar face

Life for Grant Tischler would go on. But it was a life entangled in a snarl of loose ends. After Grant implored his mother for a photo of his father, she finally mailed him one she had hidden for years behind her wedding photo with Ray Carpenter, tucked away beneath her bed. Standing in the middle of the post office that day, Grant took one look at the picture and burst into tears. " I looked at my dad and realized, 'I've been shaving that same face for years. I just cried and cried.'" Yet that one lingering question tormented him: How had his father died? Grant tracked down his dad's sister, who gave him a press clipping about the crash. He found two half-brothers, from Bernard's eventual marriage to another woman. But beyond the weathered newspaper article, his father's death remained shrouded in mystery. " No one knew much about the plane crash at all, and so I sat on that for many, many years. That's part of the reason that I've had a lot of demons in my life." After his adoptive dad died in 2007, Grant changed his last name to Tischler. Then last November, a breakthrough: one of his brothers had come across O'Donnell's Web site, full of articles and photos about the doomed British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines flight. His father had been on his way to England to learn the travel agent business. Grant realized he had no choice — he had to come to America to finally find the father he never knew.

A distant drone

As he surveyed the rusting debris around him, Grant said, " I've come full circle, because I know in my own heart that dad would have wanted me to come up here and finally get closure. " He was only 31 when he died, and I think in the back of his mind he must have thought, 'I have a son out there somewhere, a son I can't contact.' And I think that hurt him. Just like it has hurt me." Sitting quietly beside the trail, Tischler slowly regained his composure. " I do feel a little more peace now, for me and for my dad. But I first had to see with my own eyes this place where he died." And in that place, just before noon, as a butterfly flitted above the Resolution's pockmarked skin of rust and rivets, the pin-drop silence was gently interrupted. It was the distant drone of an airplane, maybe coming in for a landing at San Francisco International Airport, maybe heading out over the Pacific. But it was impossible to know for sure.

Contact Patrick May at pmay@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5689.

Resolution Committee Founding Member Tells the Tale for KPIX

March 20th, 2008

chriskpixhanger200803250KPIX Channel 5 of San Francisco requested a filming of " Resolution" impact point and debris field to be included in a prime ratings week story entitled " Bay Area Disasters" . Christopher, accompanied by committee member, Patrick Sullivan, led the film crew to numerous vantage points on the trail to the wreckage of VH-BPE and spent considerable time relating the story of the Flight of the Resolution, culminating in the somber reading of the list of those who died on the mountain, almost 55 years ago.

Planned airing of this segment is Monday evening at 7pm for viewer-popular " Eye on The Bay" , May 12th, 2008.

Note in picture of Christopher holding coat hanger....he simply scratched the soil behind him and extracted it there and then !!

Photo Credits: Patrick Sullivan

Resolution Committee Has Eyes on October

January 2nd, 2008

As we look towards the 55th anniversary of this solemn day in 2008, we are lifted by the news that the Tischler brothers, Mark and Grant (see below), will be visiting California in October to attend any ceremonies paying tribute to the Flight of the Resolution and remembering the passengers on board. The Resolution Committee has commenced exploratory talks on this subject and will update this site as the picture paints itself. Please return frequently for the latest news.

Contact Flight of the Resolution

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