Final Flight: A Personal Journey into the Heart of the High Sierra.

 The manuscript for Final Flight is finished and is now in the hands of my editor at Wilderness Press

Final Flight - the story

Shaping patterns of reality with imagination, writers express their curiosity with the world. Like scientists, writers find pleasure in studying and bringing order to a chaotic universe.

Unlike scientists, they do so without relying solely on being rational. Instead, they pursue human stories that appeal to heart and mind.

Read my autumn, 2006 Sierra Heritage Magazine  story about the crash.

2nd Lt. William Gamber

Here is such a story of human proportions - one that continues to command news headlines and capture the imagination of readers everywhere.

Once upon a time, in 1942, US Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. William Gamber departed Sacramento, CA on a routine training flight. The pilot and his three student aviation cadets were never seen again. Wreckage  found in 1947 in a remote area of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks was confirmed as belonging to Lt. Gamber's plane a Beech 18 AT-7 #41-21079. A 1948 recovery team lead by Captain Roy Sulzbacher returned empty-handed. Everything was forgotten until October, 2005, when climbers found the mummified body of an aviator embedded within Mendel Glacier. Five months later the "Ice Man" was identified as Leo Mustonen, one of Lt. Gamber's cadets and the story was forgotten again.


During my August, 2007, expedition to Mendel Glacier I was surprised to find another one of Lt. Gamber's crew of students.

On Friday, February 8, 2008, the family of Cadet Ernest Glenn Munn was notified by the US military Repatriation Department that he was the person I found last summer. He will be returned home and buried in St. Clairsville, OH.


Click for images of the Beech 18 engine [1, 2, 3], cowl writing,  Munn's ring, his parachute, the author of "Final Flight" [1, 2] with engine wreckage, a portion of Munn's sweater, site of Munn's burial in the ice, and teeth from his comb. All photos 2007 by Peter Stekel. All rights reserved.

See wreckage from the Beech 18 piloted by Lt. Gamber here.

View or download photo montages 1, 2 & 3 [pdf]. Large files!

The missing plane story and enigma of the two cadets appearance in the glacier forms the backbone of my latest project - a non-fiction book,  FINAL FLIGHT.

Mendel Glacier, Kings Canyon National Park

Where is the Mendel Glacier? Click HERE.

Clues, red herrings and a vanishing witness make FINAL FLIGHT a classic, yet true-life, detective story. Why was the aircraft 150 miles off-course? Why has there been confusion about where the plane really crashed? How could human remains lie hidden for so long? How did the these aviators come to be buried in a glacier? Will the other two bodies surface? What about the plane?

Across all cultures, people care deeply about what happens to their bodies after death. It is our duty to ensure that these cadets are treated with the respect that we, ourselves, would expect.

FINAL FLIGHT is an aviation narrative delivering irony, pathos and tragedy while tying together generations and time. Chapters in the book will discuss aircraft design along with the mechanical and navigational limitations that explain possible crash scenarios. Reviewing the search and rescue operations clears up confusion over the wreck's location. Separate chapters integrate important topics such as mountain weather and glacial geology into the storyline. As the sleuth in the story, I critically appraise contradictions in the Ice Man's history. Information about removing the Ice Man from the glacier and determining his identity is provided along with biographies of the missing men.

Videos of Darwin Canyon and Mendel Cirque

Also HERE on YouTube


I have been interviewed for television news programs on Fresno and Seattle TV stations. Some of the broadcasts are available HERE.


Glenn Munn comes home

Wheeling News- Register 5/15/08 here or here.

WTOV-9 Steubenville, OH 5/15/08 here.

Print Articles

Ernest Glenn Munn is identified

Los Angeles Times 3/12/08 here or here.

San Jose Mercury-News 3/12/08

CNN 3/11/08 here or  here

San Francisco Chronicle 3/11/08

Associated Press 3/10/08

Seattle Times 2/14/08  printer friendly [repeat of 2/12/08 Fresno Bee story]

WTOV-TV Steubenville 2/13/08 WV [Ernest Glenn Munn is identified]  printer friendly

WTRF-TV Wheeling, WV 2/13/08 printer friendly

Fresno Bee 2/12/08  printer friendly

Spokesman-Review web edition 2/12/08

Spokesman-Review printer friendly 2/12/08


Discovery on Mendel Glacier - August, 2007

San Jose Mercury News 9/24/07 front page print edition PDF JPEG 1,2,3,4,5 [0.5 MB each]

San Jose Mercury News 9/24/07 web edition

Fresno Bee 1 web edition 8/26/07

Fresno Bee 1 print edition PDF JPEG 1,2,3 [1.3 MB each]

Fresno Bee 2 web edition 8/22/07

Fresno Bee 3 web edition 8/21/07

Fresno Bee 3 print edition PDF JPEG 1,2,3 [1.2-2.2 MB each]

Many of the following articles are repeats from either the Fresno Bee or from wire service stories. However, the geographic range [as far away as Australia] excited by the story is very impressive. I believe it suggests how compelling this story is to so many people.

Eureka Times-Standard 8/21/07 print edition PDF JPEG [10MB]

Spokane Spokesman-Review web edition [printer-friendly]8/25/07

Spokane Spokesman-Review web edition 8/25/07

Spokane Spokesman-Review print edition PDF JPEG 1,2 [6-10 MB]

Associated Press

United Press International

AOL

FOX News

San Diego Union-Tribune

Sydney Daily Telegraph [Australia]

Los Angeles Times

Seattle Times web edition 8/21/07

Seattle Times print edition  PDF JPEG [1.2 MB]

Modesto Bee

NPS Digest

Aircraft Wrecks

Political Gateway

Fitness Footwear

KCBS radio [San Francisco, Oakland]

KFSN TV

KMPH TV 1

KMPH TV 2

KTVU TV

WSTB TV


Learn more about the work being done to find and identify other wrecks by clicking HERE.

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Specializing in the Sierra Nevada with a focus on Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
 
write to: peter[at]finalflightthebook.com

2009 Peter Stekel

All Rights Reserved.

 

This page was last updated on 04/07/2009

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Background Textures

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2nd Lt. William Gamber's plane, the Beech 18, AT-7 Navigator

photo Museum of Flight

[all photos Peter Stekel]

 

 

 

 

Final Flight, Mendel, Mendel Glacier, Sierra Nevada, Peter Stekel, Leo Mustonen, Ernest Munn, William Gamber, John Mortenson, Kings Canyon National Park, Beech 18, AT-7, plane crash, mummy, JPAC, Wilderness Press, finalflightthebook, blog, 41-21070, airplane, lenticular cloud, hypoxia, navigation, wilderness