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Transport: Stork in Syria

2 minute read

Out over the Syrian Desert last week flew 24 British Royal Air Force planes, fanwise, in quest of something. Across the rain-soaked sands beneath them crawled British armored cars, likewise looking. Finally one of the pilots found what they all sought. Round & round he circled over a black smudge on the dun-colored wasteland. Dipping earthward he saw a tangled mass of charred metal, a few corpses, letters scattered like snow upon the sands.

What he saw was all that remained of the world’s most famed passenger plane, Royal Dutch Air Lines’ (KLM) U. S.-built Douglas Airliner Uiver (Stork). Last October in the Mildenhall-Melbourne air race (TIME. Oct. 29). Uiver flew over

11,000 mi. in four days, took second place in the speed race, first in the handicap. It was hailed the world over as the race’s real hero because it carried a commercial payload of mail & passengers. Month ago when it returned to Amsterdam 50,000 Netherlanders turned proudly out to do it honor.

Last week Uiver left Amsterdam on a special Christmas flight to Java with three passengers, a crew of four, 54,000 pieces of mail. Between Cairo and Bagdad it encountered a violent thunderstorm, sent out an SOS. What happened to Uiver after that no man knows. When found, it was on its back, smashed to bits, burned to a crisp. Best guess was that Uiver had made an emergency landing at night, flipped over in a somersault and caught fire. Of 40 Douglases built to date, it was the first to crash.

Back in Amsterdam, Netherlanders took Uiver’s crash as a national catastrophe. Pre-Christmas gaiety turned to mourning for what had beenthe nation’s pride. Flags were half-staffed, radio stations silenced and in Parliament tributes were paid to Uiver’s dead.

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