Your Friday Fact

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Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl wrote a wonderful post last month describing how excited she was when she recently ran into a weirdly wonderful fact about the natural world.

She wasn’t alone in her excitement about new and interesting facts. Readers have left 28 comments on her post so far.

And from the comments made on that September post, the “Friday Fact” meme was born. Of course, I was in.

Lucky Pennies is leading the movement inviting everyone to post their fact on her blog:

We are a group that embraces and encourages “unrestrained exuberance“ for the beauty and wonder of the world around us. Because there are an infinite number of things to be curious about, and an infinite number of things to become passionate about. To be a part of Factoid Friday, all you have to do is post one fascinating thing that you have learned recently. As a Fact Freak, your only other prerequisite is an insatiable, undying thirst for knowledge that can be found in the minutia of everyday life. If you do decide to do it, drop me a note in my comments. I’m pretty durn excited myself.

(Want to join the movement? Post a fact and comment on Lucky Pennies’ blog.)

Here’s my first recently learned Friday fact, discovered last week as I wrote an article about the show “Almost Heaven: Songs of John Denver,” which is currently playing in my town.

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JOHN DENVER DIDN’T KILL HIMSELF

I remember when folk-pop icon John Denver died. The word was that he’d killed himself by crashing the plane he was piloting into the ocean. Eyewitnesses saw the plane take a sharp and deliberate-looking low-altitude nosedive to the pilot’s right, and Denver died immediately on impact.

But.

Turns out his experimental kit aircraft had a big design flaw that explains his death as an accident, not a suicide.

You’re sitting in a chair at your computer, right? Imagine that you have to grab something behind your left shoulder with your right hand. Do it right now — act like you’re grabbing something there.

You twisted to the left and pressed the floor with your right foot, didn’t you?

If you were John Denver at the controls of his plane, by pressing with your foot you just pressed the right rudder pedal, sending your aircraft into a right-hand nosedive toward the ocean, which is just what witnesses saw.

At the time of his death, Denver was piloting a plane with the fuel selection valve located behind the left shoulder, a design flaw so deadly that according to this article, it almost killed two other pilots in the same way Denver died.

(I know this isn’t a fact about the natural world… But I am fascinated by everything, including design, and would like to do my part in spreading the word that Denver seems to have died by design flaw, pilot error and ignorance, not by his own hand.)

5 responses to “Your Friday Fact

  1. Jennifer, this was fascinating. One thing that I found particularly surprising was that, according to the article you linked to, it was the builder of the aircraft, while assembling it from a kit, that took it upon himself to “improve” on the design of the experimental aircraft, though it had been designed by “one of the world’s greatest aerospace designers.” Thanks for such a cool Friday Fact post. (And great Friday Fact graphic, by the way.) I did want to mention one thing: it was actually June, of Spatter ( http://spatter.typepad.com/ ) who came up with the original idea of a Friday Fact and, in fact, has a great one about Louis Braille up right now. I have one, as well, about Aeschylus:When Bald is Bad. Oh, and thank you very much for the link. I appreciate it.

  2. Wow! That’s really interesting! I really hate the idea of people flying small aircraft, because they really ARE so dangerous, and now I hate it even more.

    Thank you for your kind link, Jennifer. And as much as I would like to claim to have had the original idea, all credit goes to June at http://spatter.typepad.com/ . She came up with it, and we all jumped for it like the knowledge-hungry beasts we are.

  3. What about Bob Denver? Is he still dead?

  4. Liked your FF and am glad you’re along for the ride!

  5. Oh my gosh, I’m so happy to read that. I can’t wait to tell a good friend that fact as she is still in love with JD and hiding it from her husband. (Wink). Seriously, what a wonderful wonderful fact and I’m so glad to hear about it. I’ve been turned onto him as of late and I’m so sorry I missed his music when he was alive. Shannon

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