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Destination unknown Star Dust Falling Jay Rayner 329pp Doubleday A plane crash has its own peculiar horror no matter that slow drowning in an icy sea would be far worse than sudden immolation in a mid-air explosion none of us board a ship with the same subconscious fear that accompanies us on to an airliner Partly it is the suddenness and partly that there are unlikely to be any remains for a dignified leave-taking That Jay Rayner has written a whole book about the fate of an airliner that vanished over the Andes in 1947 en route to Santiago in Chile is you might say testament to the ghoulish fascination of plane crashes In fact one of the greatest aviation mysteries of all time in Rayners rather hyped claim was only remarkable because it was 50 years before the wreckage of the Star Dust was discovered high up in inhospitable mountains Star Dust Falling fleshes out the story exhaustively if a little doggedly the lives of each of the passengers and the history of the airline the short-lived British South American Airways Ironically the brilliant but maverick aviation pioneer who founded it Don Bennett had written the standard work on air navigation as well as founding Bomber Commands elite Pathfinder unit which marked bombing targets over Germany during the war More redundantly it also details the squabbling within the Argentine military that marred the operation to recover the planes wreckage and even the genesis of the Hoagy Carmichael song that gave the craft its name Rayner navigates his two narratives - the last hours of the doomed airliner and the consequences of a climbers chance discovery of a Rolls-Royce engine cowling half a century on - with an easy fluency Paradoxically his conscientious research ultimately demystifies the story to the extent that you wonder if there really was a whole book in it He establishes that there wasnt any gold aboard the Star Dust -
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