An exciting new book is being published on May 14. Tiger in the Sea: The Ditching of Flying Tiger 923 and the Desperate Struggle for Survival was written by Eric Lindner and tells the incredible story of Tiger Flight 923 in 1962. Piloted by John Murray, the plane with 76 souls on board, gradually lost three of its four engines and was forced to ditch into the cold and violent Atlantic Ocean.
The incident was not widely known. An American Catholic, John Murray previously had played a role in the founding of the State of Israel. In 1947, he clandestinely transported planeloads of surplus World War Two plane parts from Europe. He flew black-ops missions for the fledgling Israeli air force following independence, sometimes facing intense enemy anti-aircraft fire. At one point, Murray flew Jewish refugees fleeing pogroms from Yemen to Israel.
A few decades later, on the night of September 23, 1962, Murray was a pilot for Flying Tiger Line, captain of a four engine Lockheed Super Constellation. The aircraft was transporting American military personnel and their families from the United States to bases in West Germany.
After a brief stop to refuel in Gander, Newfoundland, and only a few hours into the long overnight flight, one of the propellers caught fire and the crew was forced to shut it down. While the plane could successfully fly with the three remaining engines, the situation continued to deteriorate. Over the next several hours, another engine ceased working.
The strain on the two remaining propellers working at full capacity was enormous. Captain Murray discussed with the crew the increasing likelihood that he would have to ditch the plane into the sea at some point. When the third engine collapsed there was no choice. A mayday message was sent. The plane was going down.
The weather that night was ugly. There were dangerous wind gusts. The waves were up to 20 feet high, choppy and swirling. By some sort of miracle, Murray was able to hold the plane up long enough to find a trough in the waves where he could land with the least amount of damage. The plane lost its left wing on impact with the sea, but everyone initially survived. All 76 passengers and crew members rushed out into the frigid water.
The scene was chaotic, as people scrambled to find safety away from the sinking plane. Murray was badly injured in the cockpit, but managed to make it out, his sole possession a flashlight.
It was almost impossible to see anything in the vast darkness of the Atlantic Ocean. Sadly, 25 people never made it out of the water that night, including the co-pilot and a some of the stewardesses. Husbands and wives were separated in the water, never to be seen again. The rest somehow made it into an overcrowded, upside down life raft, including Murray.
Everyone in the raft thought they were going to die, as they were tossed around aimlessly by the giant waves. Three more did succumb to injuries while in the boat, before a cargo ship found and rescued the remaining survivors hours later.
Tiger in the Sea: The Ditching of Flying Tiger 923 and the Desperate Struggle for Survival is a riveting account of that tragic night. Through numerous documents and interviews, Lindner was able to capture the lives and terrors that the crew and passengers experienced that night, as well as the aftermath.
The book gives a detailed account of what went wrong and how people responded to the increasingly desperate situation. You can feel the tension, as if you were on the flight, as the drama unfolds.
A gripping read for anyone interested in a compelling story about history, aviation, bravery, and survival. More information about the author, Eric Lindner, can be found on LinkedIn at Eric Lindner | LinkedIn