r February 3rd is the 60-year anniversary of the death of rock and roll star Buddy Holly. Do you remember Buddy Holly? I do and my parents didn’t like the rock and roll music of the era. I heard him and his band, the Crickets, on the radio. My parents always watched the Ed Sullivan TV Show, and I remember seeing Buddy Holly featured on December 1, 1957, show. I was 15 when I heard on the radio the announcement about his death and the deaths of two other rising music stars in an airplane crash.
Years later I became a pilot and researched the accident. Like all accidents, it should have never occurred and FAA regulations have since been written to prevent such an accident. The music group had a bus problem in Clear Lake, Iowa and an airplane was chartered for three of the musicians, including Buddy Holly, for a flight to Fargo, North Dakota. The Beechcraft Bonanza crashed five miles from the departure airport. The pilot and three passengers died. Buddy Holly was 22 years old. The flight departed at 1 a.m. with ceiling and visibility lowering due to snow that had begun to fall. It was not a good night to fly.
In 1959 it was not a requirement to have an instrument rating to be a commercial pilot. In fact, the pilot had failed an instrument flight checkride two months prior to the accident. At night, with an overcast sky, falling snow, no definite horizon, this flight would require skilled reference to the flight instruments to maintain control of the airplane. There was also a serious deficiency in the weather briefing for this particular flight; however, it appears there was sufficient information to make a no-go decision. The pilot made an unwise decision to embark on a flight he was not qualified to conduct. This accident became a classic case of spatial disorientation and loss of control of the airplane. By daylight, the weather was clearing, as is often the case with weather-related accidents. As a result of this accident, the FAA regulations were changed to require an Instrument Rating for Commercial Pilot privileges in the transport of passengers and freight.
The February 3, 1959, airplane crash that took the lives of rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” has become known as “The Day the Music Died.” According to a Time Magazine article, Buddy Holly’s influence on early rock ’n’ roll is almost unmatched. He popularized the two guitars, one base, one drum lineup that so many after him followed. Many of us old folks will remember the music of these great musicians forever — songs like That’ll Be the Day, Peggy Sue, La Bamba and Donna.