At our annual Potluck dinner and annual membership dinner, June 8th, Friday Harbor’s own Dan Schwartz, flight instructor at Westwind Aviation, gave a talk titled, “Loss of STS-51-L, Space Shuttle Challenger: The Undersea Search for the Cause of a National Tragedy.”
More info on Dan’s topic: Thirty-one years ago, in January 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded over the Atlantic Ocean with the loss of seven astronauts, only moments after launch. Understanding what went wrong became a top priority for NASA and DOD so that the suspended shuttle program could get back on track and future accidents of this nature prevented. The first step in this process was the massive undersea search and recovery of key components so that the accident chain could be understood, and subsequent redesign of the booster rockets could be undertaken. Ultimately, the findings led to a “smoking gun” all aviators are familiar with: operating an aircraft outside of its design envelope. At that time, SJPA member Dan Schwartz was commanding officer of the new research ship “Seward Johnson,” and he and his crew witnessed the explosion. What followed was a two and a half month search of the sea floor utilizing the ship’s embarked four-man submarine, remotely operated vehicles, deep sea sonar, and the then infant GPS system.
Capt. Daniel S. Schwartz, USMM Ret.
ATP | CFI, CFII, MEI
Friday Harbor, WA