Jerry Cosley & Joe Nemecek
finally found a missing file in the clutter of my “stuff,” and
can now piece this eerie tale together -- it’s odd, but true.
More than 20 years have elapsed, and I’m still not sure what really
transpired. Ah well, I’ll just lay it out and you can make of it
what you will. I promised some of the participants involved that
I’d never, ever blow their cover, so some names have been
deleted or changed (ital.) and locations masked in this
It begins with an otherwise typical
office day at
605 Third Avenue
in January 1983. “John Able is on the phone for you,”
my secretary Nikki announced. I recognized John as a TWA
executive I had known in
when I started with TWA, and took the call.
really need your help,” he started, “I don’t know what to do
with this!” He then related the bizarre tale of a recent
cocktail party in the large western city where he had been newly
assigned. As he was being introduced around the gathering, a
worried local civic leader approached to say he wanted to speak to
him in private. “One of your planes is in terrible danger,”
the guy told John. They found a place to talk and John
was confronted with this: the civic leader was close to area law
enforcement types and was aware that they frequently and
successfully used a local clairvoyant (CV … I don’t
know what else to call him) to help with investigations. Well,
civic leader himself had gotten involved in one such inquiry, and
in chatting with CV had learned he was very disturbed about
a current “vision” he was having involving the crash of a TWA
airplane. Obviously concerned, John agreed to talk with CV
and got his phone number. It was after this conversation that John
called me … he felt he should advise someone in corporate HQs as
he wanted no further part in it.
“You’re the only guy back there I know!” he pleaded.
He related the basics of the vision which included: 4-engine jet,
probably a 707, early evening or night, over a coastline, left
wing starts to disintegrate, explosion and fire, crash, all die.
After I had chewed on John’s butt for dragging me into
something so totally wacko, I told him I’d look into it and if
necessary run the senior executive trap line for him. I got CV’s
phone number and later that same day we talked for about a half
early impressions of him were these: he’s not crazy, haunted by
this “curse” of being able to foresee events, relieved that I
appeared to take him seriously, getting increasingly concerned
because frequency and clarity of the vision indicates the timing
of the incident was “getting very close.” Anxious to get some
backup on something I truly did not know anything about, I asked
him if there was someone in his group of law enforcement contacts
I could talk with. I almost wet my pants when he gave me the name
and phone number of the Agent-In-Charge (AIC) in the FBI’s field
office in his community.
I called the AIC the next day, and while he was unaware of
the TWA vision, he backed up CV’s claims 100%. He related
a number of cases where CV had helped them and the local
police get a fix on criminal events, contraband, autos and bodies.
He also said the FBI had confirmed that CV had accurately
predicted the earlier Air Florida Flight 90 Boeing 737 crash into
on January 13, 1982, but had been unable to reach any authorities
I’ll never forget the AIC’s closing comment: “Mr.
Cosley, I can’t tell you how to do your job, but his accuracy
rate with us is about 85 percent, and if I were you I’d take all
this very seriously!” That was not what I wanted to hear,
but there I was, very clearly holding a very scary tiger by the
stop the next day was to meet with TWA President Ed Meyer, who
already had a somewhat jaundiced view of my abilities from an
earlier “downwind” incident. I’d been ordered to drop
Croatian propaganda leaflets on
from an NYPD helicopter to help terminate the hijacking of Flight
September 1976. My planning was thorough, but the execution was
flawed as nearly all of the leaflets ended up -- not on the
streets of Gotham -- but in the
After briefing Meyer, I was much relieved that he didn’t
automatically turn me into a grease spot on his office carpet. He
merely said that he wanted me to handle it, involve the VPs of
Flight Operations and Maintenance (but no one else), keep it
discreet, and inform him immediately of anything
significant. The two VPs, Ed Frankum and Dick Pearson, reacted
much as I had, i.e., shock and disbelief, but both committed to
considering any and all approaches to deal with the situation.
the vision involved the airplane coming unglued, we decided to
focus most of our attention on maintenance operations of the 707
fleet, and any wing-related incidents or write-ups that Boeing or
the FAA had gleaned from 707 operations worldwide. We did not
reveal to any of them just why we were interested.
assigned Joe Nemecek, Staff VP Maintenance Planning & Control,
to the case. I flew to
to meet with Joe at the overhaul base, and we placed a call to CV
from his office. We chatted on the speakerphone for nearly an hour,
and closed by thanking CV and outlining a plan. I told Joe
that CV now sounded even more nervous and agitated about
the possible close-in timing of the “event” than in my earlier
conversation with him.
plan had determined that a 707 routinely overnights at CV’s
airport, and we made arrangements to meet him and the FBI agent
there so CV could touch and examine the airplane to his heart’s
content. CV thought, and we hoped, that doing so might
trigger additional detail and/or clarity. We gathered there the
next week, had dinner, talked and the FBI agent drove us to the
airport. Joe’s cover story for the local troops on the ramp was
that we were “airplane buffs/friends who just wanted to see a
707 up close.”
We spent several hours with the airplane, but the only
apparent ground we gained was when CV took a seat in 15D in
the coach section. He kept looking across the aisle and out the
left windows saying, “This is where I am in the vision. I can
see the top of the wing there and that’s where it starts.” He
then went on to describe seeing the upper leading edge surface of
the wing, just immediately inboard of the #2 engine, begin to peel
up and erupt in a ball of flame. He jumped to his feet, clearly
alarmed, muttering, “it’s something near that engine!” That
was about all we could glean and I think we got to bed about
3.a.m. None of us slept very well, and on the plane back to KC the
next day, Joe said he was going to recommend a fleet-wide
inspection of our 707s.
Pearson and the other TWA execs signed off on Joe’s plan, and
over the next two weeks every ship in the fleet got a close-up
exam of the inner third of the left wing, with special emphasis on
the #2 engine strut, attach points and alignment. Joe’s “cover
story” here was that we were concerned about “possible
misalignment of the engine mounts/struts causing stress to the
wing structure and skin.” The line maintenance worker bees at
most carriers are so used to crazy ideas emanating from HQs that
they just shrugged their shoulders and did the work. All we found
were a couple of mildly loose attachments and drooping engines,
but nothing of any safety significance.
We all stayed in touch during the following months, with CV
eventually saying the vision had “drifted away … sometimes
they do that.” He was almost in tears, apologizing for what he
had put us through, but “grateful that no one had to die.” My
last contact with him was sometime in 1984, after he had moved to
another state. We promised to stay in touch but eventually lost
contact, and we only very recently learned of his death in 1991 at
Nemecek adds this Postscript: Everything
in this story is true but, for me, there is another story -- a
story within the story.
When I was growing up there was a well-known psychic in the
1960’s who supposedly predicted the assassination of President
John F. Kennedy. She said that she had tried to get in touch with
someone close to him before his trip to
but was unsuccessful.
After President Kennedy’s death many others “came out of
the woodwork” and stated publicly that they had had some
premonition of his death. These events got me very interested in
whether or not the future could, in fact, be predicted and if so
could it be changed … or were we “predestined,” as John
Calvin had stated centuries before, to just live out our lives by
a pre-ordained script.
I scientifically studied the predictions of many psychics
after that time and came to two conclusions: Either they were
vague in the details of their prediction and/or they were not very
accurate. Even the most famous prediction made by Jean Dixon after
her supposed prediction of Kennedy’s assassination, was during
the Nixon presidency when she predicted that the United States
would go to war with China over the two little-known islands of
Quemoy and Matsu. That did not occur.
prediction made by CV was also sketchy in facts although
quite specific in results. In my conversations with him I was able
to get only a few more details to add to what Jerry provided: The
wing separation occurred shortly after takeoff with the sun in the
west (indicating late afternoon) and that there were two numbers
that were important: “753/312.” They were seen in CV’s
reported vision in just that manner, with the “slash” between
the two numbers.
Literally hundreds of hours were spent over the following
months trying to make sense out of what these numbers might mean.
They did not correlate to a time or date when a 707 was scheduled
to takeoff (or even near that time to account for a delay) from
station in TWA’s system. There were no flight numbers or
plane identification numbers (both TWA’s or Boeing’s) that
were close to these two numbers. Likewise, although both the wing
and fuselage structural stations are numbered, nothing is
identified that is close to 753 or 312 as an inboard wing area.
As mentioned above, we did call out for wing and pylon
inspections on all TWA 707 aircraft that still had flying time
left -- even the ones that were currently grounded, saving time on
them so that they could be used in the summer when TWA flew its
highest number of flights to accommodate vacation travelers.
I was about to conclude that we had done all that we could
reasonably do, when I got a copy of a letter from CV. He
had stated that he had a vision that a three engine aircraft was
going to lose all three of its engines due to mechanical problems.
He drew a picture of the aircraft and it was clearly an L-1011 by
the location of the engines at the rear of the aircraft. CV added
that he also had another vision of the TWA crash and it was even
clearer and more imminent than before. Nothing new occurred in the
vision to help pinpoint either the plane or location.
After getting this information I was certain that CV
was definitely wrong about the three-engine failure. TWA was
applying for FAA approval to fly the L-1011 aircraft from the
to European cities. The major concern that the FAA had was that
there could be multiple engine failures on a flight causing the
loss of the aircraft over the ocean because it would be too far
from an airport to land. Having a master’s degree in applied
mathematics, I did an analysis that showed that the probability of
just two engines failing before the aircraft could land would
occur less likely than once in 10,240,000 flying hours.
(International flights would never be more than 1:20 minutes from
) and an L-1011 can safely land with just one engine operating.)
The chances of a 3-engine failure before the aircraft could land
would not occur once in more than 980 years of operation.
than a week later, May 5, 1983, an Eastern L1011 had taken off
for a location in the
. A little more than an hour out of
the airplane lost the center engine due to oil depletion. Since
the aircraft was closer to
than the destination, the flight crew decided to turn around and
head back to
. They shut the center engine down.
after turning back toward
, the right-hand engine signaled that it too was running out of
oil and losing power. The flight crew continued to operate the
engine until complete failure in order to shorten the time of
. It failed about 20 minutes out of
, leaving them with only one engine to complete the flight. Less
than 5 minutes out on the approach, the remaining engine indicated
low oil pressure and was starting to fail. In desperation, the
flight crew restarted the center engine -- the first
that had been shut down. On final approach, the left engine
completely failed and just after touchdown the center engine
completely failed, leaving the aircraft on the runway with no
engine power. A tractor had to be attached to the aircraft and tow
it to the terminal. CV’s prediction had come true…but
It turned out that a mechanic had changed the chip detectors
on all three engines on the aircraft the night before as part of
routine maintenance. The chip detectors are installed in the
engine’s oil system. They are magnetized probes that pick up
metal in the oil. This is
after removal in a lab to determine if the engine is liberating
metal chips from bearings or other moving parts. If so, the engine
may be failing and would need to be removed before an in-flight
shutdown occurs. The replacement chip detectors that the mechanic
got out of stock did not have o-rings stocked with them. He
proceeded to install them without o-rings, allowing the oil from
the engine to seep out around the threads where the chip detectors
are screwed into their mountings. The oil loss in flight caused
the engines to fail.
I redoubled my efforts to try to find out which airplane was
predicted to crash and to take steps to correct the problem before
it could cause a failure of the wing.
was now late summer, the latter part of August, and the accident
had not occurred. I heard again from CV. He senses that the
threat is still very real but that another airline accident will
occur first -- the crash of a JAL 747. He has no other details
except all aboard will perish.
On September 1, 1983, KAL (Korean Airlines) flight 007 was
shot down over the
by Russian fighters. All 269 passengers and crew aboard are lost. CV
was off by just one letter on identifying the airline and right-on
in identifying the incident.
strain is telling on me. Although I have not told my wife about
the prediction, she senses something is very troubling to me. Over
dinner one evening in late September she asked me what is wrong.
She is quite concerned; so I tell her the whole story. When I
finish, she says that I have done everything humanly possible and
if the accident still occurs, I should not feel that it is my
fault. I reply that that is exactly what most concerns me.
“What if in all that I have done: the fleet retirement
plan changes that I had made, the rerouting of stations into which
707s are now flying, the maintenance service bulletins I have
called out to be done, the extra inspections I have scheduled, the
engine changes that I have scheduled to prevent an engine from
coming apart and taking off the wing; what if in all these changes
I have made hoping to avoid the accident, I did the one thing that
will cause it to happen. And if I had done nothing and just
let things proceed as scheduled, nothing would have happened …
but because I did change things, it caused
accident I was trying to avoid. I said that I didn’t know if I
could live with myself if
She replied, “Joe, they don’t pay you enough to do this.”
October 31, 1983 the last 707 arrived on a flight into
at 6:43 p.m. I called Dick Pearson, at his request, and told him
that the last 707 flight was safely on the ground. The next
morning he called me into his office and thanked me for all the
effort that I had put in on this project over the year. He then
asked me what I had learned from this experience.
told him that I had wondered for a long time, since high school,
if people had the ability to predict the future. I said that I
still wasn’t sure of the answer but I was sure of one thing:
That, if the future can be predicted, it was not certain to occur
that way; that in all the things that we had done; all the changes
we had made; something happened that
the pattern and the prediction that the aircraft would crash, and
it did not happen. If the future can be predicted, it can be
changed. We can change it.
I never heard from CV again and often wondered what
became of him. I agree that his visions were not a gift but a
curse -- one that I would not wish on anyone.
Of all the stories I can relate in my 38 years with TWA, and
there are many, this is at the top of my list as the most
interesting and personally meaningful.
Nemecek (1960-1998), started as an Associate Engineer and served
in Maintenance and Ground Operations at MCI, and Airline
Information Services at KCAC. Jerry Cosley (1960-1985) served in
Public Relations/Corporate Communications in CHI, LAX, SFO, MKC