In August 1947 in the highest of the High Andes, one of the earliest long haul passenger aircraft, a Lancaster called Star Dust, disappeared en route to Santiago, Chile. It left behind only questions: was it sabotage; was there a horde of gold on board; and what was the meaning of the radio operator's mysterious final message before the air waves fell silent? Only with the discovery of the wreckage by two Argentinian climbers in January 2000 could those questions finally begin to be answered. "Star Dust Falling" is the story of those on board that pioneering aircraft and of the ramshackle airline British South American Airways which sent them to their deaths. Run by an austere Australian war hero newly arrived from bomber command, BSAA's flying crew consisted entirely of ex-bomber pilots. The fleet of converted Lancaster Bombers operated on a shoestring, regularly flying without sufficient fuel or access to adequate weather forecasts. The result was that it became one of the most dangerous airlines in the western world. Yet it wasn't until a third of its planes had crashed and dozens of its passengers had died that the Government finally called a halt. In this account, Jay Rayner recreates the events surrounding the loss of Star Dust and her discovery 50 years later, piecing together the lives of the characters involved: the Chilean-Palestinian passenger with a diamond stitched into the lining of his suit; the King's Messenger with his bag full of diplomatic secrets; the crew of fearless pilots working in unbelievably strenuous conditions; the Argentinian climbers who risked their lives to find the wreck; and the Argentinian military men who declared war on each other in an attempt to claim the credit.
Author(s): Jay Rayner
First Publishment Date: 01 April 2003