These plane crash pictures show one photographer’s quest to chronicle early aviation failures
Rian Dundon

Flying fascinated people’s morbid side in the early days, much like Gladiators must have back in Roman times. Anyone who stepped into a plane was taking their life in their hands, with bad odds if they did it often.

Airplane racing was the ultimate thrill. Go to any race, and you were guaranteed to see wrecks, frequently fatal ones.

There is something that draws us to fatal wrecks. Aviation pioneers were fearless and driven, but not long lived. I recall reading a book years ago about early air mail pilots. The three-year fatality rates for air mail pilots was something like 100%. Yet they had no trouble finding new pilots.

The one characteristic of all pilots in that era (and test pilots in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60's) is the belief that those kind of mishaps won’t happen to them because of their skills, evidence and odds to the contrary.

There aren’t very many Chuck Yeagers who are still around (age 94).