Veteran airline in crash

The world's oldest scheduled airline this week suffered its first accident in which passengers were killed. Chalk's Ocean Airways, which was founded by Arthur B Chalk, in 1919, flies seaplane flights between Florida and the Bahamas.

On 19 December, a Grumman Mallard crashed shortly after take-off from Miami after it lost the right wing. The aircraft crashed into Biscayne Bay just off Miami Beach, a busy shipping lane. All 18 passengers and the crew of two died.

Past passengers have included Errol Flynn, Judy Garland and Howard Hughes. A Chalk's plane was chartered by the Cuban dictator Gerardo Machado to make his getaway, in a hail of bullets, in 1933. Ernest Hemingway was a regular passenger to Bimini, which was the destination of the doomed aircraft.

In 1994, two Chalk's pilots died when their aircraft crashed at Key West, but until this week no passengers had been killed. The Grumman Mallard is extremely versatile - it can land in a depth of less than three feet of water - but it's very old by aircraft standards; the plane that crashed was built in 1949.

Writing in The Independent, Stephen Wood described his routine flight on Chalk's as "shuddering like an old bus going too fast downhill".

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