Scientific Illustration of Historical Value


1- Airliners crash over the Grand Canyon

     Signed gouache painting on board by Mel Hunter, commissioned by LIFE magazine, 1957. 

     18 1/4" x 14 1/2"   Excellent condition.

    ' Very careful' reconstruction of crash of two civilian aircraft based on official findings at the time. There

     were no nearby observers of the disaster. 'I remember that, on the assignment of the mid-air collision, I

      made two back-to-back 60 mile round trips to LIFE in New York, for conferencing on the sketches I had

      made up overnight. Then, I had a maximum of eight days to finish the work.' (Letters of Mel Hunter)

Price:   $2,500.00 (valued at the amount Hunter was paid to make this painting)


Includes copy of LIFE magazine, April 29, 1957 that featured Hunter painting with article by Mary H. Cadwalader entitled:" An air mystery is solved: reconstruction of Grand Canyon crash suggests ways to prevent the rare but nightmarish cases of collision."

On June 30, 1956, a United Airlines DC-7 flying from LA to Chicago collided over the Eastern End of the Grand Canyon with a TWA Constellation en route from LA to Chicago. The 58 passengers on the DC-7, and the 70 passengers on the Constellation were all killed. The aircraft were flying in uncontrolled airspace, i.e. under visual flight rules without the guidance of air traffic controllers, radar, or even official flight plans. Both pilots had requested permission to fly in undesignated airspace to afford their passengers a better view, and were thus responsible for their own safety and separation. The crash was attributed to the pilots not seeing each other until it was too late.

This was the greatest air tragedy of its time in U.S. aviation.  Since the accident involved two of the largest commercial aircraft then in service--a Lockheed Super Constellation, and a Douglas DC-7--it resulted in the greatest loss of life, by far, in any accident of the time.  The enormity of the loss gave impetus to a major improvement in air traffic control with the formation of the Federal Aviation Administration and the widespread use of collision avoidance radar on commercial aircraft. 

Although the Civil Aeronautics Agency (the FAA's predecessor) denied responsibility for the accident, investigations revealed that the CAA's air traffic control system was insufficient to offer positive separation to every airplane flying across the country. Congress and other legislators, who had previously cut budgets to the CAA, were forced to recognize the severity of the air traffic control problem. They thus embarked on a massive ATC modernization plan, appropriating $250 million to the CAA to upgrade the ATC system. This money was used to purchase new radar surveillance equipment, to open new control towers, and to hire more air traffic controllers. The pieces for a good air traffic control system were potentially in place. However, the changes could not be made fast enough to satisfy the air traffic controllers, who began to resign at a very fast rate - about 30% of controllers resigned in 1957 alone. The lack of controllers only increased the workload on the other controllers, who formed the Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) to represent controllers' demands. (from Notable Collisions of the 1960's. The story of Mode S: An air traffic control Data-link Technology.)



2-  B-70   by Mel Hunter, commissioned by LIFE Magazine, 1960.

     Unsigned, gouache painting on board , accompanied by LIFE magazine of October 17, 1960 featuring  

     the painting. (Authenticated by Smith-Hunter Gallery and magazine attribution.) 21 3/4" x 39". Condition good, with

     scuffing on edges.


Price: $3000.00 (Original $4500.00 based on value at time of commission.)


'The Furor over Fantastic Plane', LIFE, Oct 17, 1960

"The North American XB-70 "Valkyrie" was conceived for the Command in the 1950's as a high-altitude waveriding bomber that could fly three times the speed of sound (Mach 3). Two aircraft were built and flew test flights in the 1960s." (Wikipedia"

In 1954, Curtis LeMay, then boss of the Strategic Air Command, submitted requirements to the Pentagon for a new aircraft to exceed the brand new eight engine, 500 mph B-52 bomber that would have a range of 6,000 nautical miles as well as the speed breakthrough.
"Unfortunately, budget cuts of the late 1950s and early 1960s gutted the XB-70 advanced bomber project, and only two unarmed aerodynamic prototypes were actually built. Despite their exceptional performance, the XB-70 program had been cancelled by the time the Air Force flight tests were completed. The two prototypes were then transferred to NASA as high-speed research aircraft to prepare the way for supersonic transports." (Aerospaceweb)

In 1960, LIFE published an article by Ed Rees, when the XB-70 was only a full-scale metal model in a hanger. An oversize painting by Mel Hunter accompanied the article.

'It (the painting) marked the first time anyone had shown the bomber's most distinctive features, the row of monster jet engines, and above all, the incredible engineering genius which cnceived of dropping the vast outboard sections of the wings to increase lift at super-sonic speeds. And there were the canard surfaces-little wings up at the long nose to provide extra stability, as now long in use on the similarly designed Concorde.'

'When I painted the B-70 launching a skybolt missile, with its gigantic wingtip positioned downward at an angle of about 60 degrees, the whole Pentagon about blew up. We all went to Washington to show them that their own P.R. types had leaked various little tidbits which LIFE's research staff had pieced together from published material.' (Letters of Mel Hunter)


3-Original Color Painting on Mylar ™ mounted on board. Title unknown, no signature.

    Authentication provided by Smith-Hunter Gallery.

    Fine condition, very atmospheric with subtle coloration.

    Perhaps some reader can provide information on type of aircraft or situation illustrated?

    Price: $1500.00