52 years later university athletic community remembers the ‘70 plane crash


The beginning of Oct. 2, 1970, was just like any other day for the Wichita State football team. Since then, Oct. 2 has been an annual day of grieving.

“I don’t think you can ever forget that, we’re going to honor that forever. It will be an important day for us in athletics,” Director of Athletics Kevin Saal said. 

Wichita State hosted the memorial for the 52nd anniversary of the football team’s plane crash at Memorial ’70. 

The team was traveling in two planes named the “Black Plane” and the “Gold Plane,” to play against Utah State. 

The planes departed from the Denver airport, yet only one plane made it to Logan, Utah. 

The “Gold Plane” never made it after crashing into Mount Trelease near Silver Plume, Colorado, after the pilots took a scenic route. The “Black Plane” landed safely. 

On Oct. 24, 1970 Wichita State finished the rest of the season known as the “second season.” 

The lives of the players, crew and families that boarded on those planes would be forever altered. That day is engraved in the hearts of the players and families that knew the Wichita State football team.

Ed Plopa was a sophomore at the time of the event who rode on the “Black Plane.” He said that the memorial is significant because over the years the families and players that were affected have been able to build camaraderie with each other. 

“We are like family,” Plopa said. 

Plopa said that there were times during the years where he felt to emotional to attend the memorial despite living four to five miles away from Wichita State. 

“It’s like ripping a band aid off, like a scab,” Plopa said. 

He said that when he does attend he is happy because being there with everyone creates support. 

Various sports teams from Wichita State gathered during the ceremony. 

Bill Glasco rode on the “Black Plane” that day, he lost many of his closest friends that day.  

“To see athletes supporting, the memories of athletes, those who died young. It’s pretty special,” Glasco said. 

Saal said that it is important for student athletes to see and feel who they are competing for. 

Saal choked up during his speech at the ceremony. He said that he feels saddened by the amount of loss for those who were not on the “Gold Plane” experienced. 

“These folks who carry both the blessing and the burden,” Saal said. 

He said that players who survived are blessed to be alive with their families. But carry the burden of waking up, thinking of their teammates and knowing that could have been them.

“I just think there is a really fine line between blessing and sorrow,” Saal said. 

Memorial ’70 serves as a reminder of those 31 players and individuals that passed due to the crash. The memorial is located on the west side of Wichita State’s campus near 18th and Hillside.