- May 24, 2023
On Nov. 26, 1975, pilot Guy Eby saved hundreds of lives when his quick thinking prevented a mid-air collision between two commercial passenger planes.
Eby dove his DC-10 airliner to avoid colliding with the incoming plane, a near-miss that could have been catastrophic for those onboard both aircraft. Eby’s report of the incident estimates the planes were within 20 to 100 feet of each other.
Burt Herman and his family were aboard American Airlines Flight 182, the plane piloted by Eby that was flying from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to the airport in Newark, N.J., now known as Newark Liberty International Airport.
Herman, a Sarasota resident, got the chance to meet Eby in February of last year to thank him for saving his life. The two met at Eby’s home in Ormond Beach, where he had been residing for the last 40 years.
The encounter inspired Herman to write a book about the near collision, “Eby: Master of the Moment.” The book, published in March, tells Herman’s account of the flight, as well as the moment when he first met Eby in person 41 years later.
“When you come within 20 feet of two jets colliding, it's the blink of an eye,” Herman said. “It's so hard to comprehend, and it was hard to talk about. Writing the book was a way of bringing it all back together again.”
Herman said at the time, the incident would have been the worst collision in U.S. aviation history — a death total exceeding 300 people.
The book also details the stories from passengers aboard Flight 182. Herman said the most challenging, yet most rewarding, part of writing the book was locating them. Fortunately, he saved news clippings of articles written shortly after the incident and was able to track down a few of the passengers interviewed for the articles.
“This book that I wrote is as much about the stories within the story, the stories of the lives that were saved,” Herman said. “That's what sets it apart from a lot of other airplane stories.”
One of the passengers he managed to find was sitting right behind his family during the flight. Mary Brady was thrilled to hear from him.
“She said she had the most wonderful life,” Herman said. “She had 5 children and is expecting her 12th grandchild this year. She said she was so grateful to the pilot because she was able to have these descendants and a great family.”
Herman met with the 99-year-old Eby once more during a book signing Herman held at L.A.'s Bistro in Ormond Beach on April 4 where Eby said he never thought a book would be written about him.
“It’s unbelievable, really," Eby said.
It wasn’t the first time Eby saved a plane from crashing. The former pilot recently received a letter from President Donald Trump commending him for his heroic efforts as a U.S. Navy lieutenant who saved the lives aboard a Martin PBM Mariner bomber during World War II, as well as praised his skills as a commercial pilot who prevented the near-collision Herman and many others lived through.
Herman is working on publishing the second edition of his book that he hopes will be released in a few weeks. The story doesn't end with the book, though. He also announced that CBS's Decades channel will air a special telling the story of Eby's heroism on Nov. 26, 2018 — the 43rd anniversary of Flight 182.
Additional reporting was provided by Jarleene Almenas of the Ormond Beach Observer.