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The “Kennedy curse” has long-plagued America’s First Family, striking even decades before John F. Kennedy took office. And, oddly, much of the tragedy to befall the Kennedys involved air travel.

JFK’s older brother, Joseph, a pilot in World War II, was killed in an airplane explosion in 1944. Four years later, in 1948, Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy died in an airplane crash. In 1964 Ted Kennedy broke his back in an airplane crash that killed both the pilot and a campaign aide. And the son of Jackie Kennedy’s late husband, Aristotle Onassis, died in a plane crash during their marriage — an incident Onassis’s daughter, Christina, blamed on the Kennedy curse.

Armed with this knowledge, Jackie was adamant that her son, John F. Kennedy Jr., should not entertain his fascination with the skies. In fact, according to Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger’s biography The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters: The Tragic and Glamorous Lives of Jackie and Lee, Jackie “made John swear that he would not pursue his pilot’s license.” On her deathbed, she tasked her partner, Maurice Tempelsman, and brother-in-law Ted Kennedy with holding her son to his promise.

The Kennedy Family
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Jacqueline Kennedy Holding Her Newborn Son
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Jacqueline and John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr
Credit: Ira Wyman/Getty Images

As we now know, that wasn’t a promise John Jr. was able to keep. Five years after his mother’s death in 1994, John, his wife Carolyn Bessette, and his sister-in-law Lauren plunged to their death on their way to Martha’s Vineyard in a plane piloted by Kennedy.

JFK Jr and wife Carolyn arrive for Awards Event
Credit: Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images