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30 Years Ago : Eastern 401 Crash In The Everglades  
User currently offlineSegmentKing From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (13 years 5 months 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 12367 times:

Its amazing that 30 years ago, a plane barely 4 months old crashed into the everglades, just 15 miles outside of Miami. From this crash, we can be thankful for the introduction of GPWS (Ground Proximity Warning System)...

I kept a link bookmarked of the Eastern Airlines flight 401 site..


Someone posted a thing on their message board inquiring about a remembrance service @ Spirit, a bar/lounge themed after Eastern / Pan Am just north of Miami Intl Airport..... I have yet to visit...


16 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineUSAFHummer From United States of America, joined May 2000, 10685 posts, RR: 51
Reply 1, posted (13 years 5 months 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 12333 times:

There was a good article in the Sentinel the other day by Ken Kaye about the crash...


Chief A.net college football stadium self-pic guru
User currently offlineSegmentKing From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (13 years 5 months 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 12334 times:

this one has pictures...

I just got a few e-mails from friends saying they can't access it.. i have part of the text cached, so here it goes -- page 4 ---

Immediately after takeoff, Warren Terry, the deadheading pilot who occupied one of the jump seats in the cockpit, moved to an empty seat in first class. This left four passengers in the flight deck for the remainder of the flight. The first officer and copilot, Bert Stockstill, flew the plan. Bob Loft, the captain, operated the radio. This was a normal procedure for Eastern Airlines; pilot and copilot customarily flew alternate legs of a trip. and the man who was not flying operated the radio. Behind Stockstill sat Donald Repo, the flight engineer. The fourth person in the cockpit was Angelo Donadeo, the occupant who wasn't there in a working capacity. Donadeo was no stranger to the L-1011, however. He had been Eastern Airline's maintenance manager in Miami, and since September had worked as a technical supervisor specifically concerned with troubleshooting the new L-1011 fleet. Friday morning he had been in New York examining an L-1011 which was having engine trouble. That done, he was anxious to return to Miami in order to close on a new house. Unlike Terry, Donadeo chose to stay in the cockpit.

There was not a great deal of action in the cockpit for Donadeo to observe, however. Once the plane was out of the New York area, the weather was good and Stockstill put the aircraft on auto pilot and dimmed the cockpit lights to provide better visibility of the night sky outside. For almost the entire trip, a DC-10 could be seen ahead of the L-1011. The cockpit radio speakers were turned on, so even without headphones it was possible to listen to the conversations between Loft and the air controllers as well as conversations between the different planes in the sky.

Just ahead of Flight 401, National Airlines Flight 607 was experiencing landing gear difficulties as it approached Miami International Airport. At 11:19p.m., the north arrival radar operator in Miami's air traffic control tower gave Flight 607 its final approach course. The National pilot responded, "Okay, that's maintain ten; you might, uh, be advised we're gonna need an extended pattern now. We're gonna have to crank down our gear." One minute later, National 607, with a light indicating a hydraulic leak, radioed the controller, "You might as well run out the fire trucks." The men on Flight 401's flight deck listened to their fellow pilot onboard the National plane as it dealt with its troubled gear. With the emergency equipment rolling onto the field near runway Nine Right in anticipation of National 607, Eastern 401 was assigned the other parallel runway, Nine Left.

At 11:32 p.m., the north approach controller gave Flight 401 instructions to change radio frequencies and initiate contact with the local controller. Signing off, the controller and Loft exchanged the customary parting pleasantry. "Eastern 401, left heading 1003 from the marker, cleared to ILS Nine Left approach, tower 118.3, good morning."

Loft replied, "118.3, Eastern 401, so long."

On frequency 118.3, loft called to the local controller. "Miami tower, Eastern 401, just turned on final." Loft looked at Stockstill and instructed him to lower the gear: "Go ahead and throw 'em out." After a moment, Loft repeats his message. "Miami tower, do you read Eastern 401? Just turned on final." This time the controller responded.

"Eastern 401 heavy, continue approach to runway Nine Left."

Loft acknowledges the controller, and then began a series of practiced, terse, checklist exchanges with the rest of the flight crew:

Repo: Continuous ignition. No smoke

Loft: Coming on

Repo: Brake system

Loft: Okay

Repo: Radar

Loft: Up, off

Repo: Hydraulic panels checked

Repo: Engine crossbleeds are open. Gear down.

From his jump seat behind the captain, Donadeo looked out a side window and noticed that they were making a west to east approach. The plane was crossing the Palmetto Expressway, a major highway just west of the airport. It was then that Donadeo became aware of a problem.

Stockstill was landing the plane. "No nose gear," he said. The flap position warning horn honked. From this point on, the cockpit would periodically be filled with the din of various warning signals, as well as blaring voices from the radio speakers. "I gotta ....I gotta raise it back up," Loft said. "Goddamn it. Now I'm gonna try it down one more time."

"All right," said Stockstill, but his voice was almost covered by the much louder sound of an altitude alert horn. For one grating moment both horns sounded; then the flap position warning horn became silent. "Well," Stockstill said in a calm voice. "Want to tell 'em we'll take it around and circle around and fart around?"

At 11:34 p.m. Loft spoke into the radio. "Well, ah, tower, this is Eastern 401, it looks like we're gonna have to circle; we don't have a light on our nose gear yet." Loft referred to a one-inch square light on the lower right side of the center instrument panel that indicates that the nose gear is down and locked in position for landing. The light should have been on at this point, but remained unlit. From the radio speaker the local controller said,

"Eastern 401 heavy, Roger, pull up, climb straight ahead to two thousand. Go back to approach control, 128.6."

The plane had dropped below one thousand feet, homing in on runway Nine Left. "Twenty-two degrees, gear up," Stockstill said, reaching for the landing gear handle. However, Loft suggested, "Put the power on first, Bert. Thataboy. Leave the goddamn gear down until we find out what we got." Donadeo observed that although Stockstill was flying the plane, Loft applied power to the throttles at this point. The plane began to pull out of its descent.

From behind Loft and Stockstill, Repo offered, "Do you want me to check the lights or not?" Loft told him, "Yeah. Check it." Repo's test failed to illuminate the small, square light. Stockstill thought that the light assembly might not be properly seated in the fixture. "Uh, Bob, it might be the light," he said. "Could you jiggle the light?"

"Okay, going up to two thousand," Loft said into the radio as the jet began to climb.

Forty seconds later, Stockstill commented, "We're up to two thousand. You want me to fly it, Bob?"

Loft came back with a question. "What frequency did he want us on?"

"128.6," answered Stockstill.

""I'll talk to 'em," Loft said. He would continue to operate the radio and Stockstill would fly the plane.

Now Repo, standing behind Stockstill looking over his shoulder asked "It's right above that, ah, red one, is it not?"

Loft looked over. "Yeah. Oh, I can't get it from here." The troublesome light light was on the copilot's side of the center panel, closer to Stockstill. But Stockstill was flying the plane, so Repo would be the next to try and remove it. "I can't make it pull out either, " he said.

At 11:35 p.m., Loft radioed the approach controller to report their position. "Alright, ahh, Approach Control, Eastern 401, we're right over the airport here and climbing to two thousand feet. in fact, we've just reached two thousand feet and we've got to get a green light on our nose gear." The controller called back to give Flight 401 new heading information, "Eastern 401, roger. Turn left heading three six zero and maintain two thousand, vectors to 9 Left final."

Loft acknowledged the new heading: turn left and maintain two thousand feet. The plane began to make a U-turn, swinging first to the north and slowly around until it was pointed away from the airport and out toward the Everglades. "Put the son of a bitch on autopilot here," Loft said. Stockstill complied. "See if you can get the light out," Loft told him.

Stockstill finally managed to extract the light fixture from the instrument panel. Inside the plastic cube were two small light bulbs, called peanut bulbs. Donadeo glanced across the flight deck and saw Repo examining the fixture. He did not see the flight engineer remove the old bulbs and insert new ones,. even though there were spare bulbs on board. Then the fixture was replaced into the socket - sideways.

"You got it in there sideways then," Loft said. "Naw, I don't think it will fit. You gotta turn it one quarter to the left."

Inserted sideways, the fixture had jammed. And the light was still off. There were other ways to confirm that the gear was down, and Loft chose one of them. He turned to Repo and said "Hey, get down there and see if that goddamn nose wheel's down." By "down there," Loft was referring to the forward avionics bay, a space beneath the flight deck more commonly called the "hell hole." The bay was accessible through a small square trap door on the floor of the cockpit. Inside the hell hole was an optical sighting device which could be used to view the landing gear itself.

Meanwhile, Stockstill was still trying to remove the jammed light assembly. "You got a handkerchief or something so I can get a little better grip on this, anything I can do it with? It hangs out and sticks." He turned to Loft as Repo was entering the hell hole. "This wont come out, Bob. If I had a pair of pliers, I could cushion it with that Kleenex."

Repo paused on his way down. "I can give you pliers, but if you force it, you'll break it, just believe me."

"Yeah," Stockstill said. "I'll cushion it with some Kleenex."

Loft was loosing patience with the effort to remove the jammed light. Again he ordered Repo into the avionics bay below. "To hell with this," he said, "to hell with this! Go down and see if it's lined up...that's all we care. Fuck around with that goddamned twenty-cent piece of light equipment we got on this bastard!"

The cockpit voice recorder picked up the sound of laughter. It is clear that the crew viewed the malfunction not so much as an emergency as an annoyance. At 11:38 p.m., Loft calmly spoke into the microphone to the controller. "Eastern 401 'll go ah, out west just a little further if we can here and, ah, see if we can get this light to come on here."

The controller responded, "Alright, ah, we got you headed westbound there now, Eastern 401."

It was now 11:38. At the airport, national Flight 607, the plane which had experienced landing gear problems was given final clearance to land on runway Nine Right. Fire trucks were standing by. Unlike Flight 401's faulty light, National 607's problem was seen as a real emergency. Meanwhile Loft and Stockstill continued to discuss the light fixture.

"Have you ever took it out of there?" Loft asked.

"Hadn't till now."

"Put it in the wrong way, huh?"

"Looks square to me," Stockstill said.

While Flight 401 was flying over the Everglades, the skies were busy with other flights; Avianca 781 took off from Miami International's runway Nine Left, followed by eastern 470. Eastern Flight 111 landed on Runway Nine Left. West Indian Flight 790 entered a final approach. Immediately behind that plane was Lan-Chile Flight 451, and backed up and waiting to land was National Airlines Flight 437. In the midst of all this holiday traffic, National Airlines Flight 607 - the one with the gear problem - landed without incident. Loft and Stockstill continued to discuss the lamp assembly.

"I don't know what the hell is holding that son of a bitch in," said Stockstill. "Always something - we could have made schedule." An altitude alert sounded its C-Chord chime for one second and stopped. Loft again turned his attention to the backup method of insuring that the gear was extended.

"We can tell if that son of a bitch is down by looking at the indices," he said. "I'm sure it's down, there is no way it couldn't help but be."

"I'm sure it is," Stockstill said.

"It free-falls down," continued Loft.

"The tests didn't show that the lights worked anyway," Stockstill offered, referring to Repo's test a few moments earlier.

"That's right," Loft agreed.

"It's a faulty light," said Stockstill. He was still attempting to remove the light. "Bob, this son of a bitch just won't come out."

"All right, leave it there," said the captain.

Then Repo reappeared from the hell hole. "I don't see it down there."

"Huh?" said Loft.

"I don't see it," Repo repeated.

Loft told him, "You can't see the indices - for the nose wheel, ah, there's a place in there you can look and see if they're lined up."

"I know," Repo said. "A little like a telescope."

"Yeah." "


"It's not lined up?"

"I can't see it. It's pitch dark, and I throw the little light, I get, ah, nothing."

Loft threw a switch on the overhead panel. "Now try it."

Repo went back down the ladder into the avionics bay. This time, Donadeo followed him. As Donadeo left the flight deck, he noticed that Stockstill had his right hand on the yoke and was pushing or pulling the light assembly with his left. Loft had loosened or unfastened his lap belt and was reaching across the center control pedestal, attempting to help. The captain's left arm was braced against the top of the glare shield and he was reaching for the light with his right arm, crossing just forward of the throttles.

At the airport, the approach controller looked at the altitude block listed next to the little blip representing Eastern 401 on his radar screen. The plane was supposed to be at two thousand feet, but the crisp, green phosphorescent numerals read nine hundred. The controller radioed the plane, "Eastern 401, how are things coming along out there?" Loft answered, "Okay, we'd like to turn around and come back in." And then he told Stockstill, "Clear on Left."

From the controller came the instruction, "Eastern 401, turn left heading one-eight-zero." Loft acknowledged, "One eighty." The L-1011 began a gradual left turn. On the radio speakers, the approach controller could be heard telling Lan-Chile 451 to descend to fifteen hundred feet. The Lan-Chile pilot acknowledged.

"We did something to the altitude," Stockstill said.

Loft: "What?"

Stockstill: "We're still at two thousand, right?"

Loft: "Hey, what's happening here?"

At the airport, the approach controller handled another plane and looked again at the radar screen. On the radar screen, Flight 401's altitude block read "CST" - for coast, or sea level. He radioed the Whisperliner: "And, ah, eastern 401, are you requesting the equipment?" There was silence. "Eastern, ah, 401, ah, I've lost you, ah, on the radar there, your transponder. What's your altitude now? Eastern 401, Miami -"

There was no answer.

User currently offlineAApilot2b From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 586 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (13 years 5 months 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 12243 times:

This is an excellent topic and great website. Good timiing!

User currently offlineLegalman From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (13 years 5 months 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 12148 times:

30 years ago...man. I always found the crash interesting for many reasons. At the time, my uncle was a cop in MIA and one of the first to visit the scene. Also, my mother was ticketed for the flight but missed it due to a late taxi.

User currently offlineSkyhawk From United States of America, joined May 2001, 1066 posts, RR: 3
Reply 5, posted (13 years 5 months 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 12097 times:

I was working NAL 60l that night and as we were light on pax, I went to the cockpit and sat on the jumpseat with the spare headset on listening to the MIA tower. We were behind EAL, after they had crashed, MIA tower told us to do a "go around" to see if we could see anything. It is so black out over the Everglades you wouldn't believe it, so we saw nothing. A sad thing indeed, kind of you to remember them when it has been so long.

User currently offlineAApilot2b From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 586 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (13 years 5 months 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 11990 times:

This is how the aircraft would have appeared in Eastern's colors at that time (although I have never seen a photo of the crash aircraft):

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Photo © Howard Chaloner

It is beleived that many of the parts salvaged from N310EA were used in the production of N318EA. Here is that aircraft:

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Photo © Ted Quackenbush

I wonder what became of this particular airframe?

User currently offlineGanymed From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (13 years 5 months 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 11987 times:

I read in a german book that this was the very first crash of a wide-body-aircraft - a fatal airline accident is always a tragedy.Yet nobody at that time could have predicted how reliable and safe the L1011 would turn out to be and have a much better safety record than it`s competitor DC-10 ,the Turkish airlines-crash near Paris 2 years later claimed more than twice the number of lives than the L1011 that went down in the Everglades.

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Photo © Don Boyd

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Photo © Eduard Marmet


User currently offlineAApilot2b From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 586 posts, RR: 1
Reply 8, posted (13 years 5 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 11980 times:

Both of the events listed above were tragic events resulting from a problem that could have been easily fixed. Fortunately, both of these accidents resulted in huge changes throughout the industry that led to safer flying in the future.

User currently offlineHlywdCatft From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 5321 posts, RR: 6
Reply 9, posted (13 years 5 months 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 11943 times:

Yeah but the DC-10 had a lot of mechanical and structural errors in its crashes such as that Turkish crash, the AA crash at ORD and the United Crash at SUX.

Of the L1011 crashes, none of them have ever been due to mechanical errors.

User currently offlineBR715-A1-30 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (13 years 5 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 11929 times:

I believe that it was the ghost of repo who said he would never allow another L1011 in his control to crash. ::Speculation::

User currently offlineCaribb From Canada, joined Nov 1999, 1649 posts, RR: 7
Reply 11, posted (13 years 5 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 11922 times:

: BR715-A1-30 - ah yes, "The Ghost of Flight 401".. wasn't that the book about the strange apparitions that haunted several other L-1011's who had parts from the downed aircraft? Many of the salvaged pieces went into a TWA TriStar and afterwards ghostly figures/events were reported in areas where the pieces were used (the Kitchen (ovens), areas near over head storage bins, the cockpit, below deck etc). They apparently ended with an exorcism of the TWA jet itself. Take what truth you want from the stories but it was an interesting read in itself.

User currently offlineFDXmech From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 3251 posts, RR: 30
Reply 12, posted (13 years 5 months 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 11913 times:

HlywdCatft: Yeah but the DC-10 had a lot of mechanical and structural errors in its crashes.........


Of the L1011 crashes, none of them have ever been due to mechanical errors.

If the L-1011 had dual independant gear indicating systems such as the DC10 incorporates, this accident might have been avoided.

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Photo © Jorgos Tsambikakis
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Photo © Europix

You're only as good as your last departure.
User currently offlineSegmentKing From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (13 years 5 months 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 11895 times:

a close friend is a former EA Inflight Sup and trainer, she said that most of the 'Ghost' incidents occured on #318, which (amazingly) got seats, overhead bins, PSU (passenger service units), galley equipment, cockpit equipment, etc.. from #310.. she said Lockheed salvaged as much of that plane as possible, and even was able to get some of the flaps (!!!).

She said that she personally never saw any of the 'ghosts' but coworkers had, and she firmly believes them.....


User currently offlineLaxflyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 158 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (13 years 5 months 8 hours ago) and read 11796 times:

In your profile you claim to be a retired flight attendant. I am assuming its from National? National didn't hire its first male flight attendant until 1974 and the EA 401 accident happened in 1972, how is that?

User currently offlineCody From United States of America, joined May 1999, 1963 posts, RR: 8
Reply 15, posted (13 years 5 months 1 hour ago) and read 11728 times:

My neighbor's boss was Angelo Donadeo (the survivor from the cockpit). Donadeo was going to write a book about the crash (There are already three that I can think of off the top of my head) but EAL paid him not to. According to my neighbor, Donadeo was employed by Eastern at least until the strike in 1989. Also, all but two of the surviving Flight Attendants remained with Eastern well into the late 80's.

User currently offlineHlywdCatft From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 5321 posts, RR: 6
Reply 16, posted (13 years 5 months ago) and read 11717 times:

I had a third cousin who was an FA on that flight, she got out with just a broken arm

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