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Joined: Tue Jun 07, 2005 11:37 am

Eastern 401

Mon Mar 13, 2006 10:59 am

Just read something about this recently, was fascinated by it growing up. For any who don't know, Eastern 401 was one of the first classic "controlled flight into terrain" accidents, December 1972 in Flordia Everglades while on final to MIA. What made it weird were the subsequent detailed accounts of ghost apparitions of the deceased flight deck crew, a book and movie resulted and Eastern went to great lengths to debunk the story. Most chalk it up to trauma to other Eastern crew, etc., but the story still has legs if you look on the web.

Anyone out there personally know someone who's credible and supports any of the stories (or has an explanation) ? I searched appears this was never discussed before on A.net, but if so I'd appreciate a link. Thanks.
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Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2004 9:34 am

RE: Eastern 401

Mon Mar 13, 2006 11:13 am

I have heard about these so called ghosts. Apparently parts were scavanged from the brand new L1011 and put on other planes. Ghosts of the crew members often appeared on these planes with the parts from the original plane. These so called ghosts inspired books and a movie I believe as well. Overall though I think it is just a load of rubbish, but I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs.

It is an interesting story about what happened. Something as simple as a burned out light bulb caused the crash of one of the newest and largest jetliners of the time. For those curious about the background, here is a description from Wikipedia:

The Crash
The plane, registered N310EA, was a four-month-old Lockheed L-1011 and was carrying 163 passengers and 13 crewmembers. Flight 401 left New York's JFK on Friday, December 29th, 1972 at 9:20 pm, en route to Miami International Airport. At the controls were Captain Robert Loft, 55, a veteran Eastern Airlines pilot ranked 50th in senority at Eastern, and first officer Bert Stockstill. The flight engineer was Don Repo.

At 11:32 PM, Eastern Airlines flight 401 began its approach into Miami International Airport. When co-pilot Stockstill had looked at the landing gear indicator, the green light that identifies that the nose gear is properly locked in the 'down' position did not illuminate. This failure has two possible explanations: either the gear was not down, or the light was not working. Either way, this is considered to be a small issue for pilots, as the gear can be lowered manually. The pilots recycled the landing gear and still didn't get the confirmation light.

"Well," Stockstill said in a calm voice. "Want to tell 'em we'll take it around and circle around and fart around?"

Loft, who was working the radio, told the tower that they would abort their landing and asked for instructions to circle the airport for a bit. The tower instructed the L-1011 airplane to pull out of its descent, climb to two thousand feet (610 m), and then make a U-turn and flight west over the darkness of the Everglades.

The cockpit crew removed the light assembly and the flight engineer, Don Repo, was dispatched into the avionics bay beneith the flight deck to visually check if the gear was down through a small viewing window. Fifty seconds after reaching their assigned altitude and when the plane was halfway through its U-turn, the captain, Robert Loft, instructed Stockstill to put the L-1011 on autopilot. For the next eighty seconds the plane maintained level flight. Then it dropped one hundred feet (30 m), and then again flew level for two more minutes, after which it began a descent so gradual it could not be perceived by the crew. In the next seventy seconds, the plane lost only 250 feet (76 m), but this was enough to trigger the altitude warning C-chord chime located under the engineer's workstation. The engineer, Don Repo, had gone below, and there was no indication by the pilot's voices that they heard the chime. In another fifty seconds, the plane was at half its assigned altitude. At the moment when Stockstill's radio altimeter beeped the plane was passing through one hundred and one feet (31 m), the plane was dropping at 50 ft/s (15 m/s). The cockpit crew heard the warning, but it was too late.

For reasons unknown, the autopilot had been switched from Command Mode, to CWS (Control Wheel Steering Mode). In the latter, any small inputs to the flight controls will instruct the autopilot how to alter the airplane's course. In this case, small forward pressure on the steering column would force the plane into a descent. Investigators believe the autopilot accidentally switched modes when the captain leaned against the steering column while turning to speak to the flight engineer, who was sitting behind and to the right of him. Like tapping the brakes in a car that is in cruise control, pressure on the steering column switches the autopilot out of command mode.

The NTSB report cited the cause of the crash as pilot error, specifically: "the failure of the flight crew to monitor the flight instruments during the final four minutes of flight, and to detect an unexpected descent soon enough to prevent impact with the ground. Preoccupation with a malfunction of the nose landing gear position indicating system distracted the crew's attention from the instruments and allowed the descent to go unnoticed."

94 passengers and 5 crewmembers died during the crash and two more died of injuries later. The incident was due to burned-out light bulbs with a replacement value of twelve dollars. The landing gear was found to be in the down and locked position.
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