Eastern Airlines Incidents 1937 - 1985

Eastern Airlines Incidents 1937 - 1985

On 10 August 1937, Eastern Air Lines Trip 7, a Douglas DC-2, crashed on landing at Daytona Beach Municipal Airport after it struck a utility pylon during a nighttime take off, killing four of nine on board.

  • On 26 February 1941, Eastern Air Lines Flight 21, a Douglas DST, crashed near Atlanta in fog due to a misread altimeter, almost killing Eddie Rickenbacker, who was traveling on airline business. His recovery in the hospital received broad press coverage; during his initial recovery several news reports claimed that he had died. Congressman William D. Byron was among the dead. 8 died out of the 16 on board.

  • On 12 July 1945, Eastern Airlines Flight 45, a DC-3-201C (NC25647) flying from Washington, DC to Columbia, collided in mid-air with USAAF A-26C Invader 44-35553 near Florence, South Carolina. The A-26's vertical tail fin struck the left wing of the DC-3, displacing the engine which cut into fuselage while the A-26's tail was sheared off; pieces of the fin and rudder also struck the DC-3. The A-26 lost control and crashed; two crew parachuted but only one survived. The DC-3 belly landed in a cornfield although one passenger, a two-year-old boy, died.

  • On 7 September 1945, Eastern Air Lines Flight 42, a Douglas DC-3-201G (NC33631), crashed near Florence, South Carolina following an unexplained fire in the rear of the aircraft. Control was lost after the right elevator also caught fire and the aircraft crashed in a swampy, wooded area, killing all 22 on board. 

  • On 30 December 1945, Eastern Air Lines Flight 14, a Douglas DC-3-201 (NC18123), overran the runway while landing at LaGuardia Airport after approaching too high and too fast, killing one of 14 of board.

  • On 18 January 1946, Eastern Airlines Flight 105, a Douglas DC-3-201E (NC19970), crashed at Cheshire, Connecticut after a loss of control caused by wing separation, killing all 17 on board. A fire, caused by a fuel leak, started in the left engine and spread to the wing, causing it to collapse and fail. 

  • On 12 January 1947, Eastern Airlines Flight 665, a Douglas C-49 (NC88872), crashed at Galax, Virginia after the pilot deviated from the flight route, killing 18 of 19 on board. 

  • On 30 May 1947, Eastern Air Lines Flight 605, a Douglas DC-4 en route from Newark to Miami, crashed near Bainbridge, Maryland, killing all 53 aboard. At the time, Flight 605 was the deadliest crash in United States aviation history. "Loss of control" was cited as the reason for the crash. 

  • On 13 January 1948, Eastern Air Lines Flight 572, a Douglas DC-3-201F (NC28384), crashed at Oxon Hill, Maryland after striking trees while on approach to Washington National Airport, killing five of nine on board; the aircraft was flying too low. 

  • On 7 February 1948, Eastern Air Lines Flight 611, a Lockheed L-649 Constellation (NC112A), suffered a propeller blade separation over the Atlantic Ocean 156 mi off Brunswick, Georgia. Three hours after takeoff, the number three propeller failed and a portion of a blade penetrated the fuselage, cutting control cables, electrical wires and engine controls and killing a crew member before exiting the fuselage on the opposite side. After this the front portion of the number three engine broke free and fell off. A rapid descent was initiated. At 12,000 feet the descent was stopped. Due to instrument failure the aircraft descended visually to 1,000 feet. On landing the number four engine was shut down and the brakes applied hard which blew out a tire. Fires started in the landing gear and number four engine but were quickly extinguished. Despite the damage, the aircraft was repaired and returned to service. 

  • On 1 November 1949, Eastern Air Lines Flight 537, a Douglas DC-4 (N88727) en route from Boston, Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. via intermediate points, collided in mid-air with a Lockheed P-38 Lightning (NX26927) being test-flown for acceptance by the Government of Bolivia by Erick Rios Bridoux of the Bolivian Air Force. The two aircraft collided in mid-air at an altitude of 300 feet about half a mile southwest of the threshold of Runway 3 at Washington National Airport, killing all 55 aboard the DC-4 and seriously injuring the pilot of the P-38. At the time it was the deadliest airliner incident in United States history. 


  • On December 21, 1955, Eastern Air Lines Flight 642, a Lockheed L-749A Constellation (N112A), crashed on approach to Jacksonville's Imeson Airport arriving from Miami, with further scheduled stops at Washington, DC, New York and Boston. Twelve passengers and a crew of five were killed. 





  • On 4 December 1965, Eastern Air Lines Flight 853, a Lockheed L-1049C Super Constellation collided with TWA Flight 42, a Boeing 707, over Carmel, New York. The Constellation crashed on Hunt Mountain in North Salem, New York, killing four of 53 on board while the 707 landed safely with no casualties. 

  • On 29 December 1972, Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 (a brand new Lockheed L-1011) was preparing to land in Miami, when the flight crew became distracted by a non-functioning gear light. The flight crashed in the Everglades, killing 101 of 176 on board. This was the first major crash of a wide body jet aircraft. 


  • On 24 June 1975, Eastern Air Lines Flight 66, a Boeing 727, crashed into the runway approach lights, as it penetrated a thunderstorm near the ILS localizer course line to that runway, at JFK in New York City, killing 113 people. The official cause of the accident was a sudden high rate of descent, caused by severe downdrafts from the thunderstorm, and the continued use of that runway by both flight crews and ATC, after they became aware of the location of the hazardous weather. The aircraft hit a motorcyclist on impact, and ABA basketball star Wendell Ladner was one of the passengers killed in the crash. Most of the deceased were killed by fire after impact rather than the crash itself. The two flight attendants in the rear of the plane survived the fire because they were doused with the liquid contents of the rear lavatories, which kept them alive. The aircraft that landed on the same runway just prior was an Eastern L-1011 that managed to fight through the wind shear by both pilots putting their feet on the instrument panel and pulling back on the control column with all of their strength.[citation needed] After landing, they radioed the tower to close that runway, but it was too late for EAL Flight 66.

Eastern Air Lines Flight 663, February 8, 1965
Fatal Crash Jones Beach State Park, NY


Eastern Air Lines Flight 663 was a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Boston, Massachusetts, to Atlanta, Georgia, with scheduled stopovers at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York; Richmond, Virginia; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Greenville, South Carolina. On the night of February 8, 1965, the flight from Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, to John F. Kennedy International Airport, in New York, proceeded normally.


Flight 663 departed JFK at 6:20 p.m. EDT on an instrument flight rules (IFR) clearance to Byrd Field (now Richmond International Airport), in Richmond, Virginia. Take-off proceeded normally, and the airport control-tower prepared to hand over control to the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) on Long Island, noting that Flight 663 was executing a Dutch seven departure, a routine takeoff procedure that required a series of turns over the Atlantic Ocean in order to avoid flying over New York City. The New York ARTCC responded with the information that Pan American Airways Flight 212, a Boeing 707, was descending to 4,000 feet (1,200 m) in the same airspace.


Crash

The night of February 8 was dark, with no visible moon or stars, and no visible horizon. As the two airliners approached similar positions, their pilots had no points of reference with which to determine actual separation distance or position. Flight 663's departure turn, and Pan Am's subsequent turn left to its assigned heading, had placed the two aircraft on an apparent collision course. The Boeing rolled right and initiated a descent in an attempt to avoid a collision. In response, Eastern 663 initiated an extreme right turn in order to pass safely. The captain of Pan Am 212 later estimated that the two aircraft had passed between 200 and 500 feet (60 and 150 m) of each other, while the first officer estimated that the distance was only 200 to 300 feet (60 to 90 m).


Flight 663 was unable to recover from its unusually steep bank and plunged into the icy water of the Atlantic Ocean, where it exploded with bright orange flames. The Pan American 707 was the first to relay news of the crash, as it was receiving permission to land. Air Canada Flight 627, which had departed a few minutes prior to Flight 663, also radioed news of an explosion in the water. The aircraft serving the flight, a Douglas DC-7, crashed near Jones Beach State Park, New York, just after taking off from JFK Airport. All 79 passengers and five crew aboard perished.


National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) investigations determined that evasive maneuvers undertaken by Flight 663 to avoid an oncoming Pan Am Boeing 707 caused the pilot to suffer spatial disorientation and lose control of the aircraft. The accident is the third-worst accident involving a DC-7. See more: Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Air_Lines_Flight_663


Eastern Air Lines Flight 401

Eastern Air Lines Flight 401

The story of the world's first crash of a jumbo jet as told by survivors

(Photo Above Left: Flight crew of Eastern 401; From L to R, Captain Robert Albin Loft, pilot Albert John Stockstill and flight engineer Donald Louis Repo)  

(Photo Abovo Right) The crew of Flight 401, taken aboard Flight 26 while on the ground in Miami earlier the day of the crash. Back row: Pat Ghyssels, Trudy Smith, Adrianne Hamilton, Mercy Ruiz. Front row: Sue Tebbs, Dottie Warnock, Beverly Raposa, Stephanie Stanich. Laying on the coat rack, Patty George. Not shown, Sharon Transue (she was taking the photo).

Much of the content herein is copyrighted to Rob and Sarah Elder from the book Crash (1977, Atheneum, New York ISBN 0-689-10758

Today, December 29th 2015 marks the 43rd anniversary of the crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401. Thoughts of all who were involved and my friends Ron, Beverly, Mercy, Trudy, Francoise and everyone else who has helped preserve the memories here.

Chapter 1 - Leaving New York

On the cold winter evening of December 29, 1972, Eastern Airlines aircraft number 310 rested quietly on the dimly lit jet parking area outside New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport's Terminal One. The airplane was a new Lockheed L-1011 Tristar, - the pride of Eastern's fleet. Eastern Air Lines named their fleet of L-1011s “Whisperliners.” The plane sat as high as a five story building and was longer than the entire Wright brothers’ first flight. In fact, if the L-1011 was parked in Yankee Stadium with its tail over home plate, the wings would span both first and third base with yards to spare. Eastern’s version of the aircraft was configured to carry 229 passengers, but if an airline had wanted to, there was enough space on board to cram in 400 people. As far as Eastern was concerned, the new Whisperliners were the most comfortable airplanes ever built; boasting eight-foot ceilings, indirect lighting, individual temperature control, music headsets and living room comfort. The outside of the plane was painted white with purple and blue (Eastern's name for the specific shade of the color was known as "Ionosphere" blue). A chandelier decorated the front of the airplane and there was a stand up, padded bar in the back. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the L-1011 was the kitchen, equipped to serve dinner for 324, which was tucked below decks; accessible by two elevators from the main cabin

Aircraft 310 was one of a dozen L-1011s Lockheed had delivered to Eastern Airlines that year, and it was one of the best of the bunch. While the fleet was being built by the Lockheed-California Company, Rolls Royce, the manufacturer of the engines, faltered under the weight of the development costs and went bankrupt. This threw the entire L-1011 project behind schedule and into financial disarray.When the new airplanes finally started being delivered to Eastern during the spring of 1972, the new planes were full of bugs, particularly the advanced new engines. The new L-1011s were constantly being taken out of service for maintenance during that winter, Eastern's busiest season. Aircraft 310, however, seemed to have fewer bugs then her sister ships. Lockheed had delivered it on August 18th, and Eastern put it into service on August 21st. Now, on December 29th, it had been flying for only four months, one week and two days. Maintenance had been regular and frequent, with the current flight log noting only minor problems; on Christmas Eve, for example, the first officer's Mach meter was found to read .006 too low and was replaced. More significantly, it would turn out, was the fact that there hadn't been any entries in the logs for the past sixty days complaining of trouble with the landing gear. Altogether, aircraft 310 had made five hundred and two landings, including the one that brought it into JFK earlier that evening.

The engineer and second officer for flight 401 was Donald Louis Repo, a man who had gone to sleep early the night before because he was trying to shake a cold. Repo was 51 years old and had been employed by Eastern Airlines for 25 years, just short of half of his lifetime. A native of Massachusetts now living in Miami, that morning he had gone to the bank and then left for the airport around noon, flying to Tampa where he boarded aircraft 310 to work flight 164. Now he and the same crew would fly back to Florida as flight 401.

At 7:43 that evening, operating as flight 164, the Whisperliner N310EA touched down at JFK after flying in from Tampa. The crew made just two small entries on log sheet 427443: the tail skid light came on several times during the trip, and the pressure was low in the crew’s portable oxygen bottle. While the plane was on the ground at JFK, the tail skid accumulator was serviced and the oxygen bottle replaced. At 7:30pm, Eastern’s flight dispatcher at JFK cleared the airplane for a nine pm night coach departure to Miami as Flight 401.

 One of the flight engineer's duties is to get on board early, before the captain and first officer, and run through a series of checks. Before the air conditioning could even be turned on, the flight engineer had to make sure the flight deck is equipped with spare light bulbs, first aid kit, rain repellent, smoke goggles, a hand axe and so on. Repo also would fill out the takeoff data card, which had to match the weight limits on the manifest. The manifest listed nine passengers in the forward cabin and one hundred and forty-four aft; a total of 153 in all. In fact, there would be 160 on board. For balancing purposes, it was assumed that each passenger weighed an average of 170 pounds, which figured out to be a total payload, with luggage and freight, of not quite 35,000 pounds. Despite the enormous quantities and that there was a error counting the passengers, the manifest was meticulously detailed. To the quarter-of-a-million pound operating weight of the airplane was added 400 pounds. This was for two additional men who would occupy the flight deck jump seats during this flight. Warren Terry, a co-pilot, and Angelo Donadeo, a maintenance specialist. Both of whom were off duty airline employees who were "dead-heading" - airline slang for employees hitching a free ride to return from a duty assignment.

                                                                                                   

The flight was to be in the capable hands of captain Robert Albin Loft. Loft, a tall and trim 55 year old had been flying for Eastern Airlines since the days of Eddie Rickenbacker. With thirty-two years of seniority, he was ranked fiftieth among the airlines four thousand pilots. He had spent the morning working in his yard, which adjoined a golf course in Plantation, Florida.


And now, just shortly before 9 p.m., the first officer, Albert John Stockstill, slid into the co-pilot seat on the right side of the flight deck. Bert Stockstill, thirty nine years old, was a former Air Force flier. A native of Louisiana who now lived in Miami, Stockstill had even more flying time in the new L-1011 than Loft. A solid, dark haired man, he had slept late, and then spent the remainder of the morning in his home workshop building a light airplane.


Together the crew started the L-1011s engines. Outside, the OFF lights blinked out, warning the ground crew that the airplane was about to come to life. Repo turned on the fuel pump."Turning number two," the pilot said as he depressed the start switch. Like a multimillion-dollar pinball machine, the instruments winked awake with colored lights, first green, then amber, setting in motion a series of terse one and two-word functions - VALVE, OPEN, PUSH, OIL PRESS, ON, ENRICH.

Finally at 9:20 p.m., word came from the tower that it was Flight 401's turn to take off. Once on the runway, Stockstill released the brakes, applied thrust and aircraft 310 rolled forward, gathering speed down the runway for more than a mile. Loft rested his hands on the thrust levers with all the assurance of a man who had flown for twenty-nine thousand hours. As captain, his was the final authority as to whether to proceed or abort the takeoff. He decided: Go. The white jet inched upward toward a night of stars. One hundred and eighty-five tons of metal, kerosene and humanity was airborne.


Flight 401 flew south over Norfolk, Virginia, then followed Jet Airway 79 to Wilmington, North Carolina, and thereafter was over water. The flight would have normally passed east of Jacksonville, Florida, at a point 155 miles out to sea and passing a latitude along which lay, on the other side of the world, Cairo and Shanghai. However, on this night, air traffic control was able to release some airspace east of Jacksonville, vectoring all the MIA area flights (which includes FLL and PBI) so they wound up west of "Barracuda," an invisible navigation checkpoint over the ocean.  A computer-stored flight plan would bring the great white Whisperliner inland over West Palm Beach, and then south to Miami - a long, dense galaxy of lights glittering on a north-south axis between two black voids, the Atlantic ocean and the Everglades.


The weather in Miami that winter Friday night was the main attraction to Flight 401's passengers. The National Weather Service had recorded the days high temperature at 1:56 p.m. (and again at 2:53) as a balmy seventy-six degrees. If the weather was the main attraction on that holiday weekend, it wasn't the only one. Ann-Margret was on stage at the Fontainebleau, Woody Allen at the Deauville, the King Orange Parade on New Years Day, plus betting at the greyhound track and jai-alai.

For Joan and Jerry Eskow, the trip was a last minute arrangement; a response to the coaxing of their friends who would be celebrating New Year's Eve on a mutual friend's yacht. There was, however, a complication. Jerry's business, Yale Express Systems, was in the throes of bankruptcy and legal trouble. Jerry didn't want to be away from New York for too long, so he said that Joan, his wife, should go out ahead. She initially balked at the idea, but Jerry used one of her own arguments to convince her. He said, " remember the pact you wanted us to make about flying separately?" It had always worried her that if something should happen to them both, who would take care of her girls? There was a certain irony in Jerry's reviving that thought; always before he had laughed at her concern. She flew out on flight 401 on Thursday and Jerry would follow 24 hours later on Friday night's Flight 401.


For Cuban-born Lilly Infantino and her new American husband Ronald, the trip was a chance to spend a traditional Cuban holiday celebration with her family in Miami. Lilly and Ron had just married on December 9th, and after a brief honeymoon in Disney World, they had flown to New York to spend Christmas with Ron's parents. But after speaking to her family in Miami and hearing the account of the planned New Year's Eve festivities, they decided to catch flight 401 to Miami. Even though the flight was scheduled to arrive at 11:42, in Little Havana that was not considered a late hour. Lilly's sister, Kathy, would later explain that Ron and Lilly originally selected another flight but later changed it to flight 401. Somewhere over Wilmington, Lilly went to the bathroom at the rear of the plane. She had been sitting next to the center divider, with her husband, Ron, at the aisle. When she returned they exchanged places. "Id rather sit here anyway," she said. At the time, it seemed a decision of no consequence.


Eastern's uniforms in the winter of 1972 were dark brown, beige and powder blue; flight attendants had the option of wearing skirts, slacks or shorts with boots that zipped nearly to the knee. The senior flight attendant on flight 401 wore blue shorts with the brown boots. Her name was Adrianne Hamilton, a slender, serious Texan who nineteen days earlier had begun her fifth year flying with Eastern. She was twenty seven years old. That days trip was known as a "stuffer." A quick turnaround, Miami to New York and back to Miami. The crew had checked into Eastern's in-flight office at Miami International at 3:35 p.m., and by 11:50 p.m. they were scheduled to be off duty. From Miami to New York, the ten women flight attendants in the crew flew on flight 26, a dinner flight. At JFK they changed airplanes to work flight 401. Flight 26 arrived into JFK late and Adrianne and her crew had only twenty-three minutes to get from one plane to the other. They almost missed flight 401.


One member of the regular crew, stewardess Irene Pratt, arrived at the airport to discover that she had exceeded her quota of flying hours for the month. "When I arrived at the airport told me that there was no need for me that day," she said. She had been replaced by another Eastern flight attendant, Sharon Transue.


Because it was the end of the month the crew would be breaking up soon. "This is going to be our last trip together," a black-haired stewardess, Mercedes Ruiz, told the others. She had brought a camera to preserve the memories of the good times the crew had had with each other. Sharon Transue, the replacement crew member didn't feel part of the team and so offered to take the picture of the group. For the photograph, the team of flight attendants had gathered at the tail of the plane. Patricia Georgia lay atop one of the L-1011's coat closets, and the others stood in a row just below. This photograph (above) was taken aboard flight 26 the day of the crash. Mercy's camera would later survive the crash and this remarkable photo was developed. Sadly, for Patricia Ghyssels and Stephanie Stanich - it would be the last time they were photographed alive.


Among the passengers, the very size of the L-1011 imposed anonymity. On flight 401, an unexpected factor made it seem even larger than it was. Especially during the holidays, night coaches to Miami were usually filled up. This flight had been booked solid. But evidently some people had made last minute plans and even with one hundred and sixty passengers on board, when the doors closed, sixty-eight empty seats remained. And so they sat, strangers, some alone, some in pairs:

A woman with salt-and-pepper hair wore a knit dress with gold frogs on her belt. Her name was Evelyn de Salazaar. She managed a Manhattan art gallery. In a small box tucked under her seat was her constant companion, her white poodle, Tina. Marc Leshay, twenty one, a University of Miami student headed back to class after the holidays. Ethel Jackson, 64, a housekeeper from Liberty City, brought her white uniform in a carry-on bag. Rose Kashman, 57, of New York, sporting a mink coat. All would be dead in a few hours

.

In Row 16, Gustavo and Xiomara Casado were flying to Miami to show relatives their new baby girl. Two-month-old Christina slept in her mother's arms wearing a pink dress. Jerrold Solomon, twenty four, was a nervous smoker who still managed to make his pack of Tareytons last two days. He had purchased a non-smoking ticket, but while on board found a seat in the last row reserved for smokers. It was a window seat on the right side, just forward of the wing. Despite that this was a pleasure trip -he was going to Miami to see a girlfriend and visit a former college roommate - he sat down and went right to work. He was a buyer for Gimbels. "I always knew retailing was what I wanted. I got right into it out of school, and I was pretty successful and I got a nice salary."


For a brief time until a friend got promoted, he was the youngest buyer at Gimbels. His goal in life, he would say later, was "to be successful financially and live a nice, easy, comfortable life." To that end, he had brought computer print outs on his trip to Miami. "I was rotating stock that might be sitting in the store not selling." Jerry wore a gold Star of David his mother had bought him a few weeks earlier while in Israel. "It was funny. She knew I didn't want to wear anything around my neck. All I wanted was a chain, and she said 'I bought this star. If you want it, wear it, fine. If you want to hold it for your children, fine.' And I said, 'Mom, if it will make you happy, I'll wear it.'

Joseph Popson was a tired but happy soon-to-be PhD in English, returning to Florida after attending the Modern Language Association conference in New York. He settled in for the journey, digging into his paperback of the Exorcist.


Quietly, during the flight, Edward Ulrich proposed to Sandra Burt; she accepted. He was forty-four, fair haired and balding, a big man who used to play college football. She was thirty-two and as slight as he was large. They both lived in Seymour, Connecticut, where he was a salesman for a copper company and she was a secretary in a bank. "I thought you'd like to see this," he said reaching into his pocket and producing a diamond ring. She looked at the ring, smiled and said "Thank you." They laughed and drank a champagne cocktail. It was ironic that the flight had more than five dozen empty seats, for when they booked, they were told the only seats available were in first class. Burt bought the tickets anyway. He and Sandra boarded the plane early and sat near the front in seats 4A and 4B. Directly ahead of them were a row of seats and the first class lounge, where there were several additional empty seats and a buffet of cheese and crackers. To their right were more empty seats. And behind them, an airplane carrying 176 people. Yet, Ed and Sandra were very much alone.


In first-class, a blond young woman rose from her seat and introduced herself to the passengers. She was Jennifer Larsen, an in-flight executive representative for Eastern Airlines. She explained that she would be happy to help any passengers with re-ticketing for return trips. When she finished her announcement, Jerry Eskow called her over. On the back of an envelope he wrote the following letter to Samuel L. Higginbottom, who was then the president and COO of Eastern Airlines. "Dear Mr. Higginbottom: This is my first time on an L-1011, and I love the trip. The ride is smooth, the service is excellent, the plane is beautiful, the pilots are terrific and I want to particularly compliment your stewardess Jennifer Larsen." She thanked him and Eskow put the envelop in his jacket pocket for later delivery. He began to doze as the seat belt sign was lighted and a voice came from the cockpit.


"Welcome to sunny Miami. The temperature's in the low seventies, and its beautiful out there tonight."


 30 May 1947, Eastern Air Lines Flight 605, a Douglas DC-4 e
 Newark to Miami, Crashed near Bainbridge, Maryland,

Eastern Air Lines Flight 605 crashed killing all 53 aboard. At the time, Flight 605 was the deadliest crash in United States aviation history. "Loss of control" was cited as the reason for the crash.


Eastern Airlines and Maryland Eastern Airlines Flight 605

The Flightpath 2:13 am

Transcribed from St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, FL,

June 1, 1947


PORT DEPOSIT, Md. — (AP) — Hushed relatives of the 53 dead in America’s most terrible commercial air disaster came in from all over the south and east yesterday to visit an improvised morgue and do their best to make identifications. Not one of the victims of the crash Friday night of a southbound Eastern Air Lines DC-4 escaped mutilation when the big plane struck and shattered. Forty-nine passengers one of them a baby in its mother’s arms, and four crew members were removed early yesterday to the drab and deserted commissary at Bainbridge naval training station.


There the kinfolks, navy doctors and dentists, and Eastern Air Lines’ medical examiners began the slow and gruesome business of making identification through dental work, personal trinkets or distinguishing body marks.

About 24 hours after the crash, only eight bodies had been positively identified. The eight included: Mrs. H. Schrifrin, New York city; Mrs. Edit Stuart and her one-year-old son, Miami Beach; Donna Medling, Watertown, Conn.; Leo and Queenie Machtel, Miami; Theodore Lundstrom, the plane purser from Elmont, N.Y.; and Stewardess Helena O’Brien, New York city.


The DC-4 left Newark at 4:55 p. m. Friday night bound for Miami, and most of the dead were residents of the south or northeast.The cause of the crash, whose death toll was the largest of any commercial airline disaster in United States history, remained much in doubt. Several witnesses, however, told investigators that the tail section of the four-engine ship came off before it crashed. The civil aeronautics board announced in Washington it will decide this week on a date for public hearings on the disaster.


John Chamberlain, assistant director of the safety bureau, who saw the crash while flying over the Port Deposit area, said the hearings normally are held a week or 10 days after an accident. Meanwhile, CAB investigators, Eastern Air Lines officials and a thousand men from the naval base spent the day looking over the scene and checking over the fragments which were all that remained of the DC-4. Dr. R. C. Dodson, Cecil county medical examiner, expressed the hope that relatives would approve mass burial of the victims, possibly in nearby West Nottingham cemetary.


It appeared, however, that relatives of those positively identified would choose resting places elsewhere.

The kin of the victims began arriving in the early morning. They were taken to the hostess house at the training station, where they talked in low and awed tones of the catastrophe. After a few hours they were called to go by bus to the commissary building, several hundred yards away. There in a long room the bodies had been placed on trestle-like platforms about three inches from the floor. As rapidly as a body was identified it was marked with a number and doctors passed on to the next.

 

Eastern Airlines and Maryland Eastern Airlines Flight 605 The Flightpath 7:11 am

Transcribed, Middletown Times Herald, Middletown, NY, 31 May 1947


Structural Flaw Thought Cause of Airliner Crash

All 53 Aboard Miami-bound Plane Dead in Nation’s Worst Air Wreck

BAINBRIDGE–An Eastern Airlines official said today a structural defect may have caused the crash of a giant luxury liner which killed fifty-three persons last night in the nation’s worst commercial aviation disaster. The four-engined airliner–one of Eastern’s Silver Fleet–plunged 6,000 feet out of a clear sky into swampy woods near here shortly before seven p.m., EDT. The airlines official declined use of his name. He told a reporter after a meeting with Civil Aeronautics Authority officials in Washington this morning that eyewitness accounts of the crash led investigators to believe it may have been caused by a structural defect in the plane–a DC-4 bound from Newark to Miami.


Weather Ruled Out

As he added, however, that eyewitness accounts sometimes are “unreliable.” He said weather had been virtually ruled out as a factor in the crash. At least three eyewitnesses to the airliner’s death plunge reported they thought parts of the tail section were torn loose before the plane fell. All aboard perished, including a tiny infant whose decapitated body was found still clutched in its mother’s arms. The plane carried forty-nine passengers and four crew members. Many of the bodies were so badly mangled that identification was difficult, if not impossible. It was by far the worst domestic disaster in the history of commercial aviation. The death toll equaled that of any heavier-than-air calamity in the world. The airliner’s plunge into the swampy woods of rural Maryland was witnessed by a group of Civil Aeronautics Board investigators, who were flying back to Washington after studying the United Air Lines disaster at New York’s LaGuardia Airport just twenty-three hours earlier.


No Official Opinion

Within an hour, they were at the wreckage. They had no official opinion as to cause of the crash, pending a more extensive investigation.


A conference with Eastern officials was called in Washington this morning. But it was known that the CAB authorities were much interested in the story of a young sailor, who told shocked bystanders at the wreckage that he saw a piece of the tail break from the fuselage just before the plane hit. The CAB officials ordered a special search made for pieces of wreckage that might have come loose before the plane crashed. They themselves had witnessed the beginnings of the plunge. From their plane they saw the airliner, which had taken off from Newark, N. J., at 6:04 p. m. EDT., flying along at an altitude of 6,000 feet. The sky was clear, and the plane apparently was proceeding safely on its non-stop trip to Miami.


The pilot, William Coney, one of Eastern’s top men, had reported “all is well” over Philadelphia.

30 December 1945, Eastern Air Lines Flight 14, a Douglas DC-3-201 (NC18123), overran the runway while landing at LaGuardia Airport after approaching too high and too fast, killing one of 14 of board.

Crashed into a hill in pine woods while trying to make an instrument landing approach in rain and fog due to altimeter misread. The aircraft found next day at 6:30 CT. Passenger Edward Vernon "Eddy" Rickenbacker (50) survived. Congressman William D. Byron (45) died.

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The failure of the captain in charge of the flight to exercise the proper degree of care by not checking his altimeters to determine whether both were correctly set and properly functioning before commencing his landing approach. A substantial contributing factor was the absence of an established uniform cockpit procedure on Eastern Air Lines by which both the captain and the pilot are required to make a complete check of the controls and instruments during landing operations."

Classification:

 September 7, 1945, Eastern Air Lines Flight 42,

 Douglas DC-3-201G (NC33631),

Crashed near Florence, South Carolina


Following an unexplained fire in the rear of the aircraft. Control was lost after the right elevator also caught fire and the aircraft crashed in a swampy, wooded area, killing all 22 on board.


The aircraft had departed Savannah at 00:41 for a flight to Raleigh. Weather at Raleigh was below minima, so the crew were re-cleared for Washington. No acknowledgement of the message was received.

At 02:05, a radio transmission from Flight 42 was intercepted in which it was indicated that the pilot intended to return to Florence and that he desired clearance to land at Florence Army Air Field. It was found out that a fire in the rear had forced the crew to divert. Because of the fire, the passengers moved to the front of the plane.

The right elevator caught fire as well, rendering longitudinal control very difficult and probably made the collision with the first of the trees unavoidable. The aircraft crashed in a swampy, wooded area.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "Fire of undetermined genesis in the rear cargo compartment or lavatory which resulted in the inability of the pilot to maintain altitude long enough to effect a landing."
Jul 12 1945 -  Eastern Airlines Flight 45
 Collides with a USAFF A-26 Invader Bomber


Eastern Air Lines Flight 45 was in straight flight and letting down at approximately 200 feet per minute toward Columbia, SC. At the same time a US Army Douglas A-26C-35-DT Invader plane (44-35553) was on a training flight in the area.


The Army plane had just returned to straight level flight after having been banked 15 degree or 20 degree to the left in a turn of about two miles radius for more than one minute when both aircraft collided. Impact occurred at an altitude of approximately 3100 ft.


Initial impact was with the vertical fin of the A-26 against the leading edge of the DC-3's left wing at a point slightly in from the landing light. The fin progressed along this loading edge until it struck the left engine nacelle, tearing loose that engine. This engine then moved to the right sufficiently to allow its still rotating propeller to strike and cut into the fuselage of the DC-3 at a point just behind the baggage compartment door. The top 4-5 feet of the A-26's fin and rudder were broken off and parts of these also struck the DC-3 fuselage. The A-26 crashed out of control and the pilot of the DC-3 was able to carry out an emergency belly landing on a field.


PROBABLE CAUSE: " The lack of vigilance on the part of the pilots of both aircraft resulting in the failure of each pilot to see the other aircraft in time to avoid collision.


Eastern Airlines Flight 45 was a domestic commercial airline flight that suffered a mid-air collision with a USAAF A-26 Invader bomber over northeastern South Carolina on 12 July 1945, forcing an emergency landing in a field by the airliner, and resulting in the crash of the bomber. There was one fatality on each aircraft.


NC 28394, Eastern Air Lines Flight 21
February 26, 1941


Eastern Air Lines Flight 21, registration NC28394, was a Douglas DC-3 aircraft that crashed while preparing to land at Candler Field (now Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport) in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 26, 1941. Eight of the 16 on board were killed including Maryland Congressman William D. Byron. Among the injured was Eastern Air Lines president and World War I hero Eddie Rickenbacker.


Synopsis

Flight 21 departed New York City's LaGuardia Airport on the evening of February 26, stopping briefly at Washington Hoover Airport before departing at 9:05 PM Eastern Time for Atlanta. After Atlanta, it was scheduled to stop at New Orleans, Louisiana, and Houston, Texas, before ending its trip at Brownsville, Texas, on the morning of the 27th.


At 11:38 PM Central Time, the aircraft called the Eastern Air Lines operator in Atlanta to advise that it had passed over the Stone Mountain reporting point and was descending. The operator provided the pilots with the altimeter setting for Candler Field and with the current weather. Flight 21 then contacted the Atlanta control tower twice, first to advise that it was making an approach and then to advise that the aircraft was over the Atlanta range station two miles southeast of the airport at an altitude of 1,800 feet (550 m).[4] Eastern's company operator then contacted the flight to suggest a straight-in approach; the aircraft acknowledged the transmission, but nothing further was heard.


The wreckage was found in a pine grove five miles southeast of the Atlanta Range station just after 6:30 AM. Rescuers found a number of survivors still alive in the wreckage, including Eastern Air Lines President Eddie Rickenbacker, who had suffered a dented skull, other head injuries, shattered left elbow and crushed nerve, paralyzed left hand, several broken ribs, a crushed hip socket, twice-broken pelvis, severed nerve in his left hip, and a broken left knee. Most shocking, his left eyeball was expelled from the socket. He recovered from these after months in the hospital, and regained full eyesight.


Crash and investigation

Investigators with the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), the predecessor of the NTSB, determined from the evidence at the site and the survivors' testimony that the aircraft had first struck the tops of three small pine trees while the aircraft was flying in a northerly direction. The lowest tree was struck at an elevation of 915 feet (279 m) above sea level. Flight 21 then apparently continued across a small valley in the same direction in level flight for about 1,500 feet (460 m) before the right wing tip struck the top of a poplar and the aircraft crashed into a thick grove of pine trees. Captain Rickenbacker testified that he first felt a slight bump. At that point, he jumped from his seat and started to move toward the rear of the aircraft, but the aircraft crashed and he was thrown from his feet.


Aftermath

At the time of the accident, it was standard practice for an air carrier aircraft to have two altimeters; one set to sea level air pressure (as expressed in inches of mercury) and referred to during en route flight, and one used for instrument approaches and set to the air pressure of the airport the aircraft was about to land at. In this case, the instrument approach altimeter was found after the crash to be set to 29.92 inches of mercury. However, the altimeter setting at Candler Field on the morning of February 26 was 28.94. This setting had been transmitted to the aircraft by Eastern Air Lines's company operator at 11:38 PM and acknowledged by one of the pilots, but the approach altimeter apparently had been set incorrectly. Although the setting could have been disturbed in the crash, as seems to have happened to the en-route altimeter, the error in the setting was almost exactly one inch of mercury. This would correspond to the difference between the aircraft's actual altitude at the time of the crash and the altitude it should have had during a normal instrument approach.


The CAB issued the following statement as to probable cause:

On the basis of the foregoing findings and the entire record available to us at this time, we find that the probable cause of the accident to NC 28394 (Eastern Air Lines Trip 21) on February 26, 1941, was the failure of the captain in charge of the flight to exercise the proper degree of care by not checking his altimeters to determine whether both were correctly set and properly functioning before commencing his landing approach. A substantial contributing factor was the absence of an established uniform cockpit procedure on Eastern Air Lines by which both the captain and pilot are required to make a complete check of the controls and instruments during landing operations.


Daytona’s Deadliest Airline Crash,

Eastern Air Lines Trip 7, Douglas DC-10m Flight Aug. 10, 1937

 

(Daytona Beach News-Journal photo, Aug. 11, 1937)

The Wreckage–Deaths, Survivors, and Daytona’s Heroes


At the wreck, one of the plane’s two engines was still burning in the dark, so Rawlins and the others smothered it with sand and turned to help the survivors. Two men had managed to exit the wreck, and they were sitting on the ground “just outside the plane,” and two other men were shouting for help. Inside the airplane it was silent (“Says Both Motors”).


One man was “screaming and carrying on”–Colonel Jesus Triana-Marin, an officer from Mexico City. Taylor and another dairyman dragged him to safety, leaning him against a pine tree before turning to assist the other survivors. When they returned to the colonel a short time later, they were surprised to find the man seemingly dead, though newspaper accounts later reported that he died in the hospital around 10:30, six hours after the crash (Taylor; “Not E.A.L”).


Pilot, Stuart Dietz was killed on impact, but Co-pilot,  Robert R. Reed and three others were hurriedly loaded by Taylor and his men into their milk delivery trucks to drive them to the hospital. [Mt. Ararat is the African American cemetery situated at the highest point on the south side of Bellevue Avenue just to the east of Clyde Morris Boulevard.] In 1937, though, there was no direct road from Mt. Ararat to the hospital, so they had to drive east on Bellevue Avenue for almost half a mile to Canal Road [today’s Nova Road] and then north one mile to Volusia Avenue [today’s International Speedway Boulevard] and then the mile west to Halifax Hospital (“Pilot”; Taylor).


Mr. and Mrs. L. F. Hulin were awakened by the crash because their small farm was “just west of the southern end of the airport runway.” The wrecked plane crashed about 1,000 feet from their home, and Mrs. Hulin said, “There must have been 10,000 people out here today to see the wreck” (“Plane”).


Weather and the Crash

The day before the crash the official temperature at Sholtz Field reached 90, but the .55 inches of rain at the airport were likely afternoon showers, and on the morning of the crash it dropped to only 67 degrees. The Taylor family recalled that it was foggy on the morning of the crash, and during the afternoon when people were working to investigate the crash site, there were showers (Taylor; “Weather” Aug. 10 and 11).


World War One Flying Ace and Eastern Air Lines

Eastern Air Lines was managed by the legendary World War One ace, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, who refused to use the word “safe” in advertising even though Eastern had had no passenger fatalities from 1930 to 1936, totaling 180 million “revenue passenger miles” and had received an award in 1937 for eight years of “safe operation.” With its safety record, Eastern had tripled its riders from 1933 to 1937, but this crash in Daytona Beach could be so devastating to Eastern Air Lines that Rickenbacker was called by ship-to-shore on the yacht of Alfred P. Sloan (Chairman of the Board of General Motors) in Newport, Rhode Island, and he immediately flew to New York City and then to Florida, arriving the same night as the crash (“Daytona”; Russell 58; Lewis 351; “Pilot”; American 108).


(Daytona Beach News-Journal photo, Aug. 11, 1937)


Crash Deaths and Injuries

In the meantime, at Halifax Hospital the co-pilot had died, as well as J. F. Phillpotts of Kingston, Jamaica. His young son, Peter, who had escaped the flames at the crash site was improving at the hospital and would then spend several days with Ralph Taylor’s family in the garage apartment over the dairy stable until his mother arrived. [For many years the Taylors received letters and Christmas cards postmarked with Jamaica stamps, and Ralph Taylor, Jr., (Rusty) recalls that the boy may have entered the British R.A.F. near the end of World War II, after which they heard no more news from him] (“Pilot”; Taylor). More than forty hours after the crash, passenger Fred M. Thompson remained unconscious and in critical condition at the hospital, and Brian Merrill, the plane’s steward, was struggling with internal injuries. The three other survivors, including young Peter, were in better condition (“Pilot”).


Blaming and Finger-Pointing


Losing no time, Rickenbacker announced the next day that the pilot had not caused the crash. This was following a day-long investigation by the Eastern Air Lines accident board at the mammoth Williams Hotel [downtown at the corner of Palmetto Avenue and Magnolia Avenue].  Rickebacker’s issued statement explained that just hours before the flight, Florida Power and Light workers had set up a new overhead power line and pole directly at the south end of the north-south runway “without notice of any kind, official or otherwise, to airport officials or employees, air line officials, employees, or department of commerce officials.” The DC-2 struck the “high tension line” and what Rickebacker described as “the supporting pole of approximately 30 feet in height placed in line with the center of the north-south runway.” Making matters worse, it “was a creosoted pole, black and blending into the darkness without obstruction or warning light of any kind” (“Pilot”).


The News-Journal reported, “The pole hit by the liner was lifted clear out of the newly-dug hole and tossed into the palmetto scrub. There was not a speck of earth on its butt and observers said they believed the earth had not yet been filled in and tramped (sic) down around it. Out in the field lay the wing tip that had been torn from the ship, and hanging to it was one heavy strand of copper wire. The cross-beam of the pole was imbedded in the tip of the wing” (“One Man”).


Denials and Crash Investigations


Another vice president of Eastern denied the published report that the airlines had asked the hospital to withhold information, but reporters were being directed back and forth from the hospital to the airport manager and back to the hospital, and obtained the names of the dead and injured only after repeated requests. Not even the Volusia County commissioners were above finger-pointing, and they were asked for information about the width of the county’s right-of-way on the DeLand-Daytona Beach highway at the airport and also about the commission’s resolution that authorized the erection of the “high tension line from the airport to an airways beacon farther west” (“Not E. A. L.”; “County”). Federal investigators also met in downtown Daytona Beach at the Casino Burgoyne on the east side of Beach Street [The site today of an open park across from Stavro’s Pizza and Abraxas Books]. The findings of their meeting corroborated Rickenbacker’s account of the tragic end of Flight 7 which had arrived from Chicago at 4:00 a.m., unloaded passengers, luggage, and mail before attempting to lift off at 4:40 en route to Miami. Newspapers across the country published editorials calling for the clearing of obstructions around airports (“Public Hearing This Morning”; “Pilot”; Russell 58; “Says Country”).


The power company later indicated that between 7:30 and 9:30 on the evening before the crash one of their employees had used the public telephone in the airport’s administration building to phone in a report to his superior that an underground circuit at the airport had failed, and he advised that an overhead line be installed. Then during the installation that night another employee used the same phone, apparently assuming that the men on duty in the airport office were aware of the work being done because of the equipment and the lights being used. Ultimately, the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents determined “the probable cause of this accident was the absence of reasonable notice to those operating and navigating the aircraft” (Bureau).


Daytonans were worried about the future of their airport, but when a News-Journal reporter asked if the city would lose Eastern Air Lines’ airmail, passenger, and express service, “Captain Rickenbacker boomed his reply: ‘There’s not a chance of it!'” (“Daytona”).


Eastern Flight Incidents - Non Fatal

3 April 1941, Eastern Air Lines Trip #14

Douglas DC-3-201B (NC21727) Crashed Vero Beach

Note: Earline Eastern Flights aircraft flights were called Trip #...


Eastern Air Lines Trip 14 departed Miami, Florida about 07:45 hours on a flight to Jacksonville, Florida, with Savannah, Georgia as an alternate, with an en route stop at West Palm Beach, Florida.

Trip 14 departed from the ramp at West Palm Beach at 08:16 and took off at 08:20. Following the take-off the airplane had climbed to an altitude of 3000 feet and the flight proceeded toward Daytona Beach. Another flight, Eastern Trip 10, was flying near Vero Beach, Florida when it encountered severe turbulence. The crew relayed a message to Trip 14 to stay out of that area.
Trip 14 then began circling about 15 miles north of West Palm Beach, awaiting a further report from Trip 10. After Trip 10 had passed Vero Beach, Trip 14 continued towards Daytona Beach, while trying to stay on top of the clouds.

The flight suddenly encountered very turbulent air and then a violent updraft, and while they were in this the air speed dropped back to about 100 m.p.h. while the rate of climb indicator showed an ascent close to 1000 feet per minute. Upon reaching an altitude of-approximately 4000 feet, the air became smooth and the ascent was stopped. The pilot stated that at this time he started to make a flat turn to the left in an effort to get out of the storm and that while he was making this turn, the First Officer lowered the landing gear. According to the captain's testimony the airplane, before starting the left turn was on an initial heading of 340 degrees and when the turn had progressed to 240 degrees he tried to "straighten out the turn", but the airplane continued to turn and his efforts to stop the turn were of no avail. The (directional) gyro indicated that the turn continued until the airplane was headed due north thus making almost a complete circle. The captain stated that after the turn had been stopped the air became extremely turbulent and since he was fully occupied with the control wheel, he requested the first officer to handle the throttle. While in this turbulent air according to the captain's account, the left wing went down, and remained down even though full opposite aileron was used. The captain said that he reached for the throttle in order to apply power to the left engine in an effort to bring the wing up, but that before he could apply power the left wing came up and the right wing went down. He testified that on bringing the airplane to a level attitude the power was reduced due to the violence of the turbulence and with this reduced power the airspeed meter indicated about 130 m.p.h.
The captain although not able to reconstruct the exact sequence of events from this point on was of the opinion that they encountered three updrafts and three downdrafts. The highest altimeter reading he recalled was approximately 4500 feet. The captain testified that there "was an extremely strong rotary pressure while in the updrafts" and that the airplane had a tendency to turn to the left in a flat attitude During these flat turns the (directional) gyro indicated that the heading of the airplane changed more than 180 degrees.
The captain testified that during the third and last downdraft they broke out of the overcast. As they broke into the clear, according to his testimony, the airspeed was between 190 and 200 m.p.h. and he had the control wheel fairly well back and was using a normal amount of power in an effort to hold altitude.
Not long afterwards, the aircraft struck the surface of a swamp.

Crashed into flat waters during a storm. The 13 passengers and the three crew members suffered injuries.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE:
Upon the basis of the foregoing findings and of the entire record available at this time we find that the probable cause of the accident to NC 21727 (Eastern Air Lines Trip 14) on April 3, 1941, was loss of control of the airplane while being operated on instruments and while encountering severe turbulence in a line squall, the existence of which the carrier's ground personnel had failed to make known to the captain.

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS:
1. Failure of carrier to provide an adequate dispatching system with a number of trained dispatchers on Route 6 to keep in constant contact with flights in order to provide them with current and accurate flight information.
2. Failure of carrier's West Palm Beach ground station to transmit to Trip 14 the full text of the message received from Trip 10 at 8:32 A.M.
3. Failure of carrier's meteorologist to make a more thorough analysis of weather conditions and issue a supplementary forecast to that originally issued for the operation of trip 14.
4. Although as we have previously stated it is impossible to reach a definite conclusion as to the degree of severity of the problem presented to the pilot it appears very possible that the handicap of the captain's limited experience in flying transport aircraft under conditions of severe turbulence was a factor contributing to the occurrence of the accident.
Accident - Friday 11 October 1946,
DC-54B Eastern Airlines Flight 564

Flight 564 departed Miami, Florida, at 16:20 with its destination Newark, and with stops scheduled at Tampa, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. The flight progressed according to its flight plan to Atlanta, where a landing was made at 19:43. Because of low ceilings and visibility forecast for Washington it was agreed that Flight 564 would be cleared from Atlanta to Newark, subject to possible re-clearance en route in the event the weather at Washington was suitable for a landing.

The flight departed Atlanta at 20:27 and proceeded on an instrument flight plan at 7,000 feet along Airway Green 6. Nearing Washington, the crew obtained permission to approach the National Airport. At 23:16 the flight reported that It had missed its approach and requested clearance for a second approach. While maneuvering for another approach, the DC-4 struck the crest of a low ridge at an elevation 200 feet above sea level, 6 miles south-southwest of Washington National Airport. The aircraft progressed upslope, continued in a turn for approximately 500 feet during which time the landing gear failed and the right wing began to disintegrate as it struck and demolished two telephone poles in its path. As it passed over the top of the ridge and started down the northern slope, the aircraft momentarily left the ground making contact again on the left wing and causing the wing to break outboard of the No. 1 engine. Pivoting on the left inboard wing panel, the aircraft rolled into an Inverted position and skidded tail first to a stop.
The DC-4 struck a ridge while on approach. The aircraft burned out after all occupants had deplaned.



PROBABLE CAUSE: "The Board finds that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the pilot to maintain flight at or above the minimum safe altitude for instrument approach to Washington National Airport."

Thursday, December 19, 1946 Time:18:07 Eastern 605
Douglas C-54B-5-DO (DC-4) Registration: NC88813

Universal Flight 7, a Douglas DC-3, departed Newark at 17:07 on an instrument flight clearance, via Airway Amber 7, over Washington to Raleigh, at 2,000 feet.

Fifteen minutes later, Eastern Flight 605, a Douglas DC-4, departed Newark on a contact clearance at 2,000 feet, via Airway Amber 7, over Washington to Miami, non-stop. The DC-4 overtook the DC-3 in the vicinity of Aberdeen, Maryland.

The co-pilot of the Eastern DC-4 suddenly saw the lights of an aircraft close to and to the left of the DC-4 and immediately rolled the DC-4 into a bank to the right and pulled the nose up forcefully. The rear of the plane collided with the forward top portion of the DC-3's fuselage. The DC-3 pilots, thinking they had collided with a bird, carried out a safe landing at Phillips Army Air Field while the DC-4 diverted to Washington-National Airport.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the lack of vigilance on the part of the pilots of both aircraft." 
Wednesday, January 21, 1948 Eastern 604
Lockheed L-649 Constellation NC111A

The original destination of the Constellation, Newark, was changed to New York-LaGuardia due to poor visibility. The approach to LaGuardia was missed by half a mile. Because of a ceiling below 500 feet, the flight was cleared for a diversion to Boston. An ILS approach tot runway 04 was made and the aircraft touched down 2000 feet from the approach end. Half an inch of new snow was laying on the runway. The left main gear struck snow drifts causing the aircraft to crash into a snow bank on the left. A fire broke out on the right wing.

On 21 January 1948, Eastern Air Lines Flight 604, a Lockheed L-649 Constellation (NC111A), crashed into a snow bank while landing at Logan International Airport following a loss of control due to a snow-covered runway; all 25 on board survived.

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The loss of directional control of the aircraft on the runway due to excessive snow accumulation. A contributing factor was the lack of precaution exercised by the air carriers station manager, the Civil Aeronautics Administrations operations inspector and the airport management in determining that the conditions of the runways were adequate for safe aircraft landing."
                          July 19, 1951, Eastern Air Lines Flight 601
                    Lockheed L-749A Constellation (N1119a) Incident
 
On 19 July 1951, Eastern Air Lines Flight 601, a Lockheed L-749A Constellation (N119A), suffered severe buffeting after an access door opened in flight. A flapless wheels-up landing was made at Curles Neck Farm, Virginia. The aircraft was later repaired and returned to service.

Flight 601 departed Newark for Miami at 14:15. As it passed Philadelphia, at 14:52, the cruising altitude of 18000 feet was reached. For the next 25 to 30 minutes violent turbulence accompanied by intermittent periods of hail was encountered. The flight continued past Philadelphia for a few minutes toward Dover and then made a turn to the west in an attempt to avoid as much of the storm area as possible. The flight broke out in a clear area at about 15:17. The flight was able to continue VFR and descended to 8,000 feet. A second squall was encountered in the vicinity of Lynchburg at 15:50. The aircraft was slowed to 185 mph IAS, light turbulence and buffeting were experienced. After breaking out of the storm at 15:54, the buffeting became so severe that the crew believed the aircraft would disintegrate.

Airspeed was further reduced, but the buffeting continued. Two minutes later the captain radioed an emergency and the flight descended. The captain recognized Curles Neck Farm, selected the largest field, and landed straight ahead with the flaps up and the landing gear retracted. He felt it inadvisable to make any turn, lower the flaps, or otherwise to change the flight configuration, since the cause of the severe buffeting was unknown. During the last few moments of flight, as the nose of the aircraft touched high corn in a field, the copilot and flight engineer cut all switches.

A power line pole at the edge of the corn field was struck by the right wing as the aircraft passed under the wires After passing over Curles Neck Road, a section of fence was torn down and the aircraft skidded 1,100 feet through a field, another fence, and finally came to rest in a pasture 265 feet from the second fence. A localized fire developed outside of the No 4 engine, but was extinguished by rain and a local fire truck which arrived at the scene within a short time. The airplane was repaired following the accident, but was lost in an accident near New York on October 19, 1953.


PROBABLE CAUSE: "The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the in-flight opening of the hydraulic access door, which caused extreme buffeting of the aircraft and resulted in the captain's decision to make an emergency landing."
Eastern Flight 167, DC-3-201C (N25646)
Crashed November 27, 1951


On 27 November 1951, Eastern Air Lines Flight 167, a Douglas DC-3-201C (N25646) collided in mid-air with Civil Air Patrol Piper L-4J 45-5151 near Ocala, Florida. The Piper was climbing after a left turn when it struck the DC-3. The DC-3's number one propeller made several cuts in the Piper's left wing, causing a loss of control and the Piper crashed, killing the pilot.

The DC-3 circled the airport for a few minutes before landing safely with no casualties.


Eastern Flight 167 took off from Gainsville at 11:26 on a VFR flight plan to Ocala. At 11:45 a Civil Air Patrol Piper L-4J (45-5151, cn 13891) took off from Ocala-Taylor Field runway 21. The Piper was climbing after a left turn when it collided with the DC-3 at 700-800 feet. The DC-3's no. 1 prop made several span-wise cuts into the left wing of the Piper. Control was lost and the Piper crashed into a heavily wooded area, killing the pilot. The DC-3 circled the airport for a few minutes and landed at 12:10.


PROBABLE CAUSE: "The failure of the pilots of both aircraft to observe the other in time to take the necessary evasive action."

Eastern Non-Fatal Incidents 1936 - 1983

Non-fatal Incidents

  • On 19 December 1936, an Eastern Air Lines Douglas DC-2-112 (NC13732) struck trees and crashed near Milford, Connecticut due to pilot error and radio problems; all 11 on board survived. The aircraft was leased from North American Aviation.

  • On 3 April 1941, an Eastern Air Lines Douglas DC-3-201B (NC21727) crashed into water off Vero Beach, Florida during a storm; although all 16 on board were injured, none were killed. The aircraft was written off.

  • On 19 November 1943, Eastern Air Lines Trip 12, a Douglas DC-3-201E (NC19968), made an emergency landing at New Orleans en route from Houston after the pilot allowed the aircraft to descend too low during the second attempt to land. The number one propeller to hit the water, causing portions of the engine and cowling to break off. All 15 on board survived. The aircraft was repaired and returned to service.

  • On 11 October 1946, Eastern Air Lines Flight 564, a Douglas C-54B (NC88729), struck a ridge near Alexandria, Virginia while on approach to Washington National Airport; all 26 on board survived. During the approach, the aircraft had descended too low.


  • On 19 December 1946, Eastern Air Lines Flight 605, a Douglas C-54B (NC88813) collided in mid-air with Universal Air Lines Flight 7, a Douglas C-47 (NC54374), near Aberdeen, Maryland. The C-47 departed Newark for Raleigh, while the C-54 departed Newark 15 minutes later for a non-stop flight to Miami. Near Aberdeen the C-54 flew past the C-47. The C-54 co-pilot saw the lights of an aircraft close and to the left of the C-54, which turned out to be the C-47. The C-54 pilot rolled into a right bank and forcefully pulled up the nose, causing the rear of the C-54 to strike the forward top portion of the C-47. The C-47 landed safely at Philips Army Air Field while the C-54 diverted to Washington. There were no casualties on either aircraft and both aircraft were repaired and returned to service.


  • On 21 January 1948, Eastern Air Lines Flight 604, a Lockheed L-649 Constellation (NC111A), crashed into a snow bank while landing at Logan International Airport following a loss of control due to a snow-covered runway; all 25 on board survived.


  • On 19 July 1951, Eastern Air Lines Flight 601, a Lockheed L-749A Constellation (N119A), suffered severe buffeting after an access door opened in flight. A flapless wheels-up landing was made at Curles Neck Farm, Virginia. The aircraft was later repaired and returned to service.


  • On 27 November 1951, Eastern Air Lines Flight 167, a Douglas DC-3-201C (N25646) collided in mid-air with Civil Air Patrol Piper L-4J 45-5151 near Ocala, Florida. The Piper was climbing after a left turn when it struck the DC-3. The DC-3's number one propeller made several cuts in the Piper's left wing, causing a loss of control and the Piper crashed, killing the pilot. The DC-3 circled the airport for a few minutes before landing safely with no casualties.


  • On 6 September 1953, an Eastern Air Lines L-1049 Super Constellation (N6214C) crashed on landing at McChord Air Force Base due to a hydraulic failure caused by engine problems; all 32 on board survived.


  • On 17 February 1956, an Eastern Air Lines Martin 4-0-4 (N445A) crashed near Owensboro, Kentucky due to pilot error; all 23 on board survived. The aircraft stalled and crashed following an improperly executed final approach.


  • On 10 March 1957, an Eastern Air Lines Martin 4-0-4 (N453A) crashed on landing at Standiford Field due to pilot error; all 34 on board survived. A portion of the left wing separated inboard of the number one engine due to excessive sink rate caused by the pilot's landing approach technique.


  • On 28 June 1957, an Eastern Air Lines Douglas DC-7B (N808D) had just returned from a training flight and was taxiing to the maintenance hangar at Miami International Airport when it collided with a parked Eastern Air Lines L-1049 Super Constellation (N6212C) near the hangar. Fuel leaked and both aircraft caught fire and burned out.


  • On 18 October 1966, an Eastern Air Lines L-1049C Super Constellation (N6219C) caught fire during refueling at Miami after a fuel line ruptured. The wing was substantially damaged and the aircraft was written off. The aircraft was broken up in June 1967.


  • On 2 July 1976, an Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-188 Electra (N5531) was blown up on the ground by a bomb at Logan International Airport.