Throwback Thursday: Eastern Airlines Flight 401 1972

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Eastern Airlines Lockheed Wikipedia Image One
Image Credit: Wikipedia
Date: March 1972
Author: Jon Proctor
Source: Airline Fan

Fifty years ago, today…

Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 was a scheduled flight from [New York] JFK to [Miami/Wilcox Field] MIA. Shortly before midnight on December 29, 1972, the Lockheed L-1011-1 TriStar crashed into the Florida Everglades, causing 101 total fatalities. Three of the [four] cockpit crew members, two of the [ten] flight attendants and 96 of the 163 passengers were killed. [T]here were 75 survivors.

Flight 401 departed JFK Airport […] at 9:20pm EST. The flight was routine until 11:32pm EST, when the plane began its approach into Miami International Airport. After lowering the [landing] gear, First Officer Stockstill noticed that the landing gear indicator (nose gear is properly locked) had not illuminated (burned out bulb). [Captain] Loft, who was working the radio during this leg of the flight, told the tower that they would discontinue their approach to their airport and requested to enter a holding pattern. The approach controller cleared the flight to climb to 2,000 feet and then hold west over the Everglades.

Fifty seconds after reaching their assigned altitude, Captain Loft instructed First Officer Stockstill to put the L-1011 on autopilot. For the next 80 seconds, the plane maintained level flight. Then, it dropped 100 feet 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.

Wikipedia Summary

The plane continued to drop, triggering the altitude warning. The CVR did not record any indication that the pilots heard the warning chimes. As Stockstill started another turn [of] 180°, he noticed the discrepancy. The CVR captured the last, confused conversation between Stockstill and Loft. Less than ten seconds later, the plane crashed into the Everglades. ~Vic

Giant Jetliner Goes Down (The Bulletin)
Jet’s Fall Cushioned By Swamp (Reading Eagle)
Accident Investigation Report (Aviation Safety Network)
Borman Praises Survivors’ Calm (The Associated Press)

16 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Eastern Airlines Flight 401 1972

    ghostmmnc said:
    December 30, 2022 at 9:25 AM

    Interesting it’s been 50 years. I’ve read a book about this, “The Ghost of Flight 401”, by John G. Fuller. 🙂

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      December 30, 2022 at 10:44 AM

      As I was choosing a video, that ghost flight video popped up. I will have to view that.

        ghostmmnc said:
        January 1, 2023 at 6:53 AM

        Thanks for posting about this. I’d just re-read the book not long ago.

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          January 1, 2023 at 9:09 AM

          Welcome. I’m always doing a history post.

    christiansmusicmusings said:
    December 30, 2022 at 5:34 PM

    What a horrific accident! It’s also hard to believe that with all the modern equipment this plane had the pilots didn’t notice the jet had dramatically lost altitude!

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      December 30, 2022 at 1:31 PM

      Planes in 1972 didn’t have all the fancy bells & whistles that modern aircraft have. No digital anything…all analog. There is no telling how old that plane really was before crashing. If the “gear down” light was out, the altitude warning chimes were, apparently, not working, either. The CVR had no recording of the chimes going off or the pilots hearing it. Losing altitude, slowly…distracted pilots, worrying if their gear was down. They couldn’t tell, which is why they decided to circle around.

      A crash in the Everglades means battling alligators. Yes…horrific.

    Bay Photos By Donna said:
    January 1, 2023 at 8:44 PM

    Sad and absolutely scary place to go down for those that survived the crash. Not just the gators, but the bears and pythons too.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      January 1, 2023 at 9:34 PM

      The pythons didn’t occur to me and the bears…I had no idea they would be in the Everglades. Did Florida already have a python problem back in 1972?

    Badfinger (Max) said:
    January 14, 2023 at 1:01 PM

    I missed this somehow…. I’m glad there were some survivors…everytime I get on a plane I think of things like this.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      January 14, 2023 at 2:19 PM

      I used to. Now, all I can think is “are the pilots both vaxxed?” Brian Wilkins, of The Covid Blog, stated on his last blog post that he’d never fly again.

        Badfinger (Max) said:
        January 14, 2023 at 3:22 PM

        We have to limit your reading Vic lol.

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          January 14, 2023 at 3:48 PM

          I am a voracious reader. Always have been. I was born curious but, there are some things that don’t interest me…like soap operas & wheel of fortune.

            Badfinger (Max) said:
            January 14, 2023 at 4:03 PM

            Yea I don’t like those either

    The Hinoeuma responded:
    January 20, 2023 at 1:22 PM


    doerfpub said:
    February 1, 2023 at 5:14 PM

    Missed this or it has since left the long term RAM. Not good, hoping somewhere someone learned from this series of mishaps and it prevented a similar situation in the future.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      February 1, 2023 at 10:26 PM

      WordPress can be hinky with notifications.

      That was a messed up plane.

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