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.
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)
Eighty-five years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was the menage a trois comedy Design For Living. Released on December 29, 1933, it starred Fredric March, Gary Cooper and Miriam Hopkins. It was based, loosely on a play written by Noël Coward in 1932. It was very risqué for its time and, was a pre-code movie produced and released before strict enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code, the censorship guidelines demanded by American Roman Catholics. Interestingly, the critical response to the film was more about its gutting of the original material than of its questionable morality.
Two Americans sharing a flat in Paris, playwright Tom Chambers and painter George Curtis, fall for free-spirited Gilda Farrell. When she can’t make up her mind which one of them she prefers, she proposes a “gentleman’s agreement”: She will move in with them as a friend and critic of their work but, they will never have sex. When Tom goes to London to supervise a production of one of his plays, leaving Gilda alone with George, how long will their gentleman’s agreement last?
♦ Gary Cooper spoke fluent French and was able to use it for the first time in this film.
♦ Lubitsch [then] asked Douglas Fairbanks Jr. to play George, and he accepted but, he contracted pneumonia just before filming was to start and he was replaced by Gary Cooper.
♦ Writer Ben Hecht and producer-director Ernst Lubitsch retained only one line from the original play by Noël Coward: “For the good of our immortal souls!”
♦ Considerable censorship difficulties arose because of sexual discussions and innuendos, although the Hays Office eventually approved the film for release. However, it was banned by the Legion of Decency and was refused a certificate by the PCA for re-release in 1934, when the production code was more rigorously enforced.