Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 was a regularly scheduled flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, to Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida. On the day of the crash, Flight 401 was operated using a four-month-old Lockheed L-1011-1 TriStar (registration N310EA,, which had been delivered to the airline on August 18, 1972. The aircraft was number 310 in Eastern's fleet, and the tenth Tristar delivered to the carrier.
The flight was under the command of Captain Robert Albin 'Bob' Loft, 55, a veteran pilot ranked 50th in seniority at Eastern. Captain Loft had been with the airline for 32 years and had accumulated a total of 29,700 flight hours throughout his flying career. He had logged 280 hours in the L-1011. His flight crew included First Officer Albert John Stockstill, 39, who had 5,800 hours of flying experience (with 306 of them in the L-1011), and Second Officer (flight engineer) Donald Louis 'Don' Repo, 51, who had 15,700 hours of flying experience, with 53 of them in the L-1011.A company employee--technical officer Angelo Donadeo, 47, returning to Miami from an assignment in New York--accompanied the flight crew for the journey, but was officially an off-duty "non-revenue passenger".
Flight 401 departed JFK Airport on Friday, December 29, 1972, at 21:20 Eastern Standard Time, carrying 163 passengers and 13 crew members on board.
The flight was routine until 23:32, when the plane began its approach into Miami International Airport. After lowering the gear, First Officer Stockstill noticed that the landing gear indicator, a green light identifying that the nose gear is properly locked in the "down" position, had not illuminated. This was later discovered to be due to a burned-out light bulb. The landing gear could have been manually lowered nonetheless.3:101 The pilots cycled the landing gear, but still failed to get the confirmation light.
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 (610 m), and then hold west over the Everglades.
The cockpit crew removed the light assembly,:102 and Second Officer Repo was dispatched to the avionics bay beneath the flight deck to confirm via a small porthole if the landing gear was indeed down. 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 (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 70 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 (Repo) had gone below, and no indication was heard of the pilots' voices recorded on the CVR that they heard the chime. In another 50 seconds, the plane was at half its assigned altitude.
As Stockstill started another turn, onto 180°, he noticed the discrepancy. The following conversation was recovered from the flight voice recorder later:
Stockstill: We did something to the altitude.
Stockstill: We're still at 2,000 feet, right?
Loft: Hey--what's happening here?
Less than 10 seconds after this exchange, the jetliner crashed:
Cockpit Area Microphone (CAM): Sound of click
CAM: Sound of six beeps similar to radio altimeter increasing in rate
CAM: Sound of initial impact
The location was west-northwest of Miami, 18.7 miles (30.1 km) from the end of runway Nine Left (9L). The plane was traveling at 227 miles per hour (365 km/h) when it hit the ground. With the aircraft in midturn, the left wingtip hit the surface first, then the left engine and the left landing gear,making three trails through the sawgrass, each five feet (1.5 m) wide and more than 100 feet (30 m) long. When the main part of the fuselage hit the ground, it continued to move through the grass and water, breaking up as it went.
By courtesy of Wikipedia and Jon Proctor under free license
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