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29 December 1972 - Eastern 401

Eastern Air Lines Flight 401, operated by a four-month-old Lockheed L-1011, registration N310EA, carrying 163 passengers and 13 crewmembers, departed New York-JFK at 21.20h EST for a flight to Miami.

The flight was uneventful until the approach to Miami. After selecting gear down, the nosegear light didn't indicate 'down and locked'. Even after recycling the gear, the light still didn't illuminate. At 23.34h the crew called Miami Tower and were advised to climb to 2000ft and hold. At 23.37h the captain instructed the second officer to enter the forward electronics bay, below the flight deck, to check visually the alignment of the nose gear indices. Meanwhile, the flight crew continued their attempts to free the nosegear position light lens from its retainer, without success.

The second officer was directed to descend into the electronics bay again at 23.38h and the captain and first officer continued discussing the gear position light lens assembly and how it might have been reinserted incorrectly. At 23.40:38 a half-second C-chord sounded in the cockpit, indicating a +/- 250ft deviation from the selected altitude. None of the crewmembers commented on the warning and no action was taken. A little later the Eastern Airlines maintenance specialist, occupying the forward observer seat went into the electronics bay to assist the second officer with the operation of the nose wheel well light. At 23.41:40 Miami approach contacted the flight and granted the crew's request to turn around by clearing him for a left turn heading 180 deg. At 23.42:05 the first officer suddenly realized that the altitude had dropped. Just seven seconds afterwards, while in a left bank of 28deg, the TriStar's no.1 engine struck the ground, followed by the left main gear. The aircraft disintegrated, scattering wreckage over an area of flat marshland, covering a 1600ft x 300ft area.

Download the full NTSB report


Transcript of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR)

23.32:35 RDO-1 Miami Tower, Eastern 401 just turned on final
23.32:45 TWR Who else called?
23.32:48 CAM-1 Go ahead and throw 'em out
23.32:52 RDO-1 Miami Tower, do you read, Eastern 401? Just turned on final
23.32:56 TWR Eastern 401 Heavy, continue approach to 9 left
23.33:00 RDO-1 Coninue approach, roger
23.33:00 CAM-3 Continuous ignition. No smoke
  CAM-1 Coming on
  CAM-3 Brake system
  CAM-1 Okay
  CAM-3 Radar
  CAM-1 Up, off
  CAM-3 Hydraulic panels checked
  CAM-2 Thirty-five, thirty three
  CAM-1 Bert, is that handle in?
  CAM-? * * *
  CAM-3 Engine crossbleeds are open
23.33:22 CAM-? Gear down
  CAM-? * * *
  CAM-1 I gotta
  CAM-? .....
23.33:25 CAM-1 I gotta raise it back up
23.33:47 CAM-1 Now I'm gonna try it down one more time
  CAM-2 All right
23.33:58 CAM [sound of altitude alert horn]
  CAM-2 (Right) gear.
  CAM-2 Well, want to tell 'em we'll take it around and circle around and # around?
23.34:05 RDO-1 Well ah, tower, this is Eastern, ah, 401. It looks like we're gonna have to circle, we don't have a light on our nose gear yet
23.34:14 TWR Eastern 401 heavy, roger, pull up, climb straight ahead to two thousand, go back to approach control, one twenty eight six
23.34:19 CAM-2 Twenty-two degrees.
  CAM-2 Twenty-two degrees, gear up
  CAM-1 Put power on it first, Bert. Thata boy.
  CAM-1 Leave the # # gear down tll we fid out what we got
  CAM-2 Allright
  CAM-3 You want me to test the lights or not?
  CAM-1 Yeah.
  CAM-? * * seat back
  CAM-1 Check it
  CAM-2 Uh, Bob, it might be the light. Could you jiggle tha, the light?
  CAM-3 It's gotta, gotta come out a little bit and then snap in
  CAM-? * *
  CAM-? I'll put 'em on
23.34:21 RDO-1 Okay, going up to two thousand, one twenty-eight six
23.34:58 CAM-2 We're up to two thousand
  CAM-2 You want me to fly it, Bob?
  CAM-1 What frequency did he want us on, Bert?
  CAM-2 One twenty-eight six
  CAM-1 I'll talk to 'em
  CAM-3 It''s right ...........
  CAM-1 Yeah, ............
  CAM-3 I can't make it pull out, either
  CAM-1 We got pressure
  CAM-3 Yes sir, all systems
  CAM-1 # #
23.35:09 RDO-1 All right ahh, Approach Control, Eastern 401, we're right over the airport here and climbing to two thousand feet. in fact, we've just
23.35:20 APP Eastern 401, roger. Turn left heading three six zero and maintain two thousand, vectors to 9 Left final
23.35:28 RDO-1 Left three six zero
23.36:04 CAM-1 Put the ... on autopilot here
  CAM-2 Allright
  CAM-1 See if you can get that light out
  CAM-2 Allright
  CAM-1 Now push the switches just a ... forward.
  CAM-1 Okay.
  CAM-1 You got it sideways, then.
  CAM-? Naw, I don't think it'll fit.
  CAM-1 You gotta turn it one quarter turn to the left.
23.36:27 APP Eastern 401, turn left heading three zero zero
  RDO-1 Okay.
23.36:37 RDO-1 Three zero zero, Eastern 401
23.37:08 CAM-1 Hey, hey, get down there and see if that damn nose wheel's down. You better do that.
  CAM-2 You got a handkerchief or something so I can get a little better grip on this? Anything I can do with it?
  CAM-1 Get down there and see if that, see if that # thing ...
  CAM-2 This won't come out, Bob. If I had a pair of pliers, I could cushion it with that Kleenex
  CAM-3 I can give you pliers but if you force it, you'll break it, just believe me
  CAM-2 Yeah, I'll cushion it with Kleenex
  CAM-3 Oh, we can give you pliers
23.37:48 APP Eastern, uh, 401 turn left heading two seven zero
23.37:53 RDO-1 Left two seven zero, roger
23.38:34 CAM-1 To # with it, to # with this. Go down ans see if it's lined up with the red line. That's all we care. # around with that # twenty-cent piec
  CAM * * *
23.38:46 RDO-1 Eastern 401 'll go ah, out west just a little further if we can here and, ah, see if we can get this light to come on here
23.38:54 APP Allright, ah, we got you headed westbound there now, Eastern 401
23.38:56 RDO-1 Allright
  CAM-1 How much fuel we got left on this # # # #
  CAM-? Fifty two five
  CAM-2 (It won't come out) no way
23.39:37 CAM-1 Did you ever take it out of there?
  CAM-2 Huh?
  CAM-1 Have you evre taken it out of there?
  CAM-2 Hadn't till now
  CAM-1 Put it in the wrong way, huh?
  CAM-2 In there looks * square to me
  CAM-? Can't you get the hole lined up?
  CAM-? * * *
  CAM-? Whatever's wrong?
  CAM-1 (What's that?)
23.40:05 CAM-2 I think that's over the training field
  CAM-? West heading you wanna go left or *
  CAM-2 Naw that's right, we're about to cross Krome Avenue right now
23.40:17 CAM [Sound of click]
  CAM-2 I don't know what the # holding that # # # # in
  CAM-2 Always something, we coulda make schedule
23.40:38 CAM [Sound of altitude alert]
  CAM-1 We can tell if that # # # # is down by looking down at our indices
  CAM-1 I'm sure it's down, there's no way it couldnt help but be
  CAM-2 I'm sure it is
  CAM-1 It freefalls down
  CAM-2 The tests didn't show that the lights worked anyway
  CAM-1 That 's right
  CAM-2 It's a faulty light
23.41:05 CAM-2 Bob, this # # # # just won't come out
  CAM-1 Allright leave it there
  CAM-3 I don't see it down there
  CAM-1 Huh?
  CAM-3 I don't see it
  CAM-1 You can't see that indis ... for the nosewheel ah, there's a place in there you can look and see if they're lined up
  CAM-3 I know, a little like a telescope
  CAM-1 Yeah
  CAM-3 Well...
  CAM-1 It's not lined up?
  CAM-3 I can't see it, it's pitch dark and I throw the little light I get ah nothing
23.41:31 CAM-4 Wheel-well lights on?
  CAM-3 Pardon?
  CAM-4 Wheel-well lights on?
  CAM-3 Yeah wheel well lights always on if the gear's down
  CAM-1 Now try it
23.41:40 APP Eastern, ah 401 how are things comin' along out there?
23.41:44 RDO-1 Okay, we'd like to turn around and come, come back in
  CAM-1 Clear on left?
  CAM-2 Okay
23.41:47 APP Eastern 401 turn left heading one eight zero
23.41:50 CAM-1 Huh?
23.41:51 RDO-1 One eighty
23.42:05 CAM-2 We did something to the altitude
  CAM-1 What?
23.42:07 CAM-2 We're still at two thousand right?
23.42:09 CAM-1 Hey, what's happening here?
  CAM [Sound of click]
23.42:10 CAM [Sound of six beeps similar to radio altimeter increasing in rate]
23.42:12   [Sound of impact]

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