Sunday, March 17, 2019

"Put it in the wrong way, huh?"

BLOGGER'S NOTE. I will confess these transcripts from actual plane crashes both horrify and infuriate me - not only because they are so tragic, but because they are so - preventable. In this case, idiotic pilots fiddled around with pliers and a piece of kleenex to fix a light, not noticing the autopilot had been accidentally turned off and the plane was headed straight for "impact". The crew had FOUR minutes to correct this problem, but didn't notice it because they were too busy diddling around with the busted light. Quite literally, the plane crashed because no one was flying it. Favorite quote: "We did something to the altitude." "What?" 

December 29, 1972
Everglades National Park, Florida
Eastern Air Lines, Flight 401
Lockheed L-1011 TriStar1

The crew was preoccupied with a landing gear problem and was trying to replace the landing
gear light while on autopilot and in a holding pattern. As the captain got up to help, he
inadvertently pushed on the yoke releasing the autopilot. With no ground reference and
under nighttime conditions, the aircraft gradually descended until it crashed into Everglades,
18.7 miles west-northwest of Miami killing 100 out of 176 aboard. The failure of the crew to
monitor the flight instruments during the final 4 minutes of flight, and to detect a descent
soon enough to prevent impact with the ground.

TWR = Tower
APP = Approach
CAM = Cockpit area mike
CAM 1 = Primarily Captain
CAM 2 = Primarily First Officer
Cam 3 = Primarily Flight Engineer
?? = unknown.
### = expletive
RT = Radio transmission

23.32:52 RT 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 RT Continue 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 [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
23.34:14 TWR Eastern 401 heavy, roger, pull up, climb straight
ahead to two thousand,
go back to approach control, one twenty eight

23.34:19 CAM 2 Twenty-two degrees.
CAM 2 Twenty-two degrees, gear up
CAM 1 Put power on it first, Bert. That-a-boy.
CAM 1 Leave the ... gear down till we find out what
we got.
CAM 2 All right.
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 that, 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 RT 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 fact, we've just
23.35:20 APP Eastern 401, roger. Turn left heading three six
zero and maintain two thousand, vectors to 9
23.35:28 RT Left three six zero.
23.36:04 CAM 1 Put the ... on autopilot here.
CAM 2 All right.
CAM 1 See if you can get that light out.
CAM 2 All right.
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
23.36:27 APP Eastern 401, turn left heading three zero
RT Okay.
23.36:37 RT 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.



Eastern, uh, 401 turn left heading two seven zero.
23.37:53 RT Left two seven zero, roger.
23.38:34 CAM 1 To hell with it, to hell with this. Go down and
see if it's lined up with  the red line. That's all
we care. ### around with that ### twenty-cent piece ...
CAM ? ??
23.38:46 RT Eastern 401 I'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 All right, ah, we got you headed westbound there now,
Eastern 401.
23.38:56 RT All right.
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 ever 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 ### ...
CAM 2 Always something, we could'a made schedule.
23.40:38 CAM [Sound of altitude alert]


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 couldn't
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
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 All right 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 nose wheel 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
CAM 1 Now try it.
23.41:40 APP Eastern, ah 401 how are things coming along out
23.41:44 RT 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 RT 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]