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Introduction

Eastern Air Lines Flight 855 was a regularly scheduled flight between Miami International Airport and Nassau, Bahamas.

On 5 May 1983, the Lockheed L-1011 Tristar registered as N334EA experienced a tri-engine failure on return to Miami. The crew successfully restarted engine number two (tail-mounted engine) and landed safely at Miami International Airport.

Aircraft

The aircraft involved in the incident was a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar 1 registered as N334EA. The aircraft was manufactured in 1976 and powered by three Rolls-Royce RB211-22B turbofan engines.

Background

On 4 May 1983, the day before the incident, N334EA had flown into Miami where it underwent overnight maintenance. The maintenance personnel did not properly perform the maintenance check, as he did not fit the O-rings. After chip detectors were fitted, each engine was run for 10 seconds to check for oil leaks, none to be found. The aircraft was then signed off as serviceable and returned to service on Eastern Air Lines Flight 855.

Crew

Eastern Air Lines 855 was flown by Captain Richard Boddy (58), Captain Steve Thompson (48) and Flight Engineer Dudley Barnes (44).

Captain Boddy had well over 12,000 hours of flight experience, however, he had logged just 13 hours in the L-1011.

Captain Thompson served as a supervisory check airman. He had accumulated nearly 17,000 flight hours, with 282 hours on the L-1011.

Flight Engineer Barnes had more than 9,000 hours in the air and was by far the most experienced with the Lockheed L-1011, with 2,666 hours in the cockpit.

Eastern Air Lines Flight 855

Eastern Air Lines 855 took off from Miami International Airport at 8:56 AM EDT on a flight directed to Nassau, Bahamas. The aircraft was carrying 162 passengers and 10 crew.

At 9:15 EDT, the aircraft was descending through 15,000 feet (FL150) when the low oil pressure indicator on the #2 engine illuminated. Flight Engineer Barnes noted the oil pressure in the #2 engine was reading between 15 and 25 psi. For comparison, a normally operating engine required no less than 30 psi.

The captain of Flight 855 ordered FE Barnes to shut down the tail-mounted engine, which he did accordingly.

The approach into Nassau was uneventful until the L-1011 was about 80km (50mi) away from the airport. Due to low clouds and bad weather, the crew decided to return to Miami. The crew received clearance to begin a climb to 20,000 feet (FL200).

En route to Miami International Airport, the low oil pressure indicators for both wing-mounted engines illuminated. The oil quantity gauges for all three engines read zero.

At 9:23 EDT, Flight 855 informed Miami ARTCC about the readings, but the flight crew assumed they were faulty. One of the pilots said 'We believe it to be faulty indications since the chance of all three engines having zero oil pressure and zero quantity is almost nil.'

At 9:28 EDT, five minutes after informing Miami ARTCC, the #3 engine failed. Five minutes later at 9:33 EDT, the #1 engine failed while the flight crew attempted to restart the already shutdown #2 engine.

The L-1011 descended from 13,000 feet (FL130) down to 4,000 feet (FL040) at a V/S of about 1,600 feet per minute.

The flight crew successfully restarted the tail-mounted #2 engine on the third attempt and executed a one-engine landing at Miami International Airport at 9:46 AM EDT.

A tug was required to help the L-1011 navigate around the airport, as the single #2 engine power was not sufficient to taxi.

NTSB Investigation

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated into the incident and determined that the probable cause of the incident was missing O-rings caused by improper maintenance. The NTSB Accident Report ARR-84-04 was released.

Aftermath

Flight Engineer Barnes and Captains Boddy and Thompson were each awarded the Award For Outstanding Airmanship by the Airline Pilots Association.

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