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Introduction

Eastern Air Lines Flight 66 was a regularly scheduled flight between New Orleans and New York City.

On 24 June 1975, the Boeing 727-225 crashed caused by wind shear.

Flight/Crew Information

Flight

Eastern Air Lines 66 was operated using a Boeing 727-225 trijet registered as N8845E.

Crew

The Captain was John W Kleven (54). He had been serving with Eastern Air Lines for nearly 25 years and had been a Boeing 727 captain since 10 July 1968. Kleven had a total of 17,381 flight hours, including 2,813 hours in the Boeing 727.

The first officer was William Eberhart (34). He had been serving with Eastern Air Lines for nearly nine years. He had accumulated 5,063 flight hours, including 4,327 on the Boeing 727.

The flight engineer was Gary M Ceurin (31) who had been serving with Eastern Air Lines since 1968. He had raked up 3,910 flight hours, most of which (3,123) were on the Boeing 727.

Peter J McCullough (31) was another onboard flight engineer, undergoing training. He had been with Eastern Air Lines for four years and accumulated 3,602 flight hours, 676 being on the Boeing 727.

Eastern Air Lines 66

The flight leading up to the approach to JFK was uneventful.

As Flight 66 was approaching the NYC area, a severe thunderstorm arrived around JFK. At 15:35 EDT, the crew were told to contact JFK approach frequency. The crew were directed into approach into 22L.

At 15:52 EDT, the approach controller warned all incoming aircraft that the airport as experiencing 'very light rain showers and haze' along with zero visibility. When the flight crew heard this, one of the crew members checked the weather at LaGuardia Airport, the aircraft's alternate airport.

At 15:59 EDT, the controller warned all aircraft of a severe wind shift on final approach.

Eastern Air Lines Flight 66 continued their approach into JFK, and at 16:02 EDT, the crew were told to contact JFK tower for landing clearance.

At 16:05 EDT, the aircraft entered a microburst with wind shear. The aircraft continued descending until it began striking approach lights about 2,400ft away from the 22L's threshold. After the initial impact, the 727-225 banked left and continued to strike approach lights until it burst into flames.

All but 11 people - nine passengers and two flight attendants died.

Investigation

The NTSB investigated into the accident.

As the investigation progressed, it was found that 10 minutes before Eastern Air Lines 66's crash, a Flying Tiger Line Douglas DC-8 cargo jet reported tremendous wind shear on the ground of runway 22L. The pilot warned the tower of wind shear conditions, but other aircraft continued to land. An Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-1011 landed after the DC-8 cargo jet on the same runway nearly crashed. Two more aircraft landed on 22L before the ill-fated Eastern Air Lines 66 crash.

The NTSB published its final report on 12 March 1976, underlining the main cause of the accident as wind shear.

'The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the aircraft's encounter with adverse winds associated with a very strong thunderstorm located astride the ILS localizer course, which resulted in high descent rate into the non-frangible approach light towers. The flight crew's delayed recognition and correction of the high descent rate were probably associated with their reliance upon visual cues rather than on flight instrument reference. However, the adverse winds might have been too severe for a successful approach and landing even had they relied upon and responded rapidly to the indications of the flight instruments.'

The NTSB also cited that failure for ATC controllers or the flight crew to abort the landings contributed to the accident, releasing the statement:

'Contributing to the accident was the continued use of runway 22L when it should have become evident to both air traffic control personnel and the flight crew that a severe weather hazard existed along the approach path.'

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