Eastern Air Lines Flight 980
An Eastern Boeing 727-200 similar to the one involved in an accident
|Date||1 January 1985|
|Summary||Controlled flight into terrain|
|Site||Mount Illimani, Bolivia|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 727-225 Advanced|
|Operator||Eastern Air Lines|
|Flight origin||Silvio Pettirossi International Airport, Asunción, Paraguay|
|1st stopover||El Alto International Airport, La Paz, Bolivia|
|2nd stopover||Jorge Chávez International Airport, Lima, Peru|
|3rd stopover||José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport, Guayaquil, Ecuador|
|4th stopover||Tocumen International Airport, Panama City, Panama|
|Last stopover||Miami International Airport, Florida, USA|
|Destination||O'Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois, USA|
Eastern Air Lines Flight 980 was a scheduled international flight from Asunción, Paraguay to Chicago, Illinois with stops in La Paz, Lima, Guayaquil, Panama City, and Miami. On January 1, 1985, it struck Mount Illimani at an altitude of 19,600 feet (6,000 m). All 21 passengers and 8 crew were killed.
On January 1, 1985, Eastern Airlines Flight 980 departed Asunción at 5:57 p.m. Onboard were 21 passengers and a crew of eight.
The Miami-based cockpit crew consisted of Captain Larry Campbell, First Officer Kenneth Rhodes, and Flight Engineer Mark Bird. The cabin crew comprised five Chilean flight attendants based in Santiago: Paul Adler, Pablo Letelier, Marilyn MacQueen, Robert O'Brien, and Paula Valenzuela.
The 21 passengers were from Paraguay, South Korea, and the United States. Among the passengers was the wife of the U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay, Marian Davis, and two Eastern pilots flying as passengers.
At 7:37 p.m. the pilot told controllers in La Paz he estimated landing at 7:47 p.m. Flight 980 was cleared to descend from 25,000 feet to 18,000 feet. At some point after this exchange, the aircraft steered significantly off the airway for unknown reasons, possibly to avoid weather. The accident occurred 25 miles from runway 9R at La Paz airport. Due to the extreme high altitude and inaccessibility of the accident location, the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were never recovered. 
In October 1985, the U.S. National Transportation Safety (NTSB) selected Gregory Feith, an Air Safety Investigator to lead a team of U.S. investigators and Bolivian sherpas to conduct an on-site examination of the wreckage of Flight 980, that came to rest at approximately 20,100 feet msl. Mr. Feith conducted the on-site investigation with the goal of finding the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), and retrieving other critical information, however because the wreckage was spread over a vast area and covered by 20 to 30 feet of snow, it was not possible for him and his fellow team members to locate either of the "black boxes." Mr. Feith did retrieve various small parts of the aircraft cockpit, official flight-related paperwork and some items from the passenger cabin. To date, this remains the highest controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) commercial aviation accident site in history. U.S. NTSB-public docket information is stored on NTSB microfiche number 29062. Accident identification: Tuesday, January 01, 1985 in LA PAZ, Bolivia Aircraft: BOEING 727-225, registration: N819EA Injuries: 29 Fatal. DCA85RA007
Discovery of the wreckage
In 2006, climbers on Mount Illimani found wreckage of the plane which had been revealed by melting ice. No bodies were found, though various personal effects of the passengers were recovered. Local climbers believe it is only a matter of time before bodies and the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder will emerge from the ice.
- Investigation of Controlled Flight into Terrain. Descriptions of Flight Paths for Selected Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT) Aircraft Accidents, 1985-1997. by Robert O. Phillips. Federal Aviation Administration, U. S. Department Of Transportation, Project Memorandum DOT-TSC-FA9D1-99-01, March 1999.
- Simon Romero (15 January 2011). "Melting in Andes Reveals Remains and Wreckage". International Herald Tribune.
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