Eastern Air Lines Flight 212

Coordinates: 35°09′14″N 80°55′34″W / 35.15389°N 80.92611°W / 35.15389; -80.92611
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Eastern Air Lines Flight 212
Wreckage of N8984E at the crash site
DateSeptember 11, 1974 7:34 am EDT
SummaryControlled flight into terrain
Sitenear Douglas Municipal Airport, Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
35°09′14″N 80°55′34″W / 35.15389°N 80.92611°W / 35.15389; -80.92611
Aircraft typeDouglas DC-9-31
OperatorEastern Air Lines
IATA flight No.EA212
ICAO flight No.EAL212
Call signEASTERN 212
Flight originCharleston Municipal Airport, Charleston, South Carolina
StopoverDouglas Municipal Airport, Charlotte, North Carolina
DestinationChicago O'Hare, Chicago, Illinois

Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 was a controlled flight into terrain accident of a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 during approach to Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina. The incident occurred on September 11, 1974, killing 72 of the 82 people on board. The scheduled flight was from Charleston Municipal Airport to Chicago O'Hare, with an intermediate stop in Charlotte.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that multiple crew errors were the primary cause of the crash.


On the morning of September 11, 1974, while conducting an instrument approach in dense ground fog into Douglas Municipal Airport in Charlotte, the aircraft crashed at 7:34 am EDT more than three miles (5 km) short of Runway 36, killing 72 of the 82 on board.[2] Thirteen survived the initial impact, including the first officer and one flight attendant,[3] but three of the initial survivors ultimately died from severe burn injuries[4] as late as 29 days after the accident.[5] Among the fatalities was the vice president for academic affairs of the Medical University of South Carolina, James William Colbert Jr.,[6] and two of his sons; they were the father and brothers of future television personality Stephen Colbert.[7][8]

Aircraft and crew[edit]

N8983E, the sister ship of the accident aircraft.

The aircraft was a five-year-old McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31 registered as N8984E, which was delivered to Eastern Airlines on January 30, 1969.[5]: 25  The captain was 49-year-old James E. Reeves, who had been with the airline since 1956. He had 8,876 flight hours, including 3,856 hours on the DC-9.[5]: 24  The first officer was 36-year-old James M. Daniels Jr. He had been with the airline since 1966 and had 3,016 flight hours, including 2,693 hours on the DC-9.[5]: 24 

Crash investigation and recommendations[edit]

While investigating this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reviewed the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and found that the flight crew had engaged in unnecessary and "nonpertinent" conversation during the approach phase of the flight, discussing subjects "ranging from politics to used cars."[5] The NTSB concluded that conducting such nonessential chatter can distract pilots from their flying duties during the critical phases of flight, such as instrument approach to landing, and recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) establish rules and educate pilots to focus exclusively on flying tasks while operating at low altitudes. It was later realized that this rule should also apply to takeoffs; for example, the lack of a sterile cockpit environment was a contributing factor to the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 on January 13, 1982. The FAA, after more than six years of consideration, finally published the sterile cockpit rule in 1981.[9][10]

The NTSB also found that the crew was apparently trying to visually locate the airport while executing an instrument approach in the presence of low-lying fog. In addition, a persistent attempt to visually identify the nearby Carowinds amusement park tower, known as "Carowinds Tower" to pilots,[11] which rose to an elevation of 1,314 feet (401 m), or 340 feet (105 m) above ground level (AGL), may have further distracted and confused the flight crew. The first officer was operating the flight controls, and none of the required altitude callouts were made by the captain, which compounded the flight crew's nearly total lack of altitude awareness.

During the investigation, the issue of the flammability of passengers' clothing materials was raised. There was evidence that passengers who wore double-knit synthetic fiber clothing articles sustained significantly worse burn injuries during the post-crash fire than passengers who wore articles made from natural fibers.[5]

The NTSB released its final report on May 23, 1975,[5] concluding that the accident was caused by the flight crew's lack of altitude awareness and poor cockpit discipline.[12] The NTSB issued the following official probable cause:[12]

"The flight crew's lack of altitude awareness at critical points during the approach due to poor cockpit discipline in that the crew did not follow prescribed procedure".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FAA Registry (N8984E)". Federal Aviation Administration.
  2. ^ "Airliner crashes with 78 aboard". Free Lance-Star. (Fredericksburg, Virginia). Associated Press. September 11, 1974. p. 3.
  3. ^ "69 killed, 13 survive as Eastern jetliner crashes at Charlotte". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. September 12, 1974. p. 1. Retrieved November 5, 2021.
  4. ^ Florence Morning News South Carolina Archived March 29, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, September 12, 1974. Archived at GenDisasters.com. Retrieved 2008-03-15.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT REPORT EASTERN AIR LINES, INC. CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA SEPTEMBER 11, 1974" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. May 23, 1975. Retrieved March 17, 2009. - Copy at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
  6. ^ "Stephen Colbert On Insincerity", 60 Minutes, April 27, 2006
  7. ^ "The Late, Great Stephen Colbert," GQ Magazine August 17, 2015
  8. ^ "Jon Batiste & Stephen Colbert Reflect On The Loss Of Kobe Bryant". The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved January 29, 2020.
  9. ^ The Sterile Cockpit Archived 2007-04-10 at the Wayback Machine NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System Directline, #4 : June 1993. Robert L. Sumwalt. Retrieved 2007-04-22.
  10. ^ Baron, Robert (2005). "The Cockpit, the Cabin, and Social Psychology". Airlinesafety.com. Archived from the original on December 4, 2013. Retrieved April 22, 2007.
  11. ^ "Carolina Skytower". Theme Park Insider. Archived from the original on November 28, 2006. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  12. ^ a b Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network

External links[edit]