Eastern Air Lines Flight 212

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Eastern Air Lines Flight 212
Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 crash photo.jpg
Wreckage of N8984E at the crash site
DateSeptember 11, 1974 7:34 am EDT
SummaryControlled flight into terrain due to pilot error
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; -80.92611Coordinates: 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
Flight originCharleston Municipal Airport, Charleston, South Carolina
StopoverDouglas Municipal Airport, Charlotte, North Carolina
DestinationChicago, Illinois
Survivors10 (13 initially)

Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 was an Eastern Air Lines flight that crashed on September 11, 1974, killing 72 people.

The flight was a regularly scheduled flight from Charleston, South Carolina to Chicago, Illinois, with an intermediate stop in Charlotte, North Carolina. It carried 78 passengers and four crew.

Aircraft and crew[edit]

An Eastern Airlines DC-9-31, similar to the aircraft involved

The aircraft involved was a five-year-old McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31 registered as N8984E, which was delivered to Eastern Airlines on January 30, 1969.[2]:25

The captain was 49-year-old James Edward Reeves, who had been with Eastern Air Lines since 1956. He had 8,876 flight hours, including 3,856 hours on the DC-9.[2]:24

The first officer was 36-year-old James M. Daniels, Jr. He had been with Eastern Air lines since 1966 and had 3,016 flight hours, including 2,693 hours on the DC-9.[2]:24


On the morning of Wednesday, September 11, 1974, while conducting an instrument approach in dense ground fog into Douglas Municipal Airport in Charlotte, the aircraft crashed more than three miles (5 km) short of runway 36, killing 72 of the 82 on board.[3] Thirteen survived the initial impact at 7:34 am EDT, including the co-pilot and one flight attendant,[4] but three more ultimately died from severe burn injuries.[5] One of the initial survivors died of injuries 29 days after the accident.

Among the fatalities were the vice president for academic affairs of the Medical University of South Carolina, James William Colbert Jr.[6], and three newspaper executives of Charleston's Post & Courier including circulation manager Charles McDonald. Television personality Stephen Colbert has spoken candidly about the loss of his father and two brothers in the crash.[7]

Crash investigation and recommendations[edit]

The accident was investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). While investigating this accident, and reviewing the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), the NTSB found that the flight crew engaged in unnecessary and "nonpertinent" conversation during the approach phase of the flight, discussing subjects "ranging from politics to used cars."[2] 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. The FAA, after more than six years of consideration, finally published the Sterile Cockpit Rule in 1981.[8][9]

Another possible cause of the crash discussed by the NTSB in its review of the CVR was that the crew was apparently trying to visually locate the Charlotte 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,[10] rising 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 (co-pilot) was operating the flight controls, and none of the required altitude callouts were made by the captain, which compounded the flight crew's near 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.[2]

The NTSB released its final report on May 23, 1975.[2] The NTSB concluded that the accident was caused by the flight crew's lack of altitude awareness and poor cockpit discipline.[11] The NTSB issued the following official Probable Cause statement for the accident:[11]

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. ^ a b c d e f "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.
  3. ^ "Airliner crashes with 78 aboard". Free Lance-Star. (Fredericksburg, Virginia). Associated Press. September 11, 1974. p. 3.
  4. ^ "69 killed, 13 survive as Eastern jetliner crashes at Charlotte". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. September 12, 1974. p. 1.
  5. ^ Florence Morning News South Carolina, September 12, 1974. Archived at GenDisasters.com. Retrieved 2008-03-15.
  6. ^ "Stephen Colbert On Insincerity", 60 Minutes, April 27, 2006
  7. ^ "The Late, Great Stephen Colbert," GQ Magazine August 17, 2015
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Baron, Robert (2005). "The Cockpit, the Cabin, and Social Psychology". Airlinesafety.com. Archived from the original on December 4, 2013. Retrieved April 22, 2007. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  10. ^ "Carolina Skytower". Theme Park Insider. Archived from the original on November 28, 2006. Retrieved November 28, 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  11. ^ a b Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network

External links[edit]