Eastern Air Lines Flight 212
Wreckage of N8984E at the crash site
|Date||11 September 1974 7:34 am EDT|
|Summary||Controlled flight into terrain due to pilot error|
|Site||Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. |
|Aircraft type||Douglas DC-9-31|
|Operator||Eastern Air Lines|
|Flight origin||Charleston, South Carolina|
|Stopover||Charlotte, North Carolina|
|Survivors||10 (13 initially)|
Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 was an Eastern Air Lines Douglas DC-9-31, carrying 78 passengers and four crew, operating as a scheduled flight within the United States from Charleston, South Carolina to Chicago, Illinois, with an intermediate stop in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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. Thirteen survived the initial impact at 7:34 am EDT, including the co-pilot and one flight attendant, but three more ultimately died from severe burn injuries. 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. (the father of comedian Stephen Colbert) and two of his sons.
The accident was investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which released its final report on May 23, 1975. The NTSB concluded that the accident was caused by the flight crew's lack of altitude awareness and poor cockpit discipline.
Crash investigation and recommendations
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." 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.
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, 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.
The NTSB issued the following official Probable Cause statement for the accident:
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.
- 2000 Marsa Brega Short 360 crash – a similar crash in Libya where the pilot discussed another plane system, instead of focusing on the flight
- Aviation safety
- Controlled flight into terrain
- Ground proximity warning system
- List of accidents and incidents involving commercial aircraft
- "FAA Registry (N8984E)". Federal Aviation Administration.
- "Airliner crashes with 78 aboard". Free Lance-Star. (Fredericksburg, Virginia). Associated Press. September 11, 1974. p. 3.
- "69 killed, 13 survive as Eastern jetliner crashes at Charlotte". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. September 12, 1974. p. 1.
- Florence Morning News South Carolina, September 12, 1974. Archived at GenDisasters.com. Retrieved 2008-03-15.
- "Stephen Colbert On Insincerity", 60 Minutes, April 27, 2006
- Air Accident Report 75-9, (PDF) NTSB, May 23, 1975. Archived at Airdisaster.com. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
- Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
- 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.
- The Cockpit, the Cabin, and Social Psychology Archived 2013-12-04 at the Wayback Machine Airlinesafety.com 2005. Robert Baron. Retrieved 2007-04-22
- "Carolina Skytower". Theme Park Insider. Archived from the original on November 28, 2006. Retrieved November 28, 2018.