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Eastern Air Lines Flight 66, a Boeing 727-225 with registration number N8845E, departed from New Orleansmarker Moisant Fieldmarker, bound for John F. Kennedy International Airportmarker on the afternoon of June 24, 1975. The aircraft carried 124 persons aboard including 116 passengers and 8 crew.

As the aircraft was on its final approach into New York Kennedymarker at 4:05 p.m. EST, the crew entered into a microburst or wind shear environment caused by a severe thunderstorm. The aircraft continued its descent until it began striking the approach lights approximately 2,400 feet from the threshold of Runway 22L. After the initial impact the aircraft banked to the left and continued to strike the approach lights until it burst into flames and scattered the wreckage along Rockaway Boulevard, which runs around the perimeter of the airport. Of the 124 people onboard, 106 passengers and 6 crew members died. Ten passengers and 2 flight attendants, who were seated in the rear of the aircraft, survived. One surviving passenger died 9 days later from injuries sustained in the accident.

At the time, it was the deadliest plane crash in United Statesmarker history. American Basketball Association player Wendell Ladner was among those killed in the crash.

As the investigation progressed, it was found that 10 minutes prior to Flight 66 crashing, a Flying Tiger Line Douglas DC-8 cargo jet landing on Runway 22L reported tremendous wind shear on the ground. The pilot warned the tower of the fact but other aircraft continued to land. After the DC-8, an Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-1011 landing on the same runway nearly crashed. Two more aircraft landed prior to Flight 66.According to the conversation recorded by the Cockpit Voice Recorder, the Captain of Flight 66 was aware of reports of severe windshear on the final approach path (which he confirmed by radio to the Final Vector controller) but decided to press on nonetheless.

Investigation and results

The accident was investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which published its final report on March 12 1976. In that report, the NTSB determined the following probable cause for the accident:
"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 found the following contributing factor:
"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."

This accident led to the development of the original low level windshear alert system by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 1976 that was installed at 110 FAA towered airports between 1977 and 1987.

See also

References and notes

  1. NTSB Report (PDF)
  2. According to the NTSB report, per 49 CFR 830.2 only deaths occurring within 7 days of an accident are counted as "fatalities".

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