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Eastern 66 Crashes in Windshear at JFK

By Patrick Mondout

At shortly after 4 in the afternoon on June 24, 1975, Eastern Airlines Flight 66, a Boeing 727-225, crashed into the approach lights to runway 22L at the John F. Kennedy International Airport, Jamaica, New York. The 727 broke up and exploded. Of the 124 persons on board, 113 lost their lives.

The aircraft was on an ILS approach to the runway through a very strong thunderstorm that was located astride the ILS localizer course.

"I don't care what you're indicating"

Flying Tiger Line Flight 161, a Douglas DC-8, had preceded Eastern 902 on the approach and had landed on runway 22L about 3:56:15. After clearing the runway, at 1557:30, the captain reported to the local controller: "I just highly recommend that you change the runways and... land northwest, you have such a tremendous wind shear down near... the ground on final."

The local controller responded, "Okay, we're indicating wind right down the runway at 15 knots when you landed. At 3:57:50, the captain of Flight 161 said, "I don't care what you're indicating; I'm just telling you that there's such a wind shear on the final on that runway you should change it to the northwest." The controller did not respond. At 3:57:55, he transmitted missed approach directions to Eastern 902 and asked, "...was wind a problem?" Eastern 902 answered, "Affirmative."

Eastern Air Lines Flight 902, a Lockheed L-1011, had abandoned its approach to runway 22L at 3:57 p.m. At 3:59 p.m., Eastern 902 reestablished radio communications with the Kennedy final vector controller, and the flightcrew reported, "...we had... a pretty good shear pulling us to the right and... down and visibility was nil, nil out over the marker... correction... at 200 feet it was... nothing."

The final vector controller responded, "Okay, the shear you say pulled you right and down?"

Eastern 902 replied, "Yeah, we were on course and down to about 250 feet. The airspeed dropped to about 10 knots below the bug and our rate of descent was up to 1,500 feet a minute, so we put takeoff power on and we went around at a hundred feet."

"You know this is asinine"

Eastern 902's wind shear report to the final vector controller was recorded on Eastern 66's cockpit voice recorder (CVR). Eastern 902 was making this report, the captain of Eastern 66, at 4:00:33, said, "You know this is asinine." An unidentified crewmember responded, "I wonder if they're covering for themselves?"

The final vector controller asked Eastern 66 if they had heard Eastern 902's report. Eastern 66 replied, "... affirmative. The controller then established the flight's position as being 5 miles from the outer marker (OM) and cleared the flight for an ILS approach to runway 22L. Eastern 66 acknowledged the clearance at 4:00:54, "Okay, we'll let you know about the conditions." At 4:01:49, the first officer, who was flying the aircraft, called for completion of the final checklist. While the final checklist items were being completed, the captain stated that the radar was, "Up and off... standby." At 4:02:20, the captain said, "...I have the radar on standby in case I need it, I can get it off later."

Eastern 727-225

A Boeing 727-225 similar to the one involved in this crash, as seen at National Airport in November, 1977.

Image courtesy of AirNikon. Find more of his photos at


At 4:02:42, the final vector controller asked Eastern 902, "...would you classify that as severe wind shift, correction, shear?" The flight responded, "Affirmative."

At 4:02:50, the first officer of Eastern 66 said, "Gonna keep a pretty healthy margin on this one." An unidentified crewmember said, "I... would suggest that you do;" the first officer responded, ''In case he's right."

At 4:02:58.7, Eastern 66 reported over the OM, and the final vector controller cleared the flight to contact the Kennedy tower. At 4:03:12, the flight established communications with Kennedy tower local controller and reported that they were, "outer marker, inbound." At 4:03:44, the Kennedy tower local controller cleared Eastern 66 to land. The captain acknowledged the clearance and asked, "Got any reports on braking action...?" The local controller did not respond until the query was repeated. At 4:04:14.1, the local controller replied, "No, none, approach end of runway is wet... but I'd say about the first half is wet--we've had no adverse reports."

At 4:04:45, National Air Lines Flight 1004 reported to Kennedy tower, "By the outer marker" and asked the local controller, "...everyone else... having a good ride through?" At 4:04:58, the local controller responded, "Eastern 66 and National 1004, the only adverse reports we've had about the approach is a wind shear on short final..." National 1004 acknowledged that transmission--Eastern 66 did not.

Initial impact was recorded on the CVR at 4:05:11.4. Both flight attendants who were seated in the aft portion of the passenger cabin, described Eastern 66's approach as normal - there was little or no turbulence. According to one of the attendants, the aircraft rolled to the left, and she heard engine power increase significantly. She was thrown forward and then upright; several seconds later she saw the cabin emergency lights illuminate and oxygen masks drop from their retainers. The aircraft then rolled upright and rocked back and forth. Her next recollection was her escape from the wreckage.

Witnesses near the middle marker (MM) for runway 22L saw the aircraft at a low altitude and in heavy rain. It first struck an approach light tower which was located about 1,200 feet southwest of the MM; it then struck several more towers, caught fire, and came to rest on Rockaway Boulevard.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause of this accident was the aircraft's encounter with adverse winds associated with a very strong thunderstorm located astride the ILS localizer course, which resulted in a high descent rate into the non-frangible approach light towers. The flightcrew's delayed recognition and correction of the high descent rate were probably associated with their reliance upon visual cues rather than on flight instrument references. 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. 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 flightcrew that a severe weather hazard existed along the approach path.

Source: Adapted from National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report NTSB-AAR-76-8.

Eastern 66 at a Glance
DateJune 24, 1975
Flight number66
Registration NumberN8845E
Crew Fatalities6 of 8
Passenger Fatalities109 of 116
Total Fatalities115 of 124

Air Safety References:
Bartelski, Jan. Disasters in the Air: Mysterious Air Disasters Explained. Airlife Publishing: England, 2001.
Beaty, David. The Naked Pilot: The Human Factor in Aircraft Accidents. Airlife Publishing: England, 1996.
Cushing, Steven. Fatal Words: Communication Clashes and Aircraft Crashes University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1997.
Faith, Nicholas. Black Box: The Air-Crash Detectives-Why Air Safety Is No Accident. Motorbooks International, 1997.
Gero, David. Aviation Disasters: The World's Major Civil Airliner Crashes Since 1950. Sutton, 2003.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 1). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1995.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 2). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1996.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 3). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1999.
Krause, Shari Stamford. Aircraft Safety: Accident Investigations, Analyses & Applications. McGraw Hill, New York, 1996.
Macpherson, Malcolm. The Black Box : All-New Cockpit Voice Recorder Accounts Of In-flight Accidents. New York: William Morrow, 1998.
Macpherson, Malcolm. On a Wing and a Prayer: Interviews with Airline Disaster Survivors. Perennial, 2002.
Owen, David. Air Accident Investigation, 2nd Edition. Motorbooks International, 2002.
Stewart, Stanley. Emergency! - Crisis on the Flight Deck, 2nd Edition. Airlife Publishing, England, 2003.
Walters, James M. Aircraft Accident Analysis: Final Reports. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2000.
Wells, Alexander T. Commercial Aviation Safety, 3rd Edition. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2001.


Share Your Memories!

What do you remember about this crash? Were you a witness? Have you any compelling stories to share? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"I remember June 24,1975 as if it was yesterday. I was 10 yrs. old my mother and sister and my self took my uncle to the New Orleans Airport to catch his flight back to New York to renew his contract with the New York Nets ABA basketball team. My uncles name is Wendell Ladner (#4 with the Nets). Wendell and Dr.J became best friends. When we laid Wendell to rest, some of the team members was the pallbearrers including Coach Kevin Lochery, and Dr.J. I don't remember the names of the other players. After Wendells death Dr.J stayed in touch with my family. One thing I will never forget was the smell of his luggage we had received from the crash. The last thing he told my grand mother before he left was, "Momma, I won't be gone for ever. I'll be back in a couple of days." My grandmother ended up mourning herself to death."

--Deron Cuevas

"I will never forget this one I lived near there and saw this plane making its approach from the car. I think everybody who was on the belt parkway near JFK saw that plane. It was such a bad day I remember the thing is that you could see all the approach markers for planes. Then all of a sudden the plane just started to hit these lights. It was very fast and next we new smoke we all new it was bad. We use to always say it was a matter of time when a plane would go down on 22 everybody who lived around JFK and the belt knew that 22L was the worst of hardest runway a plane could land on. The light I believe started out in the water then the plane would have to bank in over the belt and itís a really sharp turn. With the rain that day itís no wonder we always new it and I hope JFK as fixed that approach."


"I remember this day. I was a young man living & working in NYC and had just gotten home from work when it happened. I remember that NBC News was on the scene almost immediately, and began non stop TV coverage. The plane flew over the Grand Central Parkway, narrowly missing plowing into the highway during rush hour. There were thunderstorms - they later attributed the crash to a "microburst" or a severe downdraft associated with a thunderstorm, at the approach end of the runway that brought the plane down."


"I was at home watching television when the news broke in about the airplane crash. I didn't pay attention to it at first. The crash was hundreds of miles away from my home in Louisiana. In 1975, I was 16 years old and living in my own little world.

When my dad walked in and saw the report, the look on his face brought me into reality. My sister was flying to Switzerland that day, with a layover in NYC. She had been married two days earlier. She and her new husband were flying to Switzerland for their honeymoon and then to Germany where he was stationed in the Army. It didn't take us long to find out that it was her flight.

Most of the information we gained was through watching the television. We knew that there were a few survivors, so all we could do was pray. Our house was full of family and friends who had heard about the plane crash. We were in contact with a local television station that was helping us get the list of survivors.

It was late that night when the call came. I believe we already new before they told us. The crash sight was horrendous and as we watched the scene on TV we had prepared ourselves for the worst. Two days later my parents had to fly to New York to identify the body. They were only able to identify her by clothing under her arm. We were told that the fireball went through the airplane cabin so fast that they felt no pain. They were given a double, closed casket military funeral, with a 21-gun salute and taps played in the distance, at the same church they were married at one week earlier.

A few months later my parents flew back to New York to identify some of her belongings. A couple of suitcases remained intact, though they were damaged and had broken open."




Airline: Eastern

Location: JFK Airport, New York

Aircraft: Boeing 727-225

Date: June 24, 1975

Total Fatalities: 115 of 124

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