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
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,
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."
727-225 similar to the one involved in this
crash, as seen at National Airport in November,
Image courtesy of AirNikon.
Find more of his photos at Airliners.net.
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
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)