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Eastern 212

By Patrick Mondout

At just after 7:30 a.m. on September 11, 1974, Eastern Airlines Flight 212, McDonnell Douglas DC-9 crashed 3.3 miles short of runway 36 at Douglas Municipal Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. Of the 82 persons aboard the aircraft, 11 and two crewmembers survived the accident. One passenger died 3 days after the crash, and another died 6 days after the crash. One survivor died of injuries 29 days after the accident.

The landing was attempted in patchy dense ground fog. The aircraft was destroyed by impact and fire.


An Eastern DC-9-31 similar to the one involved in this crash, as seen in Atlanta, June 1980.

Image courtesy of AirNikon. Find more of his photos at


The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause of the accident was the flightcrew's lack of altitude awareness at critical points during the approach due to poor cockpit discipline in that the crew did not follow prescribed procedures.

According to the cockpit voice recording, while they should have been busy landing the plane, captain James E. Reeves and first officer James M. Daniels, Jr. were instead talking politics. Here's a few selected comments from the final five minutes of flight:

Captain: "Right. I heard this morning on the news while I was... might stop proceedings against impeachment [of the president]"
[sound of altitude warning beep]
Captain: "...because you can't have a pardon for Nixon and the Watergate people. Old Ford's beginning to take some hard knocks..."
First Officer
: "We should be taking some definite direction to save the country. Arabs are taking over every damned thing."
First Officer: "...The stock market and the damned Swiss are going to sink our damned money, gold over there..."
: "Yes sir boy. They got the money, don't they? They got so much damned money."
First Officer
: "...Yeah, I think, damn if we don't do something by 1980, they'll [presumably "the Arabs"] own the world."
Captain: I'd be willing to go back to one... to one car... a lot of other restrictions if we can get something going."

Five seconds before crashing, the captain said, "Yeah, we're all ready. All we got to do is find the airport." The flight officer replied, "Yeah." One half second later they both shouted and the DC-9 crashed within one second.

The NTSB criticized the pilots in their findings:

4. The extraneous conversation conducted by the flightcrew during the descent was symptomatic of a lax atmosphere in the cockpit which continued throughout the approach.  

5. The terrain warning alert sounded at 1,000 feet above the ground but was not heeded by the flightcrew.

8. Required callouts were not made at the final approach fix, at an altitude of 500 feet above field elevation, or at 100 feet above the minimum descent altitude.

Source: Adapted from National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report NTSB-AAR-7 5- 9.

Eastern 212 at a Glance
DateSeptember 11, 1974
Flight number212
Registration NumberN8984E
Crew Fatalities2 of 4
Passenger Fatalities70 of 78
Total Fatalities72 of 82

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 was on the DC-9 that crashed near Charlotte in 1974. It was foggy and I looked out the window and saw a tree. Then a large explosion. Apparently the tail section (I was in tail sec.) flew over the rest of the plane. It was so hot I started to run. I could hear screams but couldn’t see anyone. I ended up on a porch of an old couple’s house. I had burns over 38 percent of my body. Needless to say I will never fly again. It was pilot error. When they recovered the black box they could hear warning buzzer that they were flying to low, but they were busy talking about Watergate. Go figure."


"I was three years old when this distaster happened. It changed my life for ever my father was on this air craft. he had just started a new job this was his first flight and he never made it home. I am now 33 years old and my mother pasted away May on 3rd 2002 she never remarried and never told me what realy happened that day. As I was preparing her funeral I found out he died on Sept 11 - how shocking. To top that my first son was born on Sept 11 2000. I think I would like to learn mor about that day , by the way if I ever meet the piolt I just want him to know he SUCKS."


"I was in the military at the time in the submarine service. I was supposed to be on that flight with many of my fellow crewmates flying to Washington. However I was injured and was hospitalized in Charleston. Everyone I knew and went to sea with that was on that jet died. I was informed a few days after my surgery of the loss. "




Airline: Eastern

Location: Charlotte

Aircraft: DC-9-31

Date: September 11, 1974

Total Fatalities: 72 of 82

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