The Ghost of Flight 401

The ghost of flight 401 is an interesting television movie covering two areas of great interest to me, Airline Operations and Ghosts.  The Ghost of Flight 401 is based on the real life airline accident of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 from JFK to Miami, although the actual accident is only part of this story.

According to the official NTSB report, the crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401, a Lockheed L-1011, took place late at night on December 29th 1972 in the Florida Everglades.  There were 163 passengers onboard and 13 crew members.  The flight was uneventful until descending on final approach into Miami.

On approach to land, the landing gear was selected down and the nose gear green landing gear indicator light failed to illuminate.  The green lights indicate when the landing gear is down and locked in position for landing.  If there are no green lights illuminated, the pilot cannot proceed with a landing until the problem is resolved.  As a result, the pilot decided to go around and hold at 2,000 feet until the nose wheel green light illumination problem was solved.

One procedure is to replace the light bulb used to indicate if the landing gear is down and locked.  The First Officer managed to remove the nose gear light lens assembly, but it jammed when he attempted to replace it.  As a result, the Captain requested the Second Officer go down to the forward electronics bay, located below the flight deck.  The Second Officer was to visually check the alignment of the nose gear indices.

Meanwhile, the flight crew continued attempts to free the nose gear position indicator lens from its retainer, but with no success.  The second Officer popped his head up from the electronics bay to let the flight crew know; “I can’t see it, it’s pitch dark and I throw the little light, I get, ah, nothing.”  A maintenance specialist who was sitting in one of the flight deck jump seats went down to join the Second Officer in the electronics bay below.  By this time, Miami Air Traffic Control had noted the aircraft was at 900 feet, not 2,000 feet.  While all this was going on, the aircraft was in a slow descent from 2,000 feet and neither the Captain or First Officer had noticed.

By the time the First Officer and Captain had noticed their altitude, the first radio altimeter warning made beep sounds in the flight deck.  The aircraft hit the surface in a 28 degree banking turn, 18 miles west-northwest of Miami airport.  The aircraft was destroyed upon impact.  Weather was not a contributing factor in this crash.  The accident occurred in completed darkness and there was no moon.

5 crew members and 94 passengers were killed in the accident.  67 passengers survived.  The crash details are from the official NTSB report, AAR 73-14.

The Ghost of Flight 401 – TV Movie

The movie starts of with the Second Officers wife being concerned about him going to work on this one occasion.  It comes across as instinct or intuition, which is something I always believe you should not ignore.  It is hard to explain, but you know when you get a feeling or sense you have forgotten something?  Or you suspect something is not quite right but you cannot place your finger on what it might be?  Right off the bat the movie is covering a topic beyond our basic 5 senses, which is interesting.

The aircraft accident takes place by the 24 minute mark, setting the scene for the rest of the story.  The circumstances leading up to the crash are accurately portrayed.  The ghost story starts after some aircraft parts from flight 401 are inspected and re-installation in other Eastern Airlines L-1011 aircraft.

The Ghost of Flight 401Shortly after flight 401 parts are installed, Ghost sightings of the Second Officer start to appear. Initially only seen by flight attendants, then pilots started seeing the ghost.  Eventually passengers would see the ghost onboard.  Flight attendants and pilots said they even heard the ghost warn them of potential fires onboard.

The biggest obstacle most of the characters faced throughout the movie was the idea of coming face to face with a ghost.  A ghost who looks and sounds real, but they know for a fact was killed in an aircraft accident.  Overtime, more and more of the characters become believers in the sightings of the ghost.

Throughout my entire life, I have never seen or heard anything ghostly.  However, I have sensed “something” throughout various times in my life which I could not explain.  Whatever it was I sensed, I usually wrote off either as a ghost or my own imagination.  In the end I could not explain the sensed feeling.  All I would do is just avoid the area where I was sensing “something”.  As a result, I honestly do believe in the idea of ghosts.

If you are interested in watching the entire movie, it is available on youtube.  The full feature film is embedded in this article above.

The Ghost of Flight 401

If you get a chance to watch The Ghost of Flight 401, certainly keep an open mind.  Don’t restrict your thinking to what science can currently explain.  If people already knew everything about our surroundings, we would not make any new discoveries, yet science makes new discoveries all the time.  Keep an open mind to the fact that we may yet have a lot more to learn about our own surrounding environment.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me by e-mail or through any of the social media links listed below.  Thank you and enjoy..

Ashley Wincer

An Indianapolis based Australian working towards building flight time to meet the US ATP requirements. Currently works full time as a contractor for multiple Part 121 US Airlines. Previously has worked as a US Flight Dispatcher, Ramp Agent and Operations Ramp Controller.

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