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Tue Sep 10, 2019, 10:06 PM

45 Years Ago Today; The crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 212 In Charlotte NC

Last edited Wed Sep 11, 2019, 11:59 AM - Edit history (1)


An Eastern Airlines DC-9-31, similar to the aircraft involved

Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 was an Eastern Air Lines flight that crashed on September 11, 1974, killing 72 people.

The flight was a regularly scheduled flight from Charleston, South Carolina to Chicago, Illinois, with an intermediate stop in Charlotte, North Carolina. It carried 78 passengers and four crew.

Aircraft and crew
The aircraft involved was a five-year-old McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31 registered as N8984E, which was delivered to Eastern Airlines on January 30, 1969.

The captain was 49-year-old James Edward Reeves, who had been with Eastern Air Lines since 1956. He had 8,876 flight hours, including 3,856 hours on the DC-9.

The first officer was 36-year-old James M. Daniels, Jr. He had been with Eastern Air lines since 1966 and had 3,016 flight hours, including 2,693 hours on the DC-9.

On the morning of Wednesday, September 11, 1974, while conducting an instrument approach in dense ground fog into Douglas Municipal Airport in Charlotte, the aircraft crashed more than three miles (5 km) short of runway 36, killing 72 of the 82 on board. Thirteen survived the initial impact at 7:34 am EDT, including the co-pilot and one flight attendant, but three more ultimately died from severe burn injuries. One of the initial survivors died of injuries 29 days after the accident.

Among the fatalities were the vice president for academic affairs of the Medical University of South Carolina, James William Colbert Jr. Television personality Stephen Colbert has spoken candidly about the loss of his father and two brothers in the crash.

Crash investigation and recommendations
The accident was investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). While investigating this accident, and reviewing the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), the NTSB found that the flight crew engaged in unnecessary and "nonpertinent" conversation during the approach phase of the flight, discussing subjects "ranging from politics to used cars." The NTSB concluded that conducting such nonessential chatter can distract pilots from their flying duties during the critical phases of flight, such as instrument approach to landing, and recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) establish rules and educate pilots to focus exclusively on flying tasks while operating at low altitudes. The FAA, after more than six years of consideration, finally published the Sterile Cockpit Rule in 1981.

Another possible cause of the crash discussed by the NTSB in its review of the CVR was that the crew was apparently trying to visually locate the Charlotte airport, while executing an instrument approach in the presence of low-lying fog. In addition, a persistent attempt to visually identify the nearby Carowinds amusement park tower, known as "Carowinds Tower" to pilots, rising to an elevation of 1,314 feet (401 m), or 340 feet (105 m) above ground level (AGL), may have further distracted and confused the flight crew. The first officer (co-pilot) was operating the flight controls, and none of the required altitude callouts were made by the captain, which compounded the flight crew's near total lack of altitude awareness.

During the investigation, the issue of the flammability of passengers' clothing materials was raised. There was evidence that passengers who wore double-knit synthetic fiber clothing articles sustained significantly worse burn injuries during the post-crash fire than passengers who wore articles made from natural fibers.

The NTSB released its final report on May 23, 1975. The NTSB concluded that the accident was caused by the flight crew's lack of altitude awareness and poor cockpit discipline. The NTSB issued the following official Probable Cause statement for the accident:

The flight crew's lack of altitude awareness at critical points during the approach due to poor cockpit discipline in that the crew did not follow prescribed procedure.



Colbert, c. 1950

James William Colbert Jr. (December 15, 1920 Ė September 11, 1974) was an American physician and the first vice president of academic affairs at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), serving in this capacity from 1969 until his death in a plane crash in 1974. He is the father of Stephen Colbert and Elizabeth Colbert Busch.

Early life and education
Colbert (along with his twin sister, Margaret) was born on December 15, 1920, in the Bronx in New York City, to Mary (Tormey) and James William Colbert. He was of mostly Irish descent, and was raised in a devout Roman Catholic household. He attended St. Augustine's School in Larchmont, New York for junior high school and Iona Preparatory in New Rochelle for high school. He received his A.B. from College of the Holy Cross in 1942 in philosophy, in which he was deeply interested; nevertheless, he later chose to pursue a medical career because, according to his daughter Margaret Colbert Keegan, "it just seemed to be the thing to do at the time." Colbert was accepted into the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1942, and received his M.D. there three years later, with a focus on immunology and infectious diseases. He then completed an internship at Bellevue Hospital before joining the U.S. Army Medical Corps in 1946.

Colbert spent a year in Europe working for the U.S. Army Medical Corps, after which he completed a residency at Yale University School of Medicine. In 1949, he rejoined the U.S. Army Medical Corps as a representative of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, Director of the Hepatitis Research Team, and Technical Director of the Hepatitis Laboratory in Munich, Germany. Also after 1949, he joined the faculty of Yale University School of Medicine, where he was promoted to Assistant Dean in 1951. In 1953, at the age of 32, he left Yale to become the dean of the St. Louis University School of Medicine, making him the youngest dean of a medical school at the time. He remained at St. Louis University until 1961, when he became Associate Director for Extramural Programs at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. During the early 1960s, he served as chair of the St. Louis chapter of the organization Doctors for Kennedy, which was set up to support John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign. In 1969, he and his family moved from Washington, D.C., where he had been working for the National Institutes of Health, to South Carolina. He became the first vice president for academic affairs at the Medical University of South Carolina on February 1, 1969, and remained in that position until his death. His work at the Medical University of South Carolina has been credited with "la[ying] the foundation for MUSC's rise as a nationally renowned academic medical center."

Personal life
Colbert married his childhood sweetheart, Lorna Elizabeth Tuck, on August 26, 1944. They soon started a family, and had eleven children together, eight of whom survive: Jim, Ed, Mary, Margo, Tom, Jay, politician and businesswoman Elizabeth Colbert Busch, and comedian Stephen Colbert. Paul and Peter died in the same plane crash that killed their father in 1974, and Bill died in 1999.

Colbert, along with two of his sons, died in the crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 on September 11, 1974, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In 2009, MUSC renamed its education center and library in memory of Colbert. In 2017, the first James W. Colbert Endowed Lectureship was held, also at MUSC, in honor of his legacy there. The lectureship was established in his memory by his family.


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Arrow 12 replies Author Time Post
Reply 45 Years Ago Today; The crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 212 In Charlotte NC (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Sep 10 OP
lordsummerisle Sep 10 #1
PoindexterOglethorpe Sep 10 #2
smirkymonkey Sep 10 #3
PoindexterOglethorpe Sep 11 #4
smirkymonkey Sep 11 #5
PoindexterOglethorpe Sep 11 #6
smirkymonkey Sep 11 #10
PlanetBev Sep 11 #8
smirkymonkey Sep 11 #11
LanternWaste Sep 11 #9
smirkymonkey Sep 11 #12
Dennis Donovan Sep 11 #7

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Sep 10, 2019, 10:35 PM

1. Thanks for posting this n/t

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Sep 10, 2019, 11:13 PM

2. I also thank you for posting this.

I'm a former airline employee, and most airline people obsess about plane crashes. Although I was working in the airlines when this happened, I don't really recall it, probably because I didn't work for Eastern nor in any of the cities that flight passed through. And of course, at the time, we didn't know that a son of a crash victim would eventually become someone we would all know and love.

I also want all who read this synopsis of the crash appreciate how vastly safer air travel has become since then. The last fatal plane crash in this country was, are you ready for this? more than a decade ago, in 2009. Yeah, really. Commercial travel is insanely safe.

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Reply #2)

Tue Sep 10, 2019, 11:42 PM

3. I know it's safe, but I am still terrified of flying.

I have a business trip next week. I usually only have to fly once per year, but I am dreading it. I just hate being in a plane. It makes me go into a panic. I know I have to do this for work, but I would do anything to avoid it. I understand the physics of flying, I know the statistics, but I just can't stand the feeling of powerlessness and claustrophobia that I experience in a plane. I have also developed an inordinate fear of heights over the past 10 years for some reason and I am sickened by any height over 3 floors.

I keep hoping it will get better, but it just keeps getting worse. I am hoping that I have some horrible illness or accident happen to me before next week so that I don't have to go, but I have a feeling that isn't going to happen. I am fortunate that I don't have to travel very often, but I am sick to my stomach just thinking about it.

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Response to smirkymonkey (Reply #3)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:08 AM

4. You should be vastly more terrified of driving anywhere.

How many people do you personally know who've been in a plane crash?

How many people do you personally know who've been in a car crash?

How many fatalities in each?

A bit more than a decade ago I was in a hotel at the airport in St Louis, MO. It was located at one end of the runway and my room overlooked the runway. Hooray! I know, I'm weird. I like to watch airplanes take off and land. Anyway, there I was, for three days, spending countless hours watching planes take off, one after another. Or watching them land, one after another, depending on the prevailing winds and runway assignments.

Understand, that I'm someone already extremely predisposed to consider flying very safe. But I want to say, sitting in my room watching plane after plane land, or plane after plane take off, really reinforced that. I honestly want to suggest you spend a few hours, or maybe even a few days doing that. Either take up an observation post near an airport runway, or book a hotel room so located. If that doesn't convince you, then honestly, either find a very good hypnotherapist or get good drugs to help you through.

Rereading your post, I do think you need to seek out appropriate professional help. It cannot be remotely fun to be so terrified of the one flight a year you need to take, nor to be sickened by being above three floors in a building. There are going to be times when you need to be higher up, and that must be truly awful. Really, figure out what you need to help you and do it.

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Reply #4)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:15 AM

5. I know. I do realize I have a phobia. Or many.

And that I probably need some cognitive therapy or something like that. I am not sure how these fears crept up on me, but I have lost my fears of some things and gained fears of others. I actually get vertigo just by looking at a photo of heights. Like that photo of men lunching on an iron beam while building a skyscraper in NYC.

Just looking at that photo makes me want to throw up. Ten years ago it would not have fazed me, but today it honestly cannot look at it without feeling dizzy and weak. I cannot look at any photos of high places, let alone look from high places themselves. I was so relieved when I had to move from an 8th floor apartment to a 3rd floor apartment back in May. I just felt sick looking out the window there and now I feel so much more serene.

I do see a cognitive therapist, but i haven't discussed this seriously with her because I have been kind of embarrassed about it. I suppose I should bring it up in my next appointment because I realize it is not healthy. Thanks Poindexter!

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Response to smirkymonkey (Reply #5)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 02:00 AM

6. Please, please bring these things up with the

cognitive therapist. Don't be embarrassed. You can't solve this problem on your own.

I know how hard it can be to seek help, to say, "I can't do this by myself."

The therapist is there to help you. And kudos to you for even mentioning this here. Even though we don't know your real name, this has got to be hard.

Hang in there.

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Reply #6)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 07:10 PM

10. Thanks Poindexter!

I appreciate your kind words!

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Response to smirkymonkey (Reply #3)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:06 PM

8. Cheer up, Smirky

You can definitely overcome this. About 17 years ago, I developed a fear of flying. It seemingly came from nowhere, and lasted about two years. I use to have to take a prescription anxiety medication before I boarded the plane and would clutch (with their permission) the passenger next to me upon landing and during turbulence. For whatever reason, it disappeared on itís own. My niece had the same experience.

That said, itís always advisable to reach out and get professional help. Fear of flying is such a common problem. Thereís no need to suffer alone.

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Response to PlanetBev (Reply #8)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 07:12 PM

11. Thanks PlanetBev!

I seemed to have developed more phobias as I have gotten older, especially a fear of heights. Sometimes I will ask for some valium or xanax to fly, but I can't this time because we are flying in the morning and then have to go right to a meeting so I can't be "out of it".

I appreciate you sharing your experience with me.

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Response to smirkymonkey (Reply #3)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 02:00 PM

9. I realize it's safe too, but I take the trains these days.

Less expensive, much more roomy and relaxing, no real crowds to speak of, bring your own food and drink (or buy it on the train).

All I lose is time when I get there. But the time I spend getting there is SO much nicer than in an airplane.

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Response to LanternWaste (Reply #9)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 07:15 PM

12. I love trains! My brother in Baltimore usually hosts Thanksgiving so I can take the

train from Boston to Baltimore and it's really nice. It takes a lot longer, but I can plug in my PC on the train and work and also keep my phone charged, or even read. I find train travel very pleasant. I wish we had the high-speed trains like they do in Europe.

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Reply #2)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:01 PM

7. This particular accident spurred improved cockpit crew management procedures

We learned a lot from it.

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