The disaster of Flight 401 is considered as one of the worst in American aviation history. However, it is more than that as troubled spirits continue to haunt Eastern Air Lines until these days.
Eastern Air Lines flight 401 departed at 9:20pm from JFK, New York to Miami on December 29, 1972. Veteran pilot Captain Bob Loft handled the controls of a Lockheed L-1011-1 Tristar jet. On board were First Officer John Stockhill and aircraft engineer Donald Luis Repo. The main cabin held 10 flight attendants with the 163 passengers.
Two hours after departure, on the approach to Florida, the aircraft seemed to have an issue with the front nose gear. The signal inside the cockpit had not illuminated as it should have. Despite the crew’s attempts to lower the landing gear, the signal that it was down and locked failed to appear. Loft abandoned the landing and informed Air Traffic Control of the issue. ATC put the plane into a holding pattern over the Everglades.
Despite the crew’s effort, Flight 401 crash-landed into the Everglades at over 200 mph. The main fuselage broke into four main sections and many other smaller pieces on impact.
According to National Transportation Safety Board, 101 people perished in the accident. Captain Bob Loft survived the impact but was so severely injured that he died during the rescue efforts. Don Repo survived long enough to reach the hospital, but he also proved to be too badly injured.
Eastern Air Lines salvaged parts of the aircraft of Flight 401 from the crash site and re-used on other Tristar’s.
After the unfortunate event, stories circulated in the Eastern Air Lines community of the unexplained encounters with some of the crew from flight 401.
Flight crews and passengers on other similar aircraft reported sightings Bob Loft and Don Repo. All of the Tristar’s that have had these ghostly visits had parts from the Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-1011-1 Tristar.
One female passenger told an encounter with an ashen looking person sitting in one of the seats. The man seemed dazed and unresponsive so she called an attendant. However, the man disappeared before their eyes. When crew shown her photos of the flight staff, she picked out Don Repo.
Another incident happened few months later when a crew chatted with the captain onboard Tristar aircraft. The crew talked with him, not realising it was Bob Loft. Loft vanished before his eyes. The flight was later cancelled as the crew were too shaken to operate.
Some weeks later another captain was checking the instruments before a flight from Miami to Atlanta. Staring him right in the face, was the unmistakable outline of Repo’s face. The Captain claimed he distinctly heard the words “There will never be another crash on an L1011. We will not let it happen.”
Eastern Airlines denied any validity of the aircraft hauntings. Despite Eastern Airlines’ refutation to these ghostly sightings, it was decided that all salvaged parts from L-1011-1 be removed from the airplanes that borrowed them.
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