Eastern Air Lines Flight 21

Eastern Air Lines Flight 21

Infobox Airliner accident|name=Eastern Air Lines Flight 21
Date=February 26, 1941
Type=Controlled flight into terrain
Site=near Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Aircraft Type=Douglas DC-3
Operator=Eastern Air Lines
Tail Number=airreg|N|C28394|disaster

Eastern Air Lines Flight 21, registration NC28394, was a Douglas DC-3 aircraft that crashed while preparing to land at Candler Field (now Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport) in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 26, 1941. Sixteen of the 25 on board were killed. Among the injured was Eastern Air Lines president and World War I hero Eddie Rickenbacker.

Flight 21 departed New York City's LaGuardia Airport on the evening of February 26, stopping briefly at Washington Hoover Airport before departing at 9:05 PM Eastern Time for Atlanta. After Atlanta, it was scheduled to stop at New Orleans, Louisiana, and Houston, Texas, before ending its trip at Brownsville, Texas, on the morning of the 27th. At 11:38 PM Central Time, [Atlanta, Georgia was in the Central Time Zone as of the date of this accident.] the aircraft called the Eastern Air Lines operator in Atlanta [At the time of the accident, pilots generally communicated with en route air traffic control through a company radio operator. Most aircraft radios did not have the ability to receive and transmit over long distances, and there were few repeaters or other transmitters in between airports.] to advise that it had passed over the Stone Mountain reporting point and was descending. The operator provided the pilots with the altimeter setting for Candler Field and with the current weather. Flight 21 then contacted the Atlanta control tower twice, first to advise that it was making an approach and then to advise that the aircraft was over the Atlanta range station two miles southeast of the airport at an altitude of 1,800 feet. [The altitude of Candler Field was published as 985 feet.] Eastern's company operator then contacted the flight to suggest a straight-in approach; the aircraft acknowledged the transmission, but nothing further was heard. The wreckage was found in a pine grove five miles southeast of the Atlanta Range station just after 6:30 AM. Rescuers found a number of survivors still alive in the wreckage, including Eastern Air Lines President Eddie Rickenbacker, who had suffered numerous broken bones and an enucleated eyeball.

Investigators with the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), the predecessor of the NTSB, determined from the evidence at the site and the survivors' testimony that the aircraft had first struck the tops of three small pine trees while the aircraft was flying in a northerly direction. The lowest tree was struck at an elevation of 915 feet above sea level. Flight 21 then apparently continued across a small valley in the same direction in level flight for about 1500 feet before the right wing tip struck the top of a poplar and the aircraft crashed into a thick grove of pine trees. Captain Rickenbacker testified that he first felt a slight bump. At that point, he jumped from his seat and started to move toward the rear of the aircraft, but the aircraft crashed and he was thrown from his feet.

At the time of the accident, it was standard practice for each pilot to have two altimeters; one set to 29.92 inches of mercury and referred to during en route flight, and one used for instrument approaches and set to the altimeter setting of the airport the aircraft was about to land at. In this case, the captain's en route altimeter was set at 29.92 inches of mercury, but his instrument approach altimeter was set at 30.33 inches of mercury. The altimeter setting at Candler Field on the morning of February 26 was 28.94; this setting had been transmitted to the aircraft by Eastern Air Lines's company operator at 11:38 PM, but the captain's altimeter had not been set properly.

The CAB issued the following statement as to probable cause:

On the basis of the foregoing findings and the entire record available to us at this time, we find that the probable cause of the accident to NC 28394 (Eastern Air Lines Trip 21) on February 26, 1941, was the failure of the captain in charge of the flight to exercise the proper degree of care by not checking his altimeters to determine whether both were correctly set and properly functioning before commencing his landing approach. A substantial contributing factor was the absence of an established uniform cockpit procedure on Eastern Air Lines by which both the captain and pilot are required to make a complete check of the controls and instruments during landing operations.

ee also

*Air safety
*List of notable accidents and incidents on commercial aircraft


External links

* [http://dotlibrary1.specialcollection.net/scripts/ws.dll?file&fn=8&name=*P%3A%5CDOT%5Cairplane%20accidents%5Cwebsearch%5C022641.pdf Aircraft Accident Report on Flight 21] from the Department of Transport's Special Collections
* [http://planecrashinfo.com/1941/1941-6.htm Aircraft Accident Description for Flight 21] from planecrashinfo.com

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