Eastern Air Lines Flight 304 Crashes

Eastern Air Lines Flight 304 was a Douglas DC-8 flying from New Orleans International Airport to Washington-National Airport that crashed on February 25, 1964. All 51 passengers and 7 crew were killed. Among the passengers killed was American opera singer and actor Kenneth Lee Spencer.

The airplane appeared to climb normally and the crew contacted the departure contoller who instruced them to contact New Orleans Center. At 02:03:15 the crew replied, "OK", this was the last transmission from the flight. During the climb the elevator moved to 2 degrees AND (airplane nose down), which is an abnormal flight condition. Climbing in clouds through 4,000 feet, the DC-8 encountered moderate and probably severe wind shear turbulence. In order to control the airplane under these conditions, the input of the controls probably introduced pilot induced oscillations (PIO) from which the pilot could not recover. Control was lost and the airplane struck the surface of Lake Pontchartrain at a dive angle in excess of 20-degrees. A possible factor was the attitude indicator, which was small with a solid black background and difficult to interpret at night. Also, the pitch indication of the attitude indicator was "geared-down" but not indexed as to degrees, making it more difficult to assess the exact attitude of the airplane.

February 25, 1964, Eastern Air Lines, Inc., Flight 3041 a DC-8, N8607, crashed in Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana, approximately 19 miles northeast of the New Orleans International Airport, at approximately 0205 c.s.t., February 25, 1964. All 51 passengers and the crew of seven were fatally injured. The flight, scheduled from Mexico City to New York City, with several intermediate stops, had just departed New Orleans at 0200.

Three minutes later the captain acknowledged a request to change radio frequencies, but no further communications were received from the flight. At 0205:40 the radar target associated with Flight 304 had disappeared from the scopes of both the radar controllers who were observing the flight. Moderate to severe turbulence existed in the area at the time of the accident. The Board determines the probable cause of this accident was the degradation of aircraft stability characteristics in turbulence, because of abnormal longitudinal trim component positions.