Eastern Airlines Flight 66 Strikes Rockaway Boulevard
I was driving in my car and came to a red light on Rockaway Boulevard (which in this area runs along the perimeter of Kennedy Airport and intersects the approach path for Runway 22). It was pouring rain and all of a sudden - a big section of an airplane went tumbling across the road right ahead of me - coming from my left and tumbling across the road - coming to rest in a field just off the road to my right. I got out of my car and looked to the right and recognized what looked like the tail section of an aircraft. To my astonishment I could see passengers still strapped in their seats - hanging upside down - as the tail section of the plane had come to a rest inverted. I then looked to my left and saw body parts scattered all over, among pieces of wreckage from the rest of the aircraft. Seeing all of the body parts got me so sick that I started vomiting and then I passed out.
Eastern Air Lines Flight 66, a Boeing 727-225 with registration number N8845E, departed from New Orleans Moisant Field, bound for John F. Kennedy International Airport on the afternoon of June 24, 1975. The aircraft carried 124 persons aboard including 116 passengers and 8 crew.
As the aircraft was on its final approach into New York Kennedy at 4:05 p.m. EST, the crew entered into a microburst or wind shear environment caused by a severe thunderstorm. The aircraft continued its descent until it began striking the approach lights approximately 2,400 feet from the threshold of Runway 22L. After the initial impact the aircraft banked to the left and continued to strike the approach lights until it burst into flames and scattered the wreckage along Rockaway Boulevard, which runs around the perimeter of the airport. Of the 124 people onboard, 106 passengers and 6 crew members died. Ten passengers and 2 flight attendants, who were seated in the rear of the aircraft, survived. One surviving passenger died 9 days later from injuries sustained in the accident.
At the time, it was the deadliest plane crash in the history of the United States until the September 25, 1978 crash of PSA Flight 182 in San Diego.
American Basketball Association player Wendell Ladner was among those killed in the crash.
As the investigation progressed, it was found that 10 minutes prior to Flight 66 crashing, a Flying Tiger Line Douglas DC-8 cargo jet landing on Runway 22L reported tremendous wind shear on the ground. The pilot warned the tower of the fact but other aircraft continued to land. After the DC-8, an Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-1011 landing on the same runway nearly crashed. Two more aircraft landed prior to Flight 66. According to the conversation recorded by the Cockpit Voice Recorder, the Captain of Flight 66 was aware of reports of severe windshear on the final approach path (which he confirmed by radio to the Final Vector controller) but decided to press on nonetheless.