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Accident description
Last updated: 17 November 2017
Status:Final
Date:Thursday 3 April 1941
Time:09:07
Type:Silhouette image of generic DC3 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Douglas DC-3-201B
Operator:Eastern Air Lines
Registration: NC21727
C/n / msn: 2143
First flight: 1939
Crew:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 3
Passengers:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 13
Total:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 16
Airplane damage: Damaged beyond repair
Location:18 km (11.3 mls) WSW of Vero Beach, FL (   United States of America)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:West Palm Beach-Morrison Field, FL (PBI/KPBI), United States of America
Destination airport:Jacksonville Municipal Airport, FL, United States of America
Flightnumber:Trip 14
Narrative:
Eastern Air Lines Trip 14 departed Miami, Florida about 07:45 hours on a flight to Jacksonville, Florida, with Savannah, Georgia as an alternate with an en route stop at West Palm Beach, Florida.
Trip 14 departed from the ramp at West Palm Beach at 08:16 and took off at 08:20. Following the take-off the airplane had climbed to an altitude of 3000 feet and the flight proceeded toward Daytona Beach.
Another flight, Eastern Trip 10, was flying near Vero Beach, Florida when it encountered severe turbulence. The crew relayed a message to Trip 14 to stay out of that area.
Trip 14 then began circling about 15 miles north of West Palm Beach, awaiting a further report from Trip 10. After Trip 10 had passed Vero Beach, Trip 14 continued towards Daytona Beach, while trying to stay on top of the clouds.
The flight suddenly encountered very turbulent air and then a violent updraft, and while they were in this the air speed dropped back to about 100 m.p.h. while the rate of climb indicator showed an ascent close to 1000 feet per minute. Upon reaching an altitude of-approximately 4000 feet, the air became smooth and the ascent was stopped. The pilot stated that at this time he started to make a flat turn to the left in an effort to get out of the storm and that while he was making this turn, the First Officer lowered the landing gear. According to the captain's testimony the airplane, before starting the left turn was on an initial heading of 340 degrees and when the turn had progressed to 240 degrees he tried to "straighten out the turn", but the airplane continued to turn and his efforts to stop the turn were of no avail. The (directional) gyro indicated that the turn continued until the airplane was headed due north thus making almost a complete circle. The captain stated that after the turn had been stopped the air became extremely turbulent and since he was fully occupied with the control wheel, he requested the first officer to handle the throttle. While in this turbulent air according to the captain's account, the left wing went down, and remained down even though full opposite aileron was used. The captain said that he reached for the throttle in order to apply power to the left engine in an effort to bring the wing up, but that before he could apply power the left wing came up and the right wing went down. He testified that on bringing the airplane to a level attitude the power was reduced due to the violence of the turbulence and with this reduced power the airspeed meter indicated about 130 m.p.h.
The captain although not able to reconstruct the exact sequence of events from this point on was of the opinion that they encountered three updrafts and three downdrafts. The highest altimeter reading he recalled was approximately 4500 feet. The captain testified that there "was an extremely strong rotary pressure while in the updrafts" and that the airplane had a tendency to turn to the left in a flat attitude During these flat turns the (directional) gyro indicated that the heading of the airplane changed more than 180 degrees.
The captain testified that during the third and last downdraft they broke out of the overcast. As they broke into the clear, according to his testimony, the airspeed was between 190 and 200 m.p.h. and he had the control wheel fairly well back and was using a normal amount of power in an effort to hold altitude.
Not long afterwards, the aircraft struck the surface of a swamp.

Crashed into flat waters during a storm. The 13 passengers and the three crew members suffered injuries.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE:
Upon the basis of the foregoing findings and of the entire record available at this time we find that the probable cause of the accident to NC 21727 (Eastern Air Lines Trip 14) on April 3, 1941, was loss of control of the airplane while being operated on instruments and while encountering severe turbulence in a line squall, the existence of which the carrier's ground personnel had failed to make known to the captain.

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS:
1. Failure of carrier to provide an adequate dispatching system with a number of trained dispatchers on Route 6 to keep in constant contact with flights in order to provide them with current and accurate flight information.
2. Failure of carrier's West Palm Beach ground station to transmit to Trip 14 the full text of the message received from Trip 10 at 8:32 A.M.
3. Failure of carrier's meteorologist to make a more thorough analysis of weather conditions and issue a supplementary forecast to that originally issued for the operation of trip 14.
4. Although as we have previously stated it is impossible to reach a definite conclusion as to the degree of severity of the problem presented to the pilot it appears very possible that the handicap of the captain's limited experience in flying transport aircraft under conditions of severe turbulence was a factor contributing to the occurrence of the accident.

Accident investigation:
cover
Investigating agency: CAB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 232 days (8 months)
Accident number: File No. 1325-41
Download report: Final report

Classification:
Turbulence
Loss of control

Sources:
» Herald-Journal - Apr 5, 1941


Photos

photo of Douglas DC-3-201B NC21727
photo of Douglas DC-3-201B NC21727
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Map
This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from West Palm Beach-Morrison Field, FL to Jacksonville Municipal Airport, FL as the crow flies is 439 km (275 miles).

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Networks opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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