Narrative:Eastern Air Lines (EAL) Flight 304 originated in Mexico City and had intermediate stops scheduled at New Orleans, Atlanta, and Washington prior to the destination of New York City. The DC-8 arrived at Mexico City at 22:12 on February 24, 1964. The captain of the inbound crew reported that "...the only exception to normality was that the PTC (pitch trim compensator) was inoperative, with a fix scheduled for the next morning at Kennedy Airport." An IFR flight plan for New Orleans was filed with a reduced airspeed, in accordance with company procedures for dispatch under these conditions. The airplane landed at New Orleans at 00:51. Takeoff from New Orleans was commenced at 01:59. The airplane appeared to climb normally and the crew contacted the departure controller who instructed 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.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "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." (CAB report File No. 1-0006)
Loss of control
» ICAO Aircraft Accident Digest No.16, Circular 82-AN/69 (39-60)
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 New Orleans International Airport, LA to Washington-Dulles International Airport, DC as the crow flies is 1526 km (954 miles).