Eastern Air Lines Flight 304
Douglas DC-8-21 N8608 EAL MIA 19.10.70 edited-3.jpg
A Douglas DC-8 of Eastern Air Lines, similar to the aircraft involved in the accident
DateFebruary 25, 1964
SummaryPitch Trim Failure
SiteLake Pontchartrain, near New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Aircraft typeDouglas DC-8
OperatorEastern Air Lines
Flight originMexico City International Airport
1st stopoverNew Orleans International Airport
2nd stopoverAtlanta International Airport
3rd stopoverDulles International Airport
DestinationJohn F. Kennedy International Airport

Eastern Air Lines Flight 304, a Douglas DC-8 flying from New Orleans International Airport to Washington Dulles International Airport, crashed on February 25, 1964. All 51 passengers and 7 crew were killed. Among the dead were American singer and actor Kenneth Spencer and Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux, a women's and human rights activist and member of the French delegation to the United Nations.

Sequence of events

Flight 304 left New Orleans International Airport for Atlanta at 2:01 a.m. Central Standard Time on the second leg of a flight from Mexico City to New York City, with intermediate stops at New Orleans, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. The aircraft disappeared from radar nine minutes after takeoff, at 2:10 a.m. Good visibility and calm winds prevailed at the time of the accident, although light rain was also falling. The Coast Guard and other searchers spotted wreckage hours later around dawn in Lake Pontchartrain, about 20 miles (32 km) northeast of New Orleans.[2][3]


The subsequent investigation concluded that the jet crashed into Lake Pontchartrain en route due to "degradation of aircraft stability characteristics in turbulence, because of abnormal longitudinal trim component positions."[4]

At least 32 of the passengers were making the through trip. Fourteen got on in New Orleans, while 14 were pass-riding Eastern employees. The four-engined plane, capable of carrying 126 passengers, was due in Atlanta at 3:59 a.m., at Dulles Airport in Washington at 5:53 a.m. and at Kennedy Airport in New York at 7:10 a.m.

The victims included Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux, a member of the French delegation to the United Nations, who was active in women's and human rights activities of the world body. The pilot...with Eastern 21 years, had flown over five million miles. The co-pilot...had almost two million miles on his flight log.

Coast Guard recovered parts of the wreckage, clothing, luggage and what was described as bits of bodies from a wide spread area centered 6 miles (10 km) south of the north shore of the lake and about 4 miles (6 km) east of the 23-mile (37 km)-long Lake Pontchartrain causeway. A [United States] Coast Guard pilot said there were indications that the plane had exploded either in the air or on impact. Eastern said that the crew had made the routine checks after take-off and that no alarm had been given. An experienced Eastern pilot said the jet had probably reached a height of 16,000 feet shortly after it had got over the lake.

— February 26, 1964, in The New York Times

The water was only 20 feet (6 m) deep, yet only 60 percent of the wreckage was recovered because the breakup was so extensive.

The flight data recorder tape was too damaged to help the investigation. Instead, investigators used the maintenance records of the crashed aircraft and of other DC-8s, to conclude that the pilots had trimmed the horizontal stabilizer to the full nose-down position, to counter the excessive nose-up attitude that, in turn, was caused by a malfunctioning pitch trim compensator that had extended too far. Once the upset occurred, it was not possible to trim the horizontal stabilizer back to the nose-up position, because of the severe G-forces generated by the crew's pulling back on the yoke after the upset.[2]


American singer Kenneth Spencer was also killed in the crash.

See also


  1. ^ "FAA Registry (N8607)". Federal Aviation Administration.
  2. ^ a b "Aircraft Accident Report: Eastern Airlines, Inc., Douglas DC-8, N8607, New Orleans, Louisiana, February 25, 1964" (PDF). Civil Aeronautics Board. June 27, 1966. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  3. ^ "58 ON JET KILLED IN CRASH IN LAKE AT NEW ORLEANS". The New York Times. February 26, 1964. Retrieved September 7, 2022.
  4. ^ Haines, Edgar (2000), Disaster in the Air, New York: Cornwall Books, p. 157, ISBN 0-8453-4777-2