Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Ghosts of Flight 401


Much has been written about Eastern Airlines Flight 401 that crashed in the Florida Everglades in December of 1972. Every time I encounter this story chills run up and down my spine. The reason for this is because this story is about ghosts that were seen multiple times by people who knew them before they died. What is even more impressive is these hauntings were well documented despite an attempted cover-up.
A TriStar  L-1011
When this wide-body L-1011 jet crashed it killed 101 people. 77 people survived the crash. All but 17 of the surviving passengers and crew sustained major injuries. Among the dead were the pilot Robert ‘Bob’ Loft and the flight engineer Donald ‘Don’ Repo. Two of the ten female flight attendants perished as well. The crash happened as the plane neared its destination-- Miami International Airport.

After the crash it was determined the cause was the flight crews’ failure to recognize that the autopilot, which kept them on course at 2000 feet, had been accidentally bumped and deactivated. When this happened the flight crew were busy troubleshooting a malfunction in the landing gear. So when the plane gradually lost altitude they were preoccupied and failed to notice the alert sound their flight instrument made, which indicated they had dropped 200 feet warning them to correct their altitude. 

It was at night and they were flying over the Everglades where there were no ground lights or visual clues to warn them they were descending into the swamp. When they realized what was happening it was too late to do anything about it.

Two books have been written about Flight 401 and two films were produced but the crash wasn’t their main focus, what they focused upon instead was what happened in the months after the crash.

For a year and a half after Flight 401 went down, both crew members and passengers reported seeing the deceased Captain Robert Loft and the deceased flight engineer Donald Repo on other L-1011 flights. Most believe their presence was a result of the fact that Eastern Airlines in order to save money used salvaged parts from this crashed plane. They put these spare parts in other L-1011’s. It was on these planes with the salvaged parts that the hauntings most frequently occurred.


Bob Loft
Many of the witnesses who saw the ghosts were crewmembers who recognized Loft and Repo because they had known them when they were alive.There were so many sighting that the 1974 Flight Safety Foundation’s newsletter published information about it. 

The Flight Safety Foundation, to whom the sightings had been reported wrote, “The reports were given by experienced and trustworthy pilots and crew. We consider them significant. The appearance of the dead Flight Engineer (Repo)…was confirmed by the Flight Engineer.”

Eastern Airlines always refused to discuss the topic and at one point they threatened to sue the producers of the film ‘The Ghost of Flight 401’ for defamation. The reports from their employees became so prevalent they told them they could face dismissal if they were caught talking about the ghostly sightings. It is interesting to note here that even though Eastern publicly denied their planes were haunted they quietly removed all the salvaged parts from their L-1011 fleet.

Today, Eastern Airlines no longer exists.

The witnesses who saw the apparitions of Loft and Repo described them as very lifelike. These two ghosts did more than just appear they often spoke or conversed with the living. Several Eastern Airline crew members described in vivid detail their encounters with the ghosts of Loft or Repo. 

These witnesses included: pilots, flight officers, and even ironically the vice-president of Eastern Airlines. This executive started a conversation with an officer sitting in first class. He believed this officer was the captain in charge of the Miami bound flight he was on. But he realized as he watched this man vanish into thin air that it was actually Loft who he had been conversing with.

Most of the sightings were corroborated because there were multiple witnesses. One account is of a captain and two flight attendants who reported seeing and speaking to Loft just before take off, he then vanished before their eyes. This shook them up so much they cancelled the flight. 

Another multiple sighting occurred when a woman passenger reported her concern to a flight attendant that the man sitting next to her wearing a Eastern Airlines uniform was pale and unresponsive. This same man disappeared in front of her, the flight attendant, and several other passengers, a full report was written about this incident because the woman passenger went into hysterics and had to be calmed down. When shown a photo of Repo later this female passenger identified him as the uniformed man who had been sitting next to her.

Don Repo
One crewmember who saw Repo was a flight engineer who was doing his routine pre-flight inspection on a L-1011 that had salvaged parts from Flight 401. Repo appeared in front of him and stated, “You don’t need to worry about the pre-flight, I’ve already done it.” On another flight a captain reported that Repo had appeared before him and assured him, “There will never be another crash. We will not let it happen.” The ghosts of Loft and Repo were never witnessed on the same flights.

Both these ghosts took a hands-on role when they appeared. Repo was the more active of the two. On one occasion a flight attendant spotted a flight engineer fixing the galley oven. When she later approached the flight engineer he stated he had not fixed the oven and that there had not been another engineer on board. This mysterious engineer was identified as Repo. On another occasion Repo was seen by a flight engineer who was investigating the compartment below the cockpit because he had heard knocks which led him to find an unknown problem.

Repo was seen yet again in another plane’s galley when a flight attendant spotted his reflection looking out at her from the galley oven. This plane’s galley had salvaged parts from Flight 401. Alarmed at the sight, this flight attendant fetched two of her colleagues, one was a flight engineer who had been a friend of Repos and recognized him. All three witnesses heard Repo state, “Watch out for fire on this airplane.” The records show the plane did have serious engine trouble, a fire did break out and the last leg of its journey was cancelled.

Today, it is believed that if Eastern had not put a stop to their employees discussing these hauntings that even more witnesses would have come forward. Loft and Repo were not the only ghosts spotted on L-1011’s after the crash of Flight 401, the two flight attendants who perished in the crash were also seen…

Recovery crews sent to retrieve the various parts of the crashed plan also reported seeing and hearing strange things in the swamp.

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