Eastern Air Lines Flight 855

On May 5, 1983, a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, registration N334EA, operating as Eastern Air Lines Flight 855 departed Miami International Airport at 08:56 on a short flight to Nassau International Airport in the Bahamas carrying 162 passengers and 10 crew
That morning Captain Richard Boddy (58), Captain Steve Thompson (48) and Flight Engineer Dudley Barnes (44) were the assigned crew. Captain Boddy had more than 12,000 hours of total flying experience, but was brand new to the Tristar, and undergoing his line check, having logged only 13 hours on aircraft type. Captain Thompson served as a supervisory check airman, and had 17,000 flight hours, with 282 hours in the L-1011. Flight Engineer Barnes with more than 9,000 hours of total flying time, with 2,666 hours of experience in the L-1011 cockpit.

Nineteen minutes after departure, at 09:15, Eastern 855 was descending through 15,000 feet, when the low oil pressure indicator on the number 2 engine illuminated. Flight Engineer Barnes noted that the #2 engine pressure was fluctuating between 15 and 25 psi. Minimum pressure required for normal engine operation was 30 psi. The captain ordered the flight engineer to shut down the engine, continuing on the remaining two engines.  

Now 50 miles from Nassau. The crew decided to turn back for Miami, receiving clearance, Flight 855 was then instructed by ATC to climb to FL200 for the return.

A few moments later, low oil pressure lights for engines #1 and #3 illuminated, with oil quantity gauges for all three of the Trisrtar’s engines reading zero. 09:23, Flight 855 informed Miami ARTCC of the engine gauge readings but, at the time, the crew interpreted the indications as faulty indications, since the possibility
of simultaneous zero oil pressure, and zero oil quantity on all three engines was highly improbable, and almost impossible.
At 09:28, while Eastern 855 was eastbound at an altitude of 16,000 feet, the #3 engine failed… and at 09:33, engine #1 flamed out as the crew was busy attempting to restart the #2 engine.
Cockpit instruments went dead, and the Cabin lights went off...
Now an unpowered glider aircraft, Eastern 855 continued its quiet descent at 1600 feet per minute from an altitude of 13,000 feet, until finally, only 4000 feet above the ocean waters,  the crew successfully restarted the #2 engine, and Eastern Airlines Flight 855 was able to finally arrest its descent. Continued on a single engine approach, Eastern 855 gently touched down at at 09:46 at Miami International Airport with all 172 passengers and crew accounted for.
For their exemplary actions, Captain Richard Boddy, Captain Steve Thompson and Flight Engineer Dudley Barnes were each presented with an Award for Outstanding Airmanship by the Airline Pilots Association.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the incident was as follows:

[T]he omission of all the O-ring seals on the master chip detector assemblies leading to the loss of lubrication and damage to the airplane's three engines as a result of the failure of mechanics to follow the established and proper procedures for the installation of master chip detectors in the engine lubrication system, the repeated failure of supervisory personnel to require mechanics to comply strictly with the prescribed installation procedures, and the failure of Eastern Air Lines management to assess adequately the significance of similar previous occurrences and to act effectively to institute corrective action. Contributing to the cause of the incident was the failure of Federal Aviation Administration maintenance inspectors to assess the significance of the incidents involving master chip detectors and to take effective surveillance and enforcement measures to prevent the recurrence of the incidents.

— NTSB Aircraft Accident Report AAR-84-04: Eastern Airlines, INC., Lockheed L-1011, N334EA
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1 comment

  • Felix. Murrin

    Worked the Caliente Electronic Warfare Training Range out of Nellis

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