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Eastern Airlines Flight 980 Flight Recorders Found 31 Years Later

We started out this trip with the goal of finding the black box — the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder — of Eastern Airlines Flight 980. We also had a goal to live a life of adventure, to challenge ourselves physically and mentally, and to come back with a story. We found what we believe to be the flight recorders. ( More...

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sparkie624 3
The news says they do not expect much info from the FDR, but will be interesting what shows up. Back those were on metal tape and was physically marked, so if they have the tape it should be readable... If there is anyone still around that can read the tape. This is quite old technology and only tracked a couple dozen parameters unlike the ones we have today that almost tracks everything and even maintains a data sync to the CVR.
william baker 2
The last I heard there was four or five people that could read those tapes. I even think the manufacture should be able to read them as well.
BajanBaron 1
If the over 30 years of weathering , the data hasnt been erased or convoluted and the hikers have collected enough important pieces from the FDR( i hadnt read about the CVR) , the NTSB will be able to recover the data. It is an amazing agency. On of the few VERY efficient government agencies that actually work as published extremely well. Lol.
sparkie624 1
I only heard of the FDR being found and it uses metal tape... Other than rust, it should be ok, but at that altitude that is probably not a problem. As for the CVR it using magnetic tap that is cycled through time and time again and in good shape is not reliable. If they recover it, it probably will not have much that is intelligible.
I would be very surprised if any data of use could still be gathered from the recorders after so long, especially one of that era which I doubt will have done well in the elements for 30+ years, but very cool that they found them. I do wonder, back in 1985 did they not mount a second attempt to recover anything come summer, or was it economically infeasible to attempt so at that time?
Allan Bowman 2
I not so patiently await the day that airline send important data via satellite thereby providing their positions and critical information. The concept that they don't even have a 407 ELT capable of positions is just plain unacceptable.
ken young 2
I did not remember this incident. I would hope that some fragments of information can be recovered.
LarryQB 2
This accident was of intense interest to me. I'd worked for Braniff for a number of years flying the South American routes. When Eastern bought them from Braniff we thought Eastern would hire Braniff pilots to fly the route, however Eastern's ALPA said "we don't need any Braniff pilots." Shortly after that Braniff went into bankruptcy and shut down. In the process of looking for a new job I wrote Frank Bormann (then president of Eastern) a letter proposing that since I was familiar with the routes his company should hire me to teach his pilots how to fly in South America, keep anyone from getting hurt, and learn the routes they could fly VFR. Bear in mind at this point Braniff had never lost an airplane in the Latin American Division. To my surprise he wrote back "good idea" and forwarded my thoughts to his VP in charge of the route startup. A week later I got a letter from said VP saying "no thanks, we have all the written notes we need from your ex-Chief Pilot." Within a year Eastern unsuccessfully tried to drill a hole through a mountain on the way into LaPaz with the nose of a 727 thus killing a Flight Attendant friend of mine. One difference between Braniff and Eastern was we had pilots who were dedicated to the Latin American Division whereas Eastern just used line pilots. Time went by, and my new employer American Airlines bought the routes from Eastern when Eastern went out of business. Guess who thought we didn't need any Eastern pilots.
chalet 1
When Braniff took over Pan American Grace Airways -PANAGRA- an extremely safety-minded airline in 1Q 1967, they kept most of the flying crews as they have been flying the South American routes since the 1940s even though Braniff itself had also been flying the same routes since the 1950s. Shortly after Eastern replaced Braniff I got talking to Eastern country manager who told me that the Eastern pilots did not make any familiarization flights -no passengers-, they were just shown some pictures of the most difficult airports in the network, i.e. Quito, La Paz and Cali, and that was it.
Just as well, a whole bunch of them were scabs!
Joseph Cooney 2
What a fascinating find. Hopefully the tape will reveal usable info. Doubtful but hopeful.
sparkie624 2
Keep in mind that Metal tape may rust, but the FDR actually scribes the data into the metal. Unless it is mutilated it should survive!
O P Anthony 2
My name is Olney Anthony FDR 980 I calibrated UDC Flight recorders for Mohawk airlines in the 60's I have a plastic overlay for foil tapes for quick reading of tape info Interested ?? [email protected] Retired American Airlines Quality assurance.
sparkie624 1
That may be all they need...
O P Anthony 1
Comment 980 FDR Inconel steel tape won't rust. 7 parameter scribed indent on tape surface The tape was enclosed in an impact proof cartridge. should survive almost any accident.
Dan Futrell 1
Hey guys - thanks for the comments here. Dan from Operation Thonapa here.

In response to Scott Campbell - yes definitely CFIT, but there's a lack of clarity around the whole event. The plane was on the wrong side of Illimani when told by ATC to descend to 18k feet, after having traveled 26 degrees too far west after passing checkpoint Dakon. Potentially weather caused this, or potentially they didn't realize they were off course. If there is voice recording on the tape, these are the kinds of things that I'm sure family members would love to know, even if it has no bearing on safety from 2016 and beyond.
The large forging they found is the landing gear support beam for one of the main landing gears. The rear trunion of the gear mounted on a ball fitting. The thinner end mounted to the rear spar and the inboard end mounted on a large "H" link, also all the rear spar cables ran through this piece at a cut out in the beam. I helped change a lot of these at the "OLD" real Eastern Air Lines in the 70's.
art thompson 1
Flying into the ground at high speed is not recommended.
It was unfortunate that Frank Lorenzo was not on board at the time.
The devil protects his own!
sparkie624 1
I tend to agree with you, it is certainly bad for your health, but wish someone was on the plane... Sorry I can agree with that for anyone.
"We still hope that this trip might provide some answers"

I'm not sure any are still needed, it would be nice if the tapes are good, but it wont
have a major effect on future safety, it may have then ...
It's still clear that Controlled Flight Into Terrain is the answer.
sparkie624 4
If they find something conclusive they may be able to change to CFIT to either Engines or Flight Controls.... May not make too much difference today as there are not many 727's in current service in the US, but there are a number in 3rd world countries.


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