On the evening of Friday, December 29, 1971, Eastern Airline Flight 401 carried 176 people as it approached USA’s Miami airport. At the controls of the L-1011 jumbo jet Captain Bob Loft and Second Officer Don Repo were engaged in routine touchdown procedures when a warning light flashed on the control panel, indicating a problem with the landing gear. The plane sank lower and lower until finally it slammed into the swamps of the Florida Everglades. Rescuers arrived moments later, but 101 of the passengers and crew perished in the tragedy. Both Loft and Repo survived the initial impact, but they were seriously injured. Loft died before he could be pulled from the tangled wreckage and, just over a day later, Repo succumbed.
Eastern Airlines salvaged many parts of the stricken jet and redistributed them among similar aircraft in their fleet. And not long afterwards reports of ghostly haunting began to circulate. Most apparitions on these aircraft were observed by Eastern crew members, especially those on one particular plane of the airline’s fleet. Repo’s ghost appeared frequently, both in the cockpit and in the galley where attendants prepared meals. He seemed to be overly concerned with flight safety and on one occasion repaired a faulty oven circuit. On other occasions he pointed out a potential fire hazard and a hydraulic leak.
|Ghosts of Flight 401 (Unsolved Mysteries Series) (Unsolved Mysteries (Raintree Paperback))|
Loft’s ghost was also seen sitting in first class or the crew cabin. A stewardess once asked Loft why his name was not on her passenger manifest. Receiving no reply, she reported the incident to her flight captain. He recognized Loft, who immediately disappeared!
The airline management was understandably skeptical of such sightings and suggested that employees seek psychiatric counseling at the company’s expense. Eventually the stories were turned into a bestselling book, The Ghost of Flight 401, by veteran newspaper reporter John G. Fuller. And, ghosts or no ghosts, Eastern was forced to remove the salvaged parts of the ill-fated Flight 401 and take them out of active service.