New Orleans, LA Lake Pontchartrain Airplane Crash, Feb 1964


No Survivors Found at Scene.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - An Eastern Air Lines four-engine jet carrying 58 persons on a flight from Mexico City to New York disappeared minutes after takeoff from a New Orleans stop today and crashed in Lake Pontchartrain.

There were no survivors.

The Coast Guard said it recovered parts of the wreckage including seats, communication equipment and soundproofing. Also recovered were clothing, luggage and what was described as parts of bodies.

Eastern said there were 51 passengers and a crew of seven. At least 32 of the passengers were making the through trip while at least 17 boarded in New Orleans. Fourteen were pass riding Eastern employees.

The plane was due to arrive in Atlanta at 3:59 a. m., leave there at 4:35 a. m., arrive at Dulles Airport in Washington at 5:33 a. m., leave there at 6:20 a. m. and arrive at Kennedy Airport in New York at 7:10 a. m.

The Coast Guard said parts of the debris, including insurance papers, were definitely linked with at least two passengers on the Eastern plane.

THE SPOKESMAN said one of its helicopter pilots over the wreckage area reported there were indications that the plane either exploded in the air or on impact. The debris was scattered over a wide area.

The spokesman said the site was about six miles south of the north shore of the lake, or some 20 miles north of New Orleans. It was about four miles east of the 27-mile-long Lake Pontchartrain Causeway connecting the north and south shores.

Eastern said the DC8, Flight 304, left New Orleans International Airport headed for Atlanta at 2:01 a. m. (CST) and disappeared from air traffic control tower radar nine minutes later. That was the last contact with it.

A VETERAN Eastern pilot said the jet probably reached a height of some 15,000 feet shortly after it got over the lake.

Lake Pontchartrain is some 30 miles in diameter, with its southern shore along one side of New Orleans. Marshy land surrounds much of the lake, which has an average depth of about 15 feet.

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airplane crash

It is very sad. When you look at the lake it is so peaceful. It's hard to imagine all the sorrow and pain.

I lost my Aunt Barbara on

I lost my Aunt Barbara on that flight. She was a 21 yr old flight attendant who had only been married 3 days.I never had the pleasure of meeting her because I was born 20 years after.

We lost a young family of four

This response may too dated for you to read, but this crash was a devastating blow to my mother and all of our family. Her sister, Maya and Maya's husband, Peter, with their children Gabrielle (2) and Timothy (1) were lost. I was 8 years old, and remember the sorrow. The family was returning to Pennsylvania from having lived for about a year in Mexico. Because so few bodies had been found, there was a memorial service for them initially. My grandfather was devastated at the thought of the search for bodies ending, and had said he was going to fund continuation of the search, but just before that, they found the four of them, identifiable only through their wedding rings, and the two babies, only because they were near the adults. They were among the very few to be found. They are buried together in Pennsylvania.
It is so heartbreaking to hear of a child who lost a father from that same crash -- so many tragedies that mark our lives. My thoughts go out to you, Robert, and your brother.

Richard C. Yoder , Kenneth Lee Spencer , Marie-Helene Lefaucheux

Y.5.2.2 Richard C. “Bobo” Yoder was born 17 December 1941 and died 25 February 1964 in a plane crash. Eastern Air Lines Flight 304 made news across the country. The four-engine DC8 jetliner, carrying 51 passengers and a crew of seven on a flight from Mexico City to New York, disappeared minutes after takeoff from a New Orleans stop and crashed in Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans. There had been no advance warning of trouble, and there were indications the plane had exploded in the air or on impact. The official report gave a breakdown of events:

The airplane appeared to climb normally and the crew contacted the departure controller who instructed them to contact New Orleans Center. At 02:03:15 the crew replied, “OK”, this was the last transmission from the flight. During the climb the elevator moved to 2 degrees AND (airplane nose down), which is an abnormal flight condition. Climbing in clouds through 4,000 feet, the DC-8 encountered moderate and probably severe wind shear turbulence. In order to control the airplane under these conditions, the input of the controls probably introduced pilot induced oscillations (PIO) from which the pilot could not recover. Control was lost and the airplane struck the surface of Lake Pontchartrain at a dive angle in excess of 20-degrees. A possible factor was the altitude indicator, which was small with a solid black background and difficult to interpret at night. Also, the pitch indication of the altitude indicator was “geared-down” but not indexed as to degrees, making it more difficult to assess the exact attitude of the airplane.8

The plane sank completely. Dragging operations began at daybreak amidst fog and rising wind. Lake Pontchartrain is roughly 30 miles in diameter, and its southern shore hugs one side of New Orleans. Much of it is marshland. Ultimately only a portion of the wreckage was recoverable, including seats and communication equipment, along with clothing and bits of bodies. The wreckage covered a widespread area centered six miles south of the north shore of the lake and about four miles east of the Lake Pontchartrain causeway. Everyone on board perished. The probable cause of the crash was reported as the “degradation of aircraft stability characteristics in turbulence, because of abnormal longitudinal trim component positions. (CAB report File No. 1-0006)”9

One of the passengers killed in the crash of Flight 304 was celebrated American opera singer and actor Kenneth Lee Spencer, whose movies included Cabin in the Sky and whose portrayal of Joe in the 1946 Broadway revival of Show Boat had been much acclaimed. Also on board was Mrs. Marie-Hélène (Pierre) Lefaucheux. Ms. Lefaucheux was a member of the French delegation to the United Nations and had been a member of the French Resistance during WWII, where she took part in setting up programs to assist prisoners of concentration camps. She was one of the fifteen founding members of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, established in 1946 as a mechanism to promote and monitor issues relating to the rights of women. A number of children had also been traveling on Flight 304 when it went down. Richard C. Yoder, recorded as of Villa Park, Illinois, was on the list of the dead. It is not known for what reason he was traveling on that fateful flight.

History of Marie Helene Postel-Vinay alias Mrs Pierre Lefaucheux

(Mrs Pierre Lefaucheux) = (Marie-Hélène Postel-Vinay)

Pierre Lefaucheux had been arrested by the Gestapo during World War II and was rescued by Marie-Hélène Postel-Vinay whom he subsequently married and by whom he was ultimately survived.

Together, Pierre and Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux became prominent members of the Resistance. Mrs. Lefaucheux later became a Member of the first Constituent Assembly (Aisne) of France, Counsel for the Republic elected by the National Assembly from 1946 to 1947, member of the French delegation to the United Nations. She was one of the fifteen founding members of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Her role in the Liberation of France was paraphrased in the 1966 Film Is Paris Burning. Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux died in the 1964 New Orleans crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 304.

Plance Crash

I had a brother-in-law who was a volunteer diver back then looking for wreckage. Amazingly little was found. The lake bed is very silty and only about 15 feet deep on average. Anything falling from 15,000 feet would have easily sank into the mud.

Plane Crash

Very sorry to read that. I grew up in Mandeville, the north shore town closest to where that plane went down. I was only two when it happened.

Was the plain ever found?

Was the plain ever found?

My father died on that plane.

My father, Jack K. Bowler died on that plane. I was only five years old when my father's plane crashed. My father left behind me and my brother Ralph. We are his twin sons. Unfortunately because we were only five years old when our father died, we have no memories of him. But we mourn his loss every day! From what I know of about my father, he was a hard worker, very intelligent and a good man. We his son, will be eternally sad over his loss!

Robert Bowler