Ghost Fliers Of The Florida Sky: The Aircrew That Came Back From The Dead
The horrifying true story of how the victims of a fatal plane crash returned from the dead to warn future fliers of potential disaster. This ghost story is backed up by some very credible witnesses.
"You may unfasten your seatbelts." The indicator lights in the bulkheads about the passengers went out. At the rear of Eastern Airlines Tri-Star 318, stewardess Fay Merryweather left her seat near the emergency exit and went to the galley. There were less than two hours to serve the 180 sunseekers heading from New York to the holiday beaches of Florida.
In the galley, Fay reached for the handle of the oven door, and as she did so, she fell back, stunned, against the galley wall as though hit by an electric shock. Staring at her from the glass door of the oven was the face of a man.
The image wavered. Then the lips moved, but Fay heard nothing. Her hands were clasped, her mouth fell open, but somehow she stopped herself from screaming. It wasn't true, it wasn't true. It couldn't be!
Fay shut her eyes, then opened them. There was nothing there. She had imagined it. She took a deep breath and stepped back. The in-flight meals must be served. She leaned forward again towards the oven door, then reached for the handle.
There it was again, blurred at first, then forming solid lines. It was the same face. The mouth moved, the eyes blinked. A frown furrowed the brow, a look of urgency crossed the phantom face. Fay staggered from the galley, her brain swirling. You mustn't panic, she told herself. Was she sure of what she had seen? Do not alarm the passengers. The lessons of her training flooded through her head. She smoothed her skirt, swallowed a lungful of air, and walked as steadily as she could to the flight deck. Fay shook the flight engineer's shoulder. "Quick," she said, "there's a problem."
She gave him no time to think but strode back down the aisle towards the galley. The engineer followed, puzzled. At the door of the galley, Fay gripped his arm. She said it as matter-of-factly as she could.
"There's a ghost, a man's face. It's in the oven door."
The engineer stepped in front of the oven, leaned forward, and stared into a face he knew, the face of his Eastern Airlines former colleague, flight engineer Don Repo who had been dead for a year.
Then, beneath the whine of the Tri-Star engines, and just audible in the metallic cell that was the galley, a voice whispered, "Beware, beware. Fire in the jet." The words faded with the face.
Fay made the report in the unemotive words of unsuperstitious crew members who knew the dangers of the job and were too down-to-earth to believe in fantasies.
Neither she nor the flight engineer travelled in Tri-Star 318 again. Months later, the plane developed engine trouble on a flight to Mexico. It returned to New York for repairs and trials. As it took off for a routine test flight, an engine burst into flames.
At Washington's Flight Safety Foundation, records of the Federal Aviation Agency's report on the incident show that only luck and the skill of the flight maintenance crew got the plane down without loss of life. Packed with passengers, it could have been a disaster.
The startled aircrew of Tri-Star 318 was not the only Eastern Airlines Tri-Star staff to come face to face with one of the Ghost Fliers of the Florida Skies - spirits who haunted the airline's great planes to prevent horrors like the one that hurled them into limbo.
The story began on a warm autumn day in 1972 as the sun glittered on the patchy swamps of the Florida Everglades, and a soft, southern breeze gently bent the swamp grass.
In the sky above, Captain Bob Loft and Flight Engineer Don Repo were bringing their Lockheed L-1011 Tri-Star, flight 401 from New York to Miami, to the end of a routine journey. The 176 passengers were ready to fasten their seatbelts. The order to activate the undercarriage was carried out. Bob Loft studied the panel of instruments. Strange, the indicator light showed that nothing had happened. The nosewheel should have lowered and locked. But the small light which should have confirmed this had not come on.
Bob Loft put the aircraft onto a circling course and locked in the automatic pilot while Don Repo scrambled into an observation bay, from where he could see if the wheel was locked into position. Meanwhile, Loft decided to check the indicator light bulb for a fault. He swiveled around in his seat to reach the light cover. He took his eyes off the panels and the flight path in front of him as he tried to unscrew the bulb. As Loft twisted he had without knowing it, knocked off the automatic pilot switch. He was still fixing the light bulb when something made him lookup. Through the cockpit windscreen, there was the flash of glinting water speeding past. One glance told him the frightening message from the instrument panel, but there was no time to do or say anything. Flight 401 smashed into the swamps in a stream of flying water, mud, and vegetation. Bob Loft, Don Repo, and 97 other people died.
The plane was not entirely smashed. Some parts were hardly damaged. Seats and the galley in the rear of the plane were in sufficiently good condition to be salvaged. Accident inspectors sent them back to Lockheed, where they were reconstructed. Down on the factory assembly line, the parts were built into new Tri-Stars.
The galley was fitted into No 318.
Early in 1973, 318 was airborne and an Eastern Airlines vice-president flew in it, along with airline staff being ferried back as passengers from destinations where their duties had ended. Cabin staff had checked in an off-duty captain, who was sitting in the first-class compartment. The vice-president joined him. They chatted amiably for a while.
The captain suddenly turned and looked full face at the airline chief, who gasped. It was Bob Loft.
The vice-president dashed from his seat to seek help from the cabin staff. But when a stewardess returned with him, the seat was empty. The ghost fliers were riding the skies.
The next mysterious visitation occurred when a startled flight engineer stepped onto the flight deck to check the instruments before a routine Florida trip. A uniformed officer was already in his seat, and he turned to face the duty engineer. The face was unmistakably that of Don Repo. His voice said, "You don't have to check the instruments. I've already done that."
Weeks later an Eastern Airlines captain, aware of the flight engineer's report on the eerie cockpit incident, decided to check the instruments himself before taking off from Miami for Atlanta, Georgia. He ran through the checks, but staring at him from the face of the panel was the ghostly, wavering outline of Don Repo's face.
Then came words like a distant echo. "There will never be another crash on an L-1011. We will not let it happen."
One other captain saw the ghostly travellers of Easter Airlines, and a stewardess, sent to check smoke coming from a Tri-Star bulkhead during a flight, came face to face with the misty figure of dead pilot Bob Loft.
The Flight Safety Foundation has studied detailed reports of the ghost sightings. Liaison executive Doris Ahnstrom said, "The reports were given by experienced and trustworthy pilots and aircrew. We consider them significant." "The appearance of the dead flight engineer in the Tri-Star galley door was confirmed by the flight engineer. Later records at the Federal Aviation Agency record the fire which broke out on that same Tri-Star. We published reports of the ghost sightings in our safety bulletin issued to airlines in 1974."
The ghost appearances of the dead fliers ended after 18 months, following an amazing ceremony in the galley of the haunted jet, Tri-Star 318. A religious devotee, who was also a technical second officer with Eastern Airlines, was granted permission to hold an exorcism ceremony.
Aircrew, distressed by the increasing frequency of the apparitions, recited prayers. The officer sprinkled water in the galley and, as he did so, the anguished face of Don Repo stared despairingly at him.
This was the last time that the ghost fliers of the Florida skies were ever seen.
This ghost story is absolutely fascinating and is backed up by a lot of credible witnesses and was certainly taken seriously by the Flight Safety Foundation.
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