Eastwind Airlines Flight 517 was a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Trenton-Mercer Airport in Trenton, New Jersey to Richmond International Airport in Richmond, Virginia. On June 9, 1996 the crew of the Boeing 737-200 operating the flight lost rudder control but was able to land successfully. Only one flight attendant suffered minor injuries. No damage occurred to the aircraft as a result of the incident.
The flight crew of the Boeing 737-200, Captain Brian Bishop and First Officer Spencer Griffin, experienced loss of rudder control while on approach to Richmond. The airplane's airspeed was about 250 knots (460 km/h; 290 mph) and it was flying at an altitude of about 4,000 feet (1,200 m) MSL at the time of the incident. The crew experienced unexpected movement of the rudder, causing the airplane to roll to the left. They applied opposite aileron input to keep the plane from rolling over and thirty seconds later the plane righted itself back to leveled flight. As the crew performed the emergency checklist, the plane again rolled over, this time to the right. After another thirty seconds, the plane snapped back to leveled flight. The crew declared an emergency and landed safely in Richmond. The resulting investigation of this incident would help to establish the cause of two earlier accidents involving 737's which had occurred several years prior, United Airlines Flight 585 (March 3, 1991) and USAir Flight 427 (September 8, 1994).
It was later reported that the airplane previously had problems with uncommanded rudder deflections. These reports consisted of "rudder bumps" during departure and a lack of proper trim.