UNITED STATES: An apparent near-crash and previously unreported safety incident occurred on a United flight from Maui to San Francisco in December when it dropped to less than 800 feet above the Pacific Ocean shortly after takeoff. This information was made public by the airline industry publication The Air Current.
According to an examination of flight monitoring data, the Boeing 777-200 started a steep dive. It descended at a rate of about 8,600 feet per minute after reaching an altitude of about 2,200 feet. After dropping below 775 feet, the plane recovered altitude and continued to San Francisco without incident.
The incident occurred amid a downpour that lasted less than 45 seconds, and was unmentioned in the records of radio calls to an air traffic control that The Air Current examined.
Josh Freed, a United spokesperson, said in a statement about the incident that United “closely coordinated with the [Federal Aviation Administration] and [Air Line Pilots Association, International] on an investigation that ultimately resulted in the pilots receiving additional training. Safety remains our highest priority.”
The pilots had “completely cooperated” with the investigation and had 25,000 hours of flight experience between them.
The United flight’s narrow escape occurred during a difficult time for the US airline sector. Also in December, “severe turbulence” occurred when a Hawaiian Airlines flight descended towards Honolulu. On that aircraft, at least 36 people suffered injuries, 20 of whom were brought to the hospital, and 11 were listed in critical condition.
Later, the storm system in question would bring a big winter storm to the US mainland, which caused Southwest Airlines to go bankrupt, cancel thousands of flights, and leave people stranded over Christmas.
The National Transportation Safety Board has also investigated two recent significant safety accidents. At John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in January, two aircraft nearly collided when an American Airlines plane crossed the runway in front of a Delta plane about to take off. According to a statement released by the NTSB last week, the American Airlines pilots involved in that instance have declined to participate in recorded interviews. They have been served with subpoenas to compel them to testify.
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