What Was It Like On Board The United Plane That Almost Plunged Into The Pacific?

What Was It Like On Board The United Plane That Almost Plunged Into The Pacific?

News came out over the weekend about a United Airlines Boeing 777-200 that took off from Maui’s airport back on December 18 – and nearly dropping to the ocean. Despite flight 1722 to Maui climbing to 2,200 feet and then plunging to within 775 feet of impact, news of the incident had not been reported.

In addition to questions around what happened, whether it was wind shear in a significant storm or whether the pilots raised their flaps too far, and possibly became disoriented, there’s been mystery around why no one on the plane – out of more than 200 passengers – posted about the incident to social media.

Reader Nancy reports being on the flight.

My husband and I were on this flight sitting in the back of the aircraft. It happened soon after takeoff when we were all seated with seatbelts on. The plane dipped down and then up like a quick fall and recovery. While several people screamed, no one was injured and it was over quickly. We did not realize how close the plane got to the ocean. The rest of the flight was uneventful, so while it was scary, it ended up being a blip in the flight- though a memorable one.

A passenger on board would have felt a significant drop. It was heavy turbulence, enough to make “several people” scream. But passengers wouldn’t likely have known how close they came to hitting the ocean. Just a scary turbulence event with no injuries, with the entire rest of the flight normal, didn’t rate social shares – and it was over soon enough that likely no one got cabin footage.

On the other hand, one former pilot who reports being a passenger on the flight suggests he knew they’d be close to the water based on how soon they dropped after takeoff – but not that they were actually alarmed, instead that the experience was “subtle” and “sinking.”

Former pilot and I was on that flight on that day. Shortly after [takeoff] the pilot slightly retarded the engines. I noticed it but it was subtle. Then we started sinking. The aircraft did not nose over into a dive. It felt like we were hit with a downdraft. Many screamed and the crew increased thrust and recovered and climbed up to FL39 and smooth air. I normally don’t get too bothered by turbulence but I knew we were very close to the water having only been in the air for slightly more than a minute.

As with the recent near miss between Southwest Airlines and Fedex planes in Austin and between American and Delta jets at New York JFK, the United flight continued. As a result, the cockpit voice recorder was overwritten. These recordings refresh their content every two hours. There’s a movement currently to require voice recordings to retain 25 hours of data, but even this would only be phased in over a long period applying to new delivery aircraft first.

As a result we’re hampered in our ability to access evidence that would shed greater light on the event.

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