Three American Airlines flight attendants were injured when they were lifted off their feet and thrown against the ceiling of a Boeing 757 galley when the aircraft suddenly dropped because of the “aggressive” control inputs of the Captain flying the airplane.
One of the three injured flight attendants suffered a compound arm fracture and had to be transported to the hospital with the other crew members after the aircraft safely landed at New York JFK.
Full details of the September 6, 2018, incident have only now been released after the NTSB published its full report into the accident on Thursday. The NTSB concluded that the probable cause of the accident was the “captain’s aggressive control inputs” which resulted in the flight attendant’s being injured.
After an otherwise uneventful flight, American Airlines flight AA279 from Edinburgh was descending towards New York JFK when the Captain adjusted the speed of the aircraft due to a plane further ahead.
With the autopilot still engaged, the aircraft pitched up as it tried to maintain altitude with a reduced throttle setting. A third pilot, known as an international relief officer, who was sat in the flight deck became concerned that the aircraft might stall so shouted out a warning to the Captain.
The Captain, a veteran aviator who joined the Air Force during the Vietnam War, said he “almost leaped out of his seat” when the third pilot shouted out the warning.
Although the Captain didn’t see an automated warning to suggest an imminent stall, he pushed up the power and “aggressively pitched down” which caused the flight attendants in the aft galley to be “thrown against the ceiling”.
The lead flight attendant told investigators that the Captain didn’t initially realize any crew had been injured and about 10-minutes after the incident called to see if it was okay to make his pre-landing announcement to the passengers. It was only at this point that he was told that three crew members had been injured and that ambulances would be required on arrival.
None of the 104 passengers onboard the aircraft at the time was injured.
One of the flight attendants who were in the aft galley at the time of the accident described how the “floor was removed from beneath our feet, and the veiling hit my head, followed by the rest of my body”.
“We were full on the ceiling,” the flight attendants’ testimony continued. “I could hear my coworkers and I screaming in pain. Then, I fell on the floor, once again hitting my head.”
The flight attendant who injured her wrist in the accident described how her “body slammed into the ceiling and then slammed back down onto the floor”.
“I could not move because of the pain, so I then laid on the floor during landing until the EMT’s transported me to the hospital”.
American Airlines has been contacted for comment.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.