Two United Airlines pilots were sent for additional training after the Boeing 777-200 that they were at the controls of plunged around 1,425 feet within seconds just after takeoff from Maui Airport late last year, the airline has confirmed.
The San Francisco-bound plane came within just 775 feet of the Pacific Ocean, according to data first unearthed and reported by The Air Current. At one point, the aircraft was plunging at a rate of more than 8,000 feet per minute.
The worrying incident was immediately reported to the airline and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), who both opened investigations. The cause of the incident has not yet been revealed, although there was heavy rain and low clouds in the region at the time.
United Airlines flight UA1772 departed Maui Airport at around 2:49 pm on December 18 and initially climbed to 2,200 feet before suddenly launching into a dive towards the ocean.
Data provided by Flight Radar 24, however, appears to suggest that the whole incident was over in less than 45 seconds, and the aircraft quickly recovered, climbing to a normal altitude and making a safe flight to San Francisco.
There are currently no public eyewitness accounts of the incident from passengers on the flight.
Confirming the incident, however, a spokesperson for the Chicago-based airline said both pilots had ben sent for additional training in relation to what happened on December 18.
In a statement, the airline said it “closely coordinated” with the FAA and the ALPA pilots union on an investigation that “ultimately resulted in the pilots receiving additional training.”
United said, “safety remains our highest priority”.
The incident is eerily similar to an apparent near-miss last month in which a Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner launched into a steep dive shortly after takeoff from Doha Hamad International Airport.
In that incident, the aircraft reached a descent speed of 3,000 feet per minute, and according to data supplied by Flight Radar 24, the aircraft got within 800 feet of the Persian Gulf before the aircraft was brought back to safety.
The pilots, however, reportedly didn’t immediately report the incident and an investigation was only launched after details of the frightening near-miss were leaked.
Initial reports suggest the deep descent started when the First Officer, who was at the controls at the time, lost situational awareness. Qatar Airways says it has started an investigation.
U.S. aviation safety has come under the spotlight in recent weeks after a succession of apparent near misses. Last month, an American Airlines Boeing 777 accidentally entered an active runway at New York JFK while a Delta Air Boeing 737 was taking off.
And earlier this month, a FedEx Express plane nearly landed on top of a Southwest Boeing 737 at Austin Airport after the pilots were giving to clearance to land while the Southwest aircraft was still taking off from the same runway.
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.