An emergency slide from a Boeing 767 aircraft operated by United Airlines fell out of the sky and into a backyard of a Chicago home after becoming detached from the plane as it made its final approach to O’Hare International Airport on Monday afternoon.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is now investigating how the emergency slide became detached from the 24-year-old aircraft in the final minutes of United flight UA12 which had just flown across the Atlantic from Zurich, Switzerland.
Patrick Devitt, a resident in the building where the emergency slide fell, told local media that he heard a “loud boom” when the emergency slide hit the side of his home. The roof was slightly damaged by the slide, but no one was injured by the falling debris.
The emergency slide fell to the side of the building, but residents dragged the hefty debris into the street, where it was inspected by law enforcement and FAA investigators.
After landing, United maintenance personnel at O’Hare reported that an emergency slide was missing from the aircraft, prompting an internal investigation.
The emergency slide had not inflated when it detached from the aircraft, and it was still bundled up within its ‘pack’. Emergency slide packs are normally attached to the inside of the cabin door and, therefore, can’t just fall from the sky because the door is sealed shut.
The Boeing 767, however, has overwing emergency exits where the slide pack is built into the side of the aircraft fuselage. In the event of a malfunction, it is possible for the pack to become detached in flight.
In fact, although rare, similar incidents aren’t unheard of. In December 2019, a slide pack fell from a Delta-operated Boeing 767 in very similar circumstances on its final approach to Boston Logan Airport.
In a statement, a spokesperson for United said: “We immediately contacted the FAA and are working with our team to better understand the circumstances around this matter”.
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.