Here's Why United Jet Came Close to Hitting the Ocean

NTSB report blames 'miscommunication' between pilot, co-pilot
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 13, 2023 10:39 AM CST
Updated Aug 11, 2023 1:00 AM CDT
United Jet Had Scary 45-Second Dive
File photo of a United Airlines jet.   (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
UPDATE Aug 11, 2023 1:00 AM CDT

The National Transportation Safety Board has completed its investigation into a 2022 United Airlines flight that came within 748 feet of crashing into the Pacific Ocean, and NTSB investigators say pilot error was to blame, CNN reports. The incident started when the captain called for the Boeing 777's flaps, which are usually extended for takeoff and then retracted gradually as the plane climbs, to be reduced to a setting of 5. The first officer thought the captain had said 15, however, not 5, and the captain then started descending and decelerating out of concern that he would damage the flaps because they remained in an extended position. Alarms sounded, and the pilot pulled the plane out of its abrupt nosedive. The NTSB calls the problem "the flight crew's failure to manage the airplane's vertical flightpath" after the captain-first officer "miscommunication."

Feb 13, 2023 10:39 AM CST

A United Airlines passenger jet came close to plunging into the ocean after a scary dip being revealed by the Air Current. The incident, not previously reported, took place on Dec. 18 when United Airlines Flight 1722 took off from Maui en route to San Francisco. The Boeing 777 jet rose about 2,200 feet upon takeoff before going into a steep dive that took it roughly 775 feet from the ocean. The pilots then righted the plane, which continued on without further incident to its destination. All of that unfolded in about 45 seconds, with the flight path depicted here by Flightradar24.

No injuries were reported, and the cause of the dive isn't clear. However, weather might have been a factor. The jet took off in the afternoon during a Pacific storm, and another flight that same day also near Hawaii experienced severe turbulence that injured several passengers. A United spokesperson confirmed the dive and said the pilots filed reports internally and with the Federal Aviation Administration. The pilots then received "additional training" after an investigation, said the spokesperson. The FAA said it investigated and "took appropriate action" but didn't elaborate.

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A blog post at One Mile at a Time says this is only the latest in "a shocking number of near miss incidents" of late. The most surprising aspect, it adds, is that word of the dive hadn't previously surfaced on social media from the passengers on board. "One has to wonder if (for whatever reason) it just didn't feel that bad in the cabin, if everything just happened so quickly, or what?" the post notes. No mention of the incident came up in recordings between the pilots and air traffic controllers. The plane was inspected upon arrival in San Francisco and given the all-clear to fly again a few hours later to Chicago. (More United Airlines stories.)

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