A United flight out of Maui, bound for SFO, took a steep dive during inclement weather, right after takeoff, and came within about 700 feet of the Pacific, according to a newly discovered report.
It seems very strange that, in this time we're living in when even the most minor of airplane incidents gets recorded and spread around social media, that there doesn't seem to be any social media evidence of this dramatic December 18 flight out of Maui. We're only learning about it now because of a filing made by the pilots with the FAA, as part of the airline's voluntary safety reporting program.
As The Air Current reports, United flight 1722 took off from Maui at 2:49 p.m. local time and initially climbed to 2,200 feet before beginning a steep dive for about 20 seconds, going down at an alarming rate of 8,600 feet per minute. The plane dipped below 775 feet, according to the report, before recovering and climbing again — and there appears to be no radio evidence or communication with air traffic control about the incident.
But the passengers surely went on one hell of a ride, with The Air Current saying they would have felt forces of "nearly 2.7 times the force of gravity."
Perhaps the rough weather, and the brevity of the incident just left people feeling like they'd experienced a rough takeoff — and the plane later landed at SFO 27 minutes early.
The Boeing 777 aircraft was inspected on landing, after the pilots filed their report, and it was not found to be damaged and continued on to Chicago on its next flight two and a half hours later.
United put out a statement saying that after the incident report, the company "closely coordinated with the FAA and ALPA on an investigation that ultimately resulted in the pilots receiving additional training." The pilots, who had a combined 25,000 hours of experience, "fully cooperated with the investigation and their training program is ongoing," United said.
The Air Current points out that this incident took place the same day, during the same severe Pacific storm that caused a Honolulu-bound flight from Phoenix to experience extreme turbulence that led to 25 injuries. The same storm system went on to create an ice storm in the Midwest that snarled pre-Christmas air travel at most airports.
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Photo: Arkin Si