In December 2022, a United Airlines Boeing 777 went into a steep nosedive right after takeoff in Maui, Hawaii. It came within 800 feet of the Pacific Ocean before regaining altitude and flying on to its destination without further trouble.
The scary event wasn’t widely known or talked about on social media until Sunday when the aviation blog The Air Current wrote about it.
The news outlet looked at the data and found that the plane had just left the island’s Kahului Airport in the middle of a storm on the afternoon of December 18, 2022.
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The widebody plane, which can hold up to 312 people, climbed to about 2,200 feet and into cloudy skies. It then went into a sharp nosedive and quickly fell to less than 775 feet, or about 8,600 feet per minute, above the water off the north coast of Maui.
It wasn’t clear right away how many people were on the plane, including the crew. The plane landed at San Francisco International Airport less than five hours later and 27 minutes early.
United spokesman Josh Freed told PEOPLE –
“After landing at SFO, the pilots filed the appropriate safety report.”
“United then closely coordinated with the FAA and ALPA (Air Line Pilots Association) on an investigation that ultimately resulted in the pilots receiving additional training.”
“Safety remains our highest priority.”
Freed said that the plane’s pilots had flown together for about 25,000 hours. Flight tracking data from The Air Current shows that the event took place in less than a minute.
It wasn’t clear right away if the air traffic controllers saw the plane dive and then climb back up, but ATC recordings didn’t say anything about the scary close call.
Rod Williams II, who was on the plane with his wife and two small children, told CNN about the scary moments.
Williams said about the initial climb out of Kahului, before the plane suddenly dropped –
“It felt like you were climbing to the top of a roller coaster. It was at that point.”
“There were a number of screams on the plane. Everybody knew that something was out of the ordinary, or at least that this was not normal.”
“When the plane started to nosedive, multiple screams are being let out, at that point. You’re trying your best to maintain your composure – there’s obviously kids on the flight — nobody really knows what’s going on, but at the same time, you’re concerned. You don’t know if this is an issue, but it was certainly out of the ordinary.”
Williams said that about 10 minutes after the nosedive, someone on the crew made an announcement. Williams said –
“Someone from the cockpit got on the intercom and said, ‘Alright, folks, you probably felt a couple G’s on that one, but everything’s gonna be okay. We’re gonna be alright,'”
The event happened on the same day and just hours after another event near Hawaii that got a lot of attention.
Multiple reports say that a Hawaiian Airlines Airbus 330 with 278 passengers, eight flight attendants, and two pilots was flying at about 36,000 feet when it hit a pocket of unstable air and hit severe turbulence.
This caused unbuckled passengers and loose items to fly out of the plane. Thirty-six people were hurt, 11 of them seriously, on the flight, which landed safely in Honolulu about 30 minutes later.