Federal authorities claim that a pilot mistake was to blame for a 2022 incident in which a United Airlines jet came within 748 feet of crashing into the Pacific Ocean.
The National Transportation Safety Board blames United Airlines Flight 1722’s dive on “the flight crew’s failure to manage the airplane’s vertical flightpath” following an apparent “miscommunication” between the two pilots over the position of the plane’s wing flaps. This conclusion was just published in the board’s final report.
The flight crew’s statements indicated a misunderstanding
The incident happened on December 18 in severe rain and turbulence, just a minute after the Boeing 777 took off from Hawaii’s Kahului Airport, according to the NTSB. According to investigations, the flight with 271 passengers on board continued without incident to San Francisco.
According to the NTSB, the flight crew’s statements indicated a misunderstanding regarding the position of the 777’s flaps, which are generally extended during takeoff and gradually retracted during climb out.
“When the airplane reached the acceleration altitude, the captain reduced the pitch attitude slightly and called for the flap setting to be reduced to flaps 5,” the NTSB said in its report. “According to the first officer, he thought that he heard the captain announce flaps 15.”
The report says the captain, who was flying the airplane at an altitude of 2,100 feet (640 meters), became concerned about damaging the still-extended flaps and started descending and decelerating until cockpit alarms sounded.
“Both pilots recalled hearing the initial warnings from the ground proximity warning system (GPWS), and the first officer recalled announcing ‘pull up pull up’ along with those initial GPWS warnings,” the NTSB report said.
The report says that United Airlines has changed its training procedures and “issued an awareness campaign about flight path management at their training center.”
After the incident first came to light earlier this year, United said it had conducted an investigation with the FAA and the pilots union “that ultimately resulted in the pilots receiving additional training.”
Pilots voluntarily reported this event
United is “drawing on the lessons learned from this flight to inform the training of all United pilots,” the airline said in a statement on Thursday.
“Our pilots voluntarily reported this event, and United fully complied with the independent investigation so that lessons could be applied to improve industry safety overall,” the statement reads.
Both pilots, according to United, got further training and are still flying for the company.
Rod Williams II, a passenger, claimed to have seen the plane soar for a brief period of time at “a concerning rate” after first appearing to be flying smoothly, as reported to CNN in February.
You could have been riding a roller coaster as you ascended. At that moment, it was, according to Williams. “The plane was filled with a lot of cries. Everyone was aware that something was unusual, or at the absolute least, that this was not normal.