Passengers aboard a United flight that rapidly descended to '748 feet from disaster' in the ocean were saved by a warning system amid crew miscommunications and poor weather, aviation expert says


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  • On December 18, 2022, a United flight from Maui to San Francisco came within 748 feet of disaster.

  • On Thursday, the NTSB released a report on how the aircraft came so close to plunging into the sea.

  • An aviation expert and former NTSB member said a crucial piece of technology on board saved lives.

Passengers on a United Airlines flight from Maui to San Francisco that plunged within 748 feet of the Pacific Ocean were saved by technology after a series of crew mishaps, an aviation expert told Insider.

On Thursday, the National Transportation and Safety Board released a final report detailing how on December 18, 2022, United flight 1722 came within seconds of a major disaster.

The NTSB’s report interviewed witnesses on the plane including the captain and co-pilot, and highlighted that amid heavy rain and wind during takeoff, the aircraft’s flaps were set to the wrong angle by the co-pilot, who misheard the captain as the aircraft began its ascent.

But the plane’s ground proximity warning system ultimately kicked in as the plane started rapidly descending to the Pacific Ocean, giving the pilots time to react before it was too late.

“It alerted the pilots that they were getting near the ocean — it got the pilots out of a pretty close call,” Anthony Brickhouse, a former NTSB investigator and associate professor in applied aviation sciences at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University told Insider.”They came within 748 feet from disaster.”

As it alerted the pilots, the co-pilot told the pilot to “pull up, pull up,” and the crisis was fully averted with the plane later stabilizing, per the NTSB report.

NTSB investigators also noted that they were alerted about the safety incident two months after it occurred. According to the NTSB, the event did not require immediate notification.

United Airlines did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on Thursday. The airline previously told Insider in February that the event was reported as the crew landed in San Francisco, and the pilots — who had a combined 25,000 hours of flight time — received additional training.

Passengers aboard the flight previously said the rapid descent felt like a “roller coaster,” with many saying final prayers during the sharp descent, which lasted 8 to 10 seconds, per CNN.

Brickhouse told Insider that the lag in reporting the incident was also cause for concern beyond the flying of the plane. But other issues, like data retention, are tied to the slow reporting, Brickhouse said.

“The recorders had been written over by that point in time,” Brickhouse told Insider.

“It’s concerning as a safety professional and investigator that two months went by before the accident investigation board of the country found out about it,” he added.

Brickhouse said the NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration’s push for more cockpit recording would be a safe step forward, as technological reinforcements can help avert, and investigate, other flight disasters.

“Fortunately, overall, the technology worked, and ground proximity warning systems saved the day,” Brickhouse told Insider.

Read the original article on Insider

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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