‘Miscommunication’ led to United plane crashing at sea

A horrifying incident on a United Airlines flight last year was caused by pilot “miscommunication,” according to a report released Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

On December 18, United Flight 1722 departed Kahului Airport, Hawaii, bound for San Francisco in windy conditions and heavy rain. After about a minute in the air, the Boeing 777 crashed from 2,100 feet to 748 feet over the Pacific Ocean.

None of the 271 passengers or ten crew members were injured in the 1,352-foot crash, although many people on the plane were shaken.

“It felt like climbing to the top of a roller coaster. It was at that time,” said passenger Rod Williams II told CNN about the incident already in February. “There were several screams on the plane.”

A United Airlines Boeing 777 at London's Heathrow Airport in January.
A United Airlines Boeing 777 at London’s Heathrow Airport in January.

Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The mix-up that led to the crash began when the plane’s co-pilot misunderstood a prompt from the pilot: the NTSB report found. As the plane entered turbulence, the pilot requested the co-pilot to adjust the wing flap settings. But when he said the word “five,” the co-pilot misunderstood “15,” according to the agency.

The aircraft’s ground proximity warning system was soon triggered. The co-pilot also said it was obvious something was wrong.

“I immediately recognized the seriousness of our situation,” the co-pilot told investigators. according to The Associated Press. “I’ve said many times, ‘Pull up, pull up, pull up, pull up’.”

The NTSB concluded that the “probable cause” of the incident was “the flight crew’s failure to control the aircraft’s vertical trajectory, airspeed and pitch attitude after a misunderstanding about the captain’s desired flap setting during the initial climb.” came.”

Anthony Brickhouse, associate professor of aeronautical sciences at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, described the situation as “pretty close”. an interview with Insider.

“They came within 748 feet of the disaster,” said Brickhouse, who is also a former NTSB investigator.

The agency’s report said that after the 300-foot crash, “the remainder of the flight was uneventful.”

The airline has learned from the incident, United said in a statement sent to HuffPost.

‚ÄúThere is nothing more important than the safety of our crew and our customers. Therefore, we are using the lessons learned from this flight to support the training of all United pilots,” the statement said.

The statement also said that the two pilots “voluntarily reported” the incident and that the company “cooperated fully with the NTSB investigation so the findings could be used to improve safety across the industry.”

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