Passengers on a flight from Hawaii to San Francisco “screamed” as their 350-seat Boeing 777 went into a terrifying vertical dive.
Shortly after takeoff, a mere altitude of 800ft was all that remained between a commercial plane and the Pacific Ocean below.
United Airlines flight 1722 gained speed dramatically as it plummeted some 1,425ft down before continuing its climb out of Kahului on the island of Hawaiian island of Maui.
Passenger Rod Williams II said of the ten seconds of terror: "When the plane started to nosedive, multiple screams are being let out, at that point”.
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He later learned that the airliner had been less than five seconds away from crashing into the waves when the pilots managed to pull out of the dive.
Rod, himself a former student of aviation, told CNN that about a minute after takeoff the plane started climbing in a way he found “concerning”.
"It felt like you were climbing to the top of a roller coaster,” he said. "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."
It was then that the massive airliner went into a steep nose dive, which lasted between eight and 10 seconds.
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"When the plane started to nosedive, multiple screams are being let out, at that point," Rod recalled. "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 concerne.”
He said that in the moment there was no time to talk to his wife, sitting in the seat next to him, about what was happening but after the aircraft levelled out they both said that they had been praying for a miracle.
After the aircraft regained its normal cruising altitude, flight attendants came along the aisle to reassure passengers and the aircraft’s captain made an announcement over the PA: "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 OK. We're gonna be alright,' " Rod said.
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The terrifying incident took place on December 18, but it was only two months later that Rod learned just how close the aircraft had come to hitting the water.
A spokesperson for United said that the airline had conducted an investigation and that the pilots of the aircraft – who between them had logged some 25,000 hours of flight time – would receive “additional training”.
The Daily Star has reached out to United Airlines for further comment, but has yet to receive a reply.
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