A United Boeing 777’s Terrifying Takeoff From Maui

A United Boeing 777’s Terrifying Takeoff From Maui

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We’ve seen a shocking number of near miss incidents in the airline industry lately, both on the ground and in the air. The Air Current reports on a close call that happened several weeks back, but which hasn’t been reported until now.

United 777 dives to 775 feet above Pacific Ocean

On December 18, 2022, United Airlines flight UA1722 was scheduled to operate from Maui (OGG) to San Francisco (SFO) with a 22-year-old Boeing 777-200 that had the registration code N212UA.

The plane took off at 2:49PM, and according to flight tracking from Flightradar24, it climbed to around 2,200 feet. At that point the plane began a steep dive, descending at nearly 8,600 feet per minute, which would have produced forces of nearly 2.7x the force of gravity. The plane descended down to under 775 feet above sea level.

To state the obvious, if the plane had continued descending at that rate, it would have lost those remaining 775 feet of altitude in just over five seconds — talk about a close call!

The entire incident lasted for no more than 45 seconds, and it’s not clear if air traffic controllers even realized what happened, as there was no ATC audio recorded regarding the incident.

Once the pilots managed to recover from the incident, they safely climbed to 33,000 feet, and continued to San Francisco in a flight time of 4hr15min, arriving 27 minutes ahead of schedule.

While we don’t know what exactly caused this incident, we do know that weather conditions in the area weren’t good. There was a flash flood warning that day in Maui County, with clouds broken above 900 feet. Furthermore, this incident happened the same day that a Honolulu-bound Hawaiian Airlines A330 hit severe turbulence on approach, causing dozens of injuries.

Upon landing in San Francisco, a safety report was filed by pilots, and the aircraft was inspect before its next flight. United then coordinated with the FAA and ALPA, and the pilots ultimately ended up receiving additional training.

The pilots deserve credit of course for proactively reporting the incident. The two pilots allegedly had a combined 25,000+ hours of experience. Since more information isn’t being made available about the investigation into the incident, it’s anyone’s guess if actions by the pilots saved the aircraft from disaster, or may have contributed to what happened (or maybe a little bit of both).

The surprising part about this incident

What’s most surprising to me about this situation is that it didn’t get any attention until The Air Current broke the story nearly two months later. The flight was operated by a 364-seat jet, and this must have been absolutely terrifying for passengers. Even if it was just brief, to descend at nearly 8,600 feet per minute just moments after takeoff in bad weather is surely sometimes people in the cabin would have felt.

In the age of social media and everyone having a smartphone, it seems like everything that happens on planes and at airports ends up being reported.

One has to wonder if (for whatever reason) it just didn’t feel that bad in the cabin, if everything just happened so quickly, or what?

Unfortunately this is just the latest in a slew of incidents. Several days ago, we learned about how a Qatar Airways Boeing 787-9 entered a steep descent after taking off from Doha, as one of the pilots reportedly lost situational awareness. The plane descended all the way down to 850 feet, though in that case weather conditions were quite good, making the incident especially puzzling.

Meanwhile we’ve also seen two concerning ground incidents in the United States in recent weeks — one between an American 777 and Delta 737 in New York, and one between a Southwest 737 and FedEx 767 in Austin.

Bottom line

On December 18, a United Airlines Boeing 777 dived toward the Pacific Ocean just shortly after takeoff. The plane briefly descended at nearly 8,600 feet per minute, down to an altitude of under 775 feet.

Weather conditions were awful at the time of the incident, and this was also the same day that a Hawaiian Airlines A330 encountered severe turbulence enroute to Honolulu, leading to dozens of injuries.

The pilots ended up reporting the incident, and received some additional training. We don’t have any details beyond that, though, regarding the cause of what happened.

What do you make of this United incident?

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  1. FlyerDon Guest

    First off the Hawaiian Airbus was at 40,000 feet when it encountered the turbulence, it was not on approach. Second if it was a microburst I really doubt the crew would have needed or been given extra training. Third, if it had been some kind of stall there would have been a loss of airspeed and the data doesn’t not show that. In 2021 an Emirates 777 nosedived shortly after takeoff. Someone had set the...

    First off the Hawaiian Airbus was at 40,000 feet when it encountered the turbulence, it was not on approach. Second if it was a microburst I really doubt the crew would have needed or been given extra training. Third, if it had been some kind of stall there would have been a loss of airspeed and the data doesn’t not show that. In 2021 an Emirates 777 nosedived shortly after takeoff. Someone had set the altitude select window to zero. When the autopilot was turned on it tried to descend to basically the ground. I don’t know if this is what happened to United but they were at an altitude where a lot of pilots turn on the autopilot.

  2. Stephen O’Brien Guest

    Microbursts can push aircraft down quickly. Kudos to the pilots for recovering the aircraft: both Boeing and Airbus airliners.

  3. Michael Guest

    It’s unfortunate that CEOs are bending the knee to the DEI religion. Having under-qualified diversity hires in the cockpit is going to get people killed. Wish I could pick flights with two older White males at the helm. Until then I will cross my fingers that I don’t get unlucky enough to be on a plane flown by an unqualified woman or POC.

    1. KJ Guest

      It never ceases to amaze me,how uninformed some of the contributers of this blog are.Apart from being downright racist,your views lack any sort of fact.In your world,what do you regard as being unqualified? You are insinuating that poc's & woman hired by United & the like are unqualified & dangerous??? Seriously?? so what certificates do you think they are being hired with?Is a female or poc with an FAA CPL/ATPL inferior to a white person's...

      It never ceases to amaze me,how uninformed some of the contributers of this blog are.Apart from being downright racist,your views lack any sort of fact.In your world,what do you regard as being unqualified? You are insinuating that poc's & woman hired by United & the like are unqualified & dangerous??? Seriously?? so what certificates do you think they are being hired with?Is a female or poc with an FAA CPL/ATPL inferior to a white person's FAA CPL/ATPL??

      All they are doing is opening doors for them,they are in no way inferior. I like every other pilot I know would not work for any company hiring unqualified pilots. We all started at zero hours.

      Since you hanker to be flown by old white men,it may interest you to know that they have been involved in incidents ,accidents & loss of life too!!
      Two quick examples;B737 that overran at Burbank California almost hitting a gas station,your beloved 2 white men at the controls,AA MD-80 crash at little Rock Akansas,2white men at the controls,indeed the Captain was AA's MD-80 Fleet Captain!!!

      Leave bigotry out of your observations & you may indeed see more clearly

    2. Pudu Guest

      The Michaels of the world can’t see anything clearly because they’re mentally defective. There’s no point in treating them as anything but vermin.

  4. SBS Guest

    Ben, a bit of physics correction. 8600 ft/min descent rate didn't produce the 2.7g force. Rapid transition from that dive to a 8700 ft/min ascent did.

    1. Dick Bupkiss Guest

      Indeed. A sudden, rapid descent would actually produce negative G force (which makes you feel like you are floating, think the "vomit comet")...airline passengers rarely experience this, it's perhaps more common in small planes, but if you do it can feel very....unusual is all I'll say.

      SBS is correct above, when you correct for that rapid descent and pull up hard, then you would get 2.7 g force.

    2. Bev C. Guest

      On the discussion of THIS specific flight UAL1722 from OGG to SFO, with absolutely no doubt, every single passengers experienced the rapid descent and ascent. As the saying goes, you just had to be there even and, yes, with the magnitude of this triple7.

  5. BenjaminKohl Diamond

    What I've been hearing on the grapevine (may or may not be true) is that the pilot had asked to ahve the flaps retracted one notch, but they were instead put all the way up, leading to an aerodynamic stall that was recovered from as per training.

    By the way, small correction: This was a 777-200, also called the A model, not a -200ER.

  6. David H. Guest

    You should do a post on "What is situational awareness?" Because I guess it's a kind of described in the word - but I'm still not sure what it is or why it happens.

    1. Chris Guest

      Short answer is knowing where the plane is and where its going and in the clouds G forces are quite misleading. You can be in a 8600 fpm dive and feel like you are cruising along straight and level which is probably why no one has reported it from the cabin because they didn't have a clue.

  7. Denise Guest

    I watch Mentour Pilot on YouTube, incidents like this do happen more often than we know!

  8. Philip Guest

    See AIR-20-19 and AIR-20-18 for software related thrust issues related to the 777. Could be software related and pilots took over just in time. There are articles about planes having the same issues.

  9. Bruce Member

    The Qatar incident involved a 787-8, not a -9. But, minor detail.

  10. Jeff Guest

    My first thought was yours — how could this have gone unnoticed for two months. How did no passengers tweet about it or tell anyone. I'd surely say something if I had a such a close call. Wild.

    1. Tango Kilo Guest

      What most non pilots don't know is the both the 777 and the 787 have extremely advanced data acquisition and recording systems aboard. In essence, the airplane can become a tattle tale when the pilots have done something wrong.

      United deliberately suppressed this information to prevent articles just like this one from escaping their tight control. You just can't keep this stuff from going public, however, and while some of us in the aviation...

      What most non pilots don't know is the both the 777 and the 787 have extremely advanced data acquisition and recording systems aboard. In essence, the airplane can become a tattle tale when the pilots have done something wrong.

      United deliberately suppressed this information to prevent articles just like this one from escaping their tight control. You just can't keep this stuff from going public, however, and while some of us in the aviation community knew of this many weeks ago, the public now knows it as well.

      In his zeal to create "equity," Scott Kirby, CEO of United, has done the flying public a dangerous disservice; he has allowed the poorly trained to fly the aircraft - in fact he's bragging about adding women & POC to the pilot ranks. As a 40 year pilot myself, I don't want to sit behind someone with the minimum hours required, along with a "social promotion" putting him/her in the cockpit.

      We, the flying public would hope that all flight crews are truly equally competent; that, however, is NOT the case.

    2. Ralph4878 Guest

      So, 25,000 combined hours of flying experience between the two in the cockpit isn't enough? Or is that just convenient to ignore so you can espouse racism and misogyny, not to mention conspiracy theories?

    3. Norman Guest

      There are people in all walks of life who do not benefit from experience unfortunately so that argument does not necessarily make the case.

    4. Jim Baround Guest

      What an absolutely moronic comment. Is there any evidence that United is hiring less qualified pilots than their competitors?

      United's attempt to have a more diverse pilot base is a long term project driven by better recruiting and opportunities at the beginning of the pilot training pipeline, when all pilots are relatively equal because none of them have gone through any training.

    5. Tad Guest

      Racist and mysogonistic much??? WOW! Typical male pilot mentality! What’s wrong with adding POC and women?? Go retire you old racist d-bag!

    6. yiannis93117 Guest

      Touche Tango Kilo! I'm with you, and thank you. These pilots were far from not trained, it mentioned combined they had 25000 hours of airmanship. Likewise, someone on deck with minimum hours (and some suggesting the minimum miles flow get reduced even more) is quite scary. And even worse which is a bone of contention with me, are the social media pilots, who talk about anything other than their carrier. Its as if many of...

      Touche Tango Kilo! I'm with you, and thank you. These pilots were far from not trained, it mentioned combined they had 25000 hours of airmanship. Likewise, someone on deck with minimum hours (and some suggesting the minimum miles flow get reduced even more) is quite scary. And even worse which is a bone of contention with me, are the social media pilots, who talk about anything other than their carrier. Its as if many of them have a modeling career rather than aviation and look like they live in a gym. Am so glad to hear when any airlines tightens the screws on their employee to publish all the nonsense they do.....make your money in your chosen career, not by sponsors or whatever! Over it.

    7. Bev C. Guest

      How do you validate your statement in the 3rd paragraph? Was this the case? What access of valid information do you have on the pilot and co-pilot?

    8. Bev Guest

      Wild indeed. I think no tweet/sm posting is because those who were on that flight did not know the full scope of the "close call" until today's news/articles.

  11. Syd Guest

    Can a 777 hit a turbulence that bad that it would lose 1500 feet in a matter of 10-20 seconds? Anyone with knowledge?
    I have no knowledge, so talking out of my as, but could it have been a powerful downburst, especially given the weather conditions at the time?

    1. Collin B Guest

      My only guess would be what is known as wind shear. It is basically a complete reversal of winds that could lead to a significant drop in airspeed. Given the reported conditions it would be a very likely possibility. If encountered on initial climb out at an already low airspeed it could mean inadvertent stalling of the aircraft and would result in exactly a situation like this. Additionally, they are both very seasoned pilots. 25,000...

      My only guess would be what is known as wind shear. It is basically a complete reversal of winds that could lead to a significant drop in airspeed. Given the reported conditions it would be a very likely possibility. If encountered on initial climb out at an already low airspeed it could mean inadvertent stalling of the aircraft and would result in exactly a situation like this. Additionally, they are both very seasoned pilots. 25,000 combined hours would mean about 20 years of airline experience minimum each, so I would look towards the weather and plane before blaming the pilots.

  12. Kenneth Guest

    Sounds a lot like the backend of a microburst.

    1. Kirby blows Guest

      The airspeed went from 208 knots at 2200 MSL to 300 knots at 775 MSL in a span of 20 seconds. And then they reversed and started climbing again. The airspeed never decreased once. They just went into a temporary dive. That does not sound like the back side of a microburst to me. I would expect an airspeed decay in that scenario. Numbers don’t make sense.

  13. Watson Diamond

    This is the same day that HA35 experienced turbulence that left many people injured. Seems like the weather was far worse than ATC thought, and planes should have been grounded.

  14. Nancy Guest

    My husband and I were on this flight sitting in the back of the aircraft. It happened shortly after takeoff when we were all seated with seatbelts on. The plane dipped down, like a sudden drop, and then quickly went back up. Several people screamed, but it was over quickly, no one was injured and the rest of the flight was uneventful. My husband thought we were getting close to the water, but we didn’t realize it was this close.

  15. Chase Guest

    To add context to this…We flew HA33 LAX-OGG on Dec 18, diverted to Kona first for 5 hours, then they sent us to Honolulu to sleep in the gate area at HNL airport until the flight left the next morning to OGG. HA incredulously used the weather card for the entire ordeal.

    I will say though that from 11:30a until about 2:30p that day Maui essentially had the mother of all storms just sitting over...

    To add context to this…We flew HA33 LAX-OGG on Dec 18, diverted to Kona first for 5 hours, then they sent us to Honolulu to sleep in the gate area at HNL airport until the flight left the next morning to OGG. HA incredulously used the weather card for the entire ordeal.

    I will say though that from 11:30a until about 2:30p that day Maui essentially had the mother of all storms just sitting over the island. So I don’t doubt that played an enormous part in this UA episode.

  16. Anthony Diamond

    I kind of take the other side of this - the fact that there have been so many of these "near miss" incidents that have nonetheless been avoided by quick action of pilots, air traffic control, and others suggests to me there area a lot of safeguards built in that we should appreciate. For example, in the JFK incident between Delta and AA - to me the big story is that human error was corrected...

    I kind of take the other side of this - the fact that there have been so many of these "near miss" incidents that have nonetheless been avoided by quick action of pilots, air traffic control, and others suggests to me there area a lot of safeguards built in that we should appreciate. For example, in the JFK incident between Delta and AA - to me the big story is that human error was corrected without an accident, not that human error occurred (human error is the rule, not the exception). In this situation, pilots fixed whatever the issue was and flew as normal - exactly as I would expect as a passenger.

    1. Ben Kohl Guest

      I'm in full agreement with you - I think this is amazing evidence of how far aviation safety has come. If the year were 1963 or even 1983, we would have started the first two months of the new year with a major collision at JFK, a plane landing on top of another at AUS, and two water hits, one in Doha and one in Hawaii. Instead, due to the advancments we've made in CRM,...

      I'm in full agreement with you - I think this is amazing evidence of how far aviation safety has come. If the year were 1963 or even 1983, we would have started the first two months of the new year with a major collision at JFK, a plane landing on top of another at AUS, and two water hits, one in Doha and one in Hawaii. Instead, due to the advancments we've made in CRM, technology from runway announcers to ground closing speed alerts, etc. etc. none of these resulted in any damage or major injuries. And we will continue to learn from these to make these sequences of events even less likely to ioccur in the first place.

  17. Curtis Ryman Guest

    United put an EXTREMELY tight lid on this right after it happened. Not only because of the seriousness of the incident, but also because of the demographics of the cockpit crew.

    The numbers speak for themselves. 2.7g’s and 8700fpm climb, 775’ from hundreds dead.

    Pull out all the stops to protect the failings of the “diversity” campaign.

    1. T R Guest

      Interesting! Don't you think these pilots were flying long before your little political dig became usable?

    2. Tango Kilo Guest

      TR - The Captain WAS and unfortunately REMAINS a "diversity" hire.

    3. UA-NYC Diamond

      @TK - let me guess, Covid vaccines have killed millions and 2020 election was stolen too, amirite?

    4. Ralph4878 Guest

      @TR - doesn't matter - racists' gonna racist, misogynists' gonna misogynist, any chance they get, despite the two in the cockpit having over 25,000 hours of flying experience, according to the article.

    5. Bev C. Guest

      Just curious on your diversity statement ... how did you source the info on the pilot(s) and their training background? If you don't mind sharing, I'd greatly appreciate it.

    6. Pudu Guest

      You clowns just can’t help yourself, can you? I have no idea why deranged bigots like you have to spew your insanity in the comments of a travel blog of all things when you can just do it on Facebook or Truth Social with the rest of the diseased, mentally defective seppo scum.

      Go take a dirt nap you worthless troglodyte.

  18. Always Flying Somewhere Guest

    The inclement weather was likely already producing a bumpy ride, so this incident may not have felt too much out of the ordinary - relatively speaking.

  19. Avi Guest

    Even though Jon Ostrower interpreted the weather as "terrible" the weather conditions weren't anything special according the METAR posted by Jon.

    METAR PHOG 190054Z 14009KT 3SM +RA BR BKN009 OVC020 19/18 A2977 RMK A02
    SLP085 P0020 T01940183

    There was good visibility, no convective activity that will be indicated by codes such as TS (Thunderstorm) or CB (Cumulonimbus clouds), fairly light winds, no gusts and no windshear reported.

    1. Pax UA1722 Guest

      As a passenger on the flight, there was zero visibility and strong to severe weather. Up to 70mph wind sheer was also reported. In opposition to what this article states, yes...the passengers definitely felt the steep incline followed by a rapid descent. (Likely a stock shaker scenario)

  20. Joe Guest

    "it’s anyone’s guess if actions by the pilots saved the aircraft from disaster, or may have contributed to what happened"

    I think you have the answer...

    "the pilots ultimately ended up receiving additional training."

  21. Lee Guest

    While the airspeed and altitude graph at FlightRadar24 is small, it indicates that everything BEFORE the incident appears normal. Throttle up to Vr normal. Vr to liftoff. Rate of climb is about right. Ground speed is fine. Then, everything AFTER the incident appears normal. So, the question becomes what the air mass was doing at the time of the incident or . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_h47aOBurc

  22. Robert Fahr Guest

    If the event was as scary as described, a pax or crew member would have been all over social media

    1. S Gold

      Agree, the data is clear but it must have not felt horrible because someone would have said something for sure.

    2. Pax UA1722 Guest

      We all felt the 2.7g's. The plane had a normal climb followed by a brief moment of dramatic climb/nose-up and subsequent dive (stick shaker). Possibly caused by the 70mph shear winds? The pilots did a great job, but everyone on board knew it was not normal.

    3. Evan Guest

      Thanks for this firsthand account. How long would you say the dive portion lasted? Was the recovery climb steep?

    4. IdiotProof Guest

      https://www.airlinepilotforums.com/united/141614-ogg-nose-dive-woah.html

      Please reference this. Directy from pilots at United. This was not windshear recovery. The pilot not flying set the wrong flap setting and the aircraft nearly stalled at 2000 feet. The pilots did not do a great job aside from not putting the aircraft into the ocean.

    5. Bev C. Guest

      Just because no tweet/sm does not mean the event was not scary or horrible to some/all of the passengers on this UAL1722 flight. It is possible the extent of the "close call" was not known until today's news/articles. Live to tell. You really just had to be there.

  23. Ben L. Diamond

    This is the Super Bowl counterprogramming content I crave

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Jim Baround Guest

What an absolutely moronic comment. Is there any evidence that United is hiring less qualified pilots than their competitors? United's attempt to have a more diverse pilot base is a long term project driven by better recruiting and opportunities at the beginning of the pilot training pipeline, when all pilots are relatively equal because none of them have gone through any training.

5
T R Guest

Interesting! Don't you think these pilots were flying long before your little political dig became usable?

5
Nancy Guest

My husband and I were on this flight sitting in the back of the aircraft. It happened shortly after takeoff when we were all seated with seatbelts on. The plane dipped down, like a sudden drop, and then quickly went back up. Several people screamed, but it was over quickly, no one was injured and the rest of the flight was uneventful. My husband thought we were getting close to the water, but we didn’t realize it was this close.

5
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