There’s a story that has been circulating around the internet, entitled “Two Weeks Ago, I Almost Died in the Deadliest Plane Crash Ever — How Two Jetliners Nearly Collided Over the Pacific, Why No One Knows About It, and What It Means for Safety Oversight Aboard Airplanes.”
It’s written by someone that took a United flight from Kona to Los Angeles on April 25, 2014.
To summarize the (unnecessarily) word story in a sentence, shortly after reaching the cruising altitude the plane “dived” 600 feet per the TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System), which was done in order to avoid a US Airways plane at a similar altitude that was headed in their direction.
I don’t for a second discredit what happened, other than the claim that this was “almost the deadliest plane crash ever.” The writer says that he was flying a United 757-300 with 289 passengers and “five or six crew members.” In reality United’s 757-300s have only 213 seats, so he was quite a bit off. And that isn’t significant in and of itself, other than that he specifically makes the point of saying that this would have been more deadly than the Tenerife Disaster, where 583 people died. And clearly that’s not the case.
I don’t doubt it was scary, and I don’t doubt I would have $hit my pants, and I don’t doubt that there was some danger, but at the end of the day the TCAS is there for exactly these situations, and pilots are specifically trained for how to respond to that. So yes, there was the potential for increased risk, just as there is if there’s smoke in the cabin or an indicator light goes off. But the system worked exactly as it was supposed to.
I suppose if nothing else it’s a nice reminder that we often take safe air travel for granted, which is just a miracle to me. But I think Louis CK can sum that up just as well:
I’m curious to hear if others have a different take on the story than I do!