Southwest plane drops to ‘within 400ft’ of Pacific Ocean

Investigation opens after Boeing 737 Max 8 plunged at a rate of 4,000ft a minute off the coast of Hawaii

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 plunged at a rate of 4,000ft a minute off the coast of Hawaii. Photograph: EPA

An incident in which a Southwest Airlines flight reportedly plunged to “within 400ft” (121m) of the Pacific Ocean during a flight has prompted a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigation.

A memo distributed to Southwest pilots, obtained by Bloomberg, said the Boeing 737 Max 8 plunged at a rate of 4,000ft a minute off the coast of Hawaii, coming within hundreds of feet of the ocean before climbing to safety.

The plunge off the coast of Hawaii occurred on April 11th, amid adverse weather conditions. The plane had been flying from Honolulu to Lihue when it experienced the rapid descent, Bloomberg reported. The report said the descent took the plane to about 400 feet above the ocean, according to data from a flight tracking website. No one was injured.

“Nothing is more important to Southwest than Safety,” the airline said in a statement provided to media outlets. Through our robust Safety Management System, the event was addressed appropriately as we always strive for continuous improvement.”


The FAA told CNN that it learned of the incident immediately and opened an investigation. The plane rerouted to Honolulu.

In the separate incident, on Friday, Bloomberg reported a Boeing 737 Max 8 suffered damage to parts of the plane’s structure after it went into a “Dutch roll” during a Southwest Airlines flight in May.

The incident happened as the jet cruised at 34,000ft from Arizona to California. Associated Press reported the plane landed safely, but said Southwest did not notify the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) about the roll or damage to the jetliner until June 7th.

“Following the event, SWA performed maintenance on the airplane and discovered damage to structural components,” the NTSB said.

A Dutch roll occurs when the plane’s tail slides from side to side, and the plane rocks in a way that causes the wings to roll up and down.

A report by the FAA said that “substantial” damage was discovered to a unit that controls backup power to the plane’s rudder. It is unclear what triggered the incident, which was the latest to involve a Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

In January the FAA ordered nearly 200 Boeing 737 Max 9 to stop flying after a chunk of fuselage blew out of the plane mid-flight. The planes were allowed to return to the air after undergoing an expansive inspection and maintenance process. – Guardian